"A Polar Vortex sounds like something Mr. Freeze would use to destroy Gotham City... or a new flavor of Powerade." — Jimmy Kimmel
The bad weather that has stormed and stomped its way across the U.S. this winter has left in its path a trail of crumpled cars, downed power lines, teenagers with their pants pulled ALL the way up, and people who are frustrated and exhausted by the constant battle with Mother Nature.
“I don’t even want to watch the winter Olympics, and I love the games,” Adam Fogle told the Wall Street Journal. “I’m so tired of ice and snow… I don’t care if I ever see it again.”
While the polar vortex has made the Weather Channel folks nearly giddy, the reality is that people are indeed at the end of their rope—if they didn’t reach it weeks ago. Their battle with the elements has taken a toll not only on their psyche, but also on this nation’s productivity.
For example, when looking at lost productivity from December, the winter weather is expected to cost the economy almost $50 billion in lost productivity and 76,000 jobs, finds a new poll by CNBC of Wall Street economists, fund managers and strategists. While the economy is expected to mostly recover in the coming months, it is not clear what the impact is on employee engagement and turnover.
That’s why it is so important that leaders step up and realize that workers now more than ever need to be bolstered. This is a time when they may be so depressed and frustrated by the winter weather that they may not be as productive or engaged – and may even be considering a job switch to deal with their low feelings.
Here are some ways leaders can help workers dig out of their winter blues and stay engaged and productive:
- Let them know you feel their pain. Yes, you’ve had to dig your car out four times in the last week and your kids are driving you batty because school is cancelled again. But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t commiserate with your employees who are going through the same hardships. Let them gripe for a bit, then remind them how much you appreciate their dedication to the job. A Virgin Pulse survey finds that only 29% of workers say their employers only pass a compliment along every now and then. Are you being stingy with your praise?
- Remind them spring is coming. Despite some jokes to the contrary, spring has not been cancelled this year. Surprise them with some (nonalcoholic) tropical concoctions in the break room, put a fresh flower on each desk or let everyone wear their craziest beach shirt one day.
- Get them moving. One of the greatest frustrations right now is that everyone feels so trapped with the weather, and some may be abandoning their exercise routines. Pay to have a yoga instructor come to the office and use the conference room to offer sessions to the employees. Or, take the gang to a local bowling alley for a meeting where everyone can bowl a few frames when the meeting concludes.
- Help them to grow. Employees may feel frustrated because of the weather, but end up transferring their exasperation to their jobs. Don’t risk losing key workers because they feel so stuck. Meet with them one-on-one for lunch to discuss their career development, or give them an opportunity to represent the company at an upcoming event or conference.
- Embrace March Madness. More than 70% of human resource professionals see office pools as having a positive impact on their workplaces, finds a recent poll for the Society for Human Resource Management. In that poll, 64% mentioned it promotes teambuilding while 54% say it boosts employee engagement. As long as you put some parameters in place (like no slam- dunking the intern) it can be a fun way to get through the last of winter.
What other ways can managers boost morale during this winter from hell?