Liz Sheffield

Beyond Fair-Weather Wellness: Supporting Employee Health When It’s Cold Outside

Finding yourself less and less willing to commit to your morning jog recently? The chilly weather probably doesn’t help. With fewer hours of sunlight and colder weather outside as the seasons change, finding the motivation to maintain healthy habits only becomes tougher.

However, going into hibernation for the winter spells danger for employee health. An extended break from prioritizing wellness weakens the immune system, raising people’s susceptibility to illness and injury — which means you can brace yourself for a rough office flu season.

Along with offering the flu vaccine, your company’s wellness programs can help employees stay holistically healthy this winter.

Cold Weather Wellness Activities

If employees want to stay well through flu season, it’s important they avoid staying inside all day and loading up on comfort food. Wellness isn’t just for sunny summer days, so look for ways you can create a healthy work environment that extends well beyond summer and into the cold season.

Three wellness activities you can offer employees during colder winter months include:

  • A contest for a healthy cookbook. High-calorie foods provide comfort during winter months, but they’re usually not the most nutritious choice. Engage employees in finding new, healthier recipes for winter meals by sponsoring a healthy cookbook contest. To make it fun as well as competitive, ask employees to submit their favorite healthy recipes. Then, have several volunteers serve as taste testers and judges. Create a cookbook of the highest-rated recipes and distribute it to all employees online or in print format.

  • An indoor walking map of your work site. In summer, it may be easy for employees to hit the track or take a walk around a park after work. That’s more difficult when stepping out of work means walking into a dark, chilly night. Help them take as many steps as possible during the day by creating an indoor walking map of your work site. Indicate the distance in each lap, and encourage your staff to track how many laps they complete each day. Alternatively, recommend that employees use a fitness app to track the number of steps they take during the day. These bursts of movement make a big difference. At the end of the winter season, celebrate the employees with the most steps or miles.

  • Regular wellness days. Use a weekly wellness day to improve employee health through education, offering exposure to new health tips for winter. By providing a variety of engaging healthy activities and suggestions, you’re more likely to hit on something that will draw in reluctant employees who might need the information.

Motivate Employees Around Winter Wellness

Winter tends to sap energy from people, so don’t be surprised if your wellness activities don’t automatically motivate employees to hit the gym. If you want your staff to adopt healthier winter habits, you’ll have to tailor your efforts to their preferences and needs.

This might include sending out a survey to see what employees are most interested in, such as on-site yoga classes. Then, ask attendees to rate how they feel after they participate in a session. Or encourage them to track healthy behavior results, such as the number of steps they’ve walked that day, to make the activities more engaging and give them a tangible sense of progress.

Even the healthiest employees need some health and wellness inspiration when cold weather comes around, so don’t settle for using a summertime wellness program in winter. During the dark and cold winter months, your wellness offerings might just be the motivation employees need to fit in exercise and veggies between the season’s endless stream of hot chocolate, rich comfort foods and naps.

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