Different seasons bring out different attitudes and emotions from one person to the next. It might seem impossible to tailor the season to all of your employees, especially if you have thousands of team members. (Who are we kidding; that task sounds odd and daunting even if you only have 10 employees!)
But John Sharp, a Harvard psychiatrist, has several ways you can use the oscillating seasons to bring out the best in each of your employees, year-round. When you help them feel better year-round, you promote productivity and a happier culture.
The time of year plays a role in how your employees (and you) feel, based on:
- Temperature preference: Yes, some folks actually prefer winter months over summertime. But those who prefer the heat may feel subtly subpar during the winter.
- Changing environment: The shifting daylight can have a psychological impact on your employees. Some people suffer from seasonal affective disorder (SAD), which is a type of depression related to the changing season.
- Personal experience: Past memories – especially traumatic memories – during a particular season can lead to an involuntary reference each time the season rolls around.
- Cultural expectations: e.g., “Summer is ending; we should all be upset.”
All these factors tell us the season is changing, but Sharp argues it’s still not enough notice for us to prepare for what challenges might be ahead.
“Two centuries ago, we’d have known what ‘emotional weather’ the real weather would bring, and could gradually adapt accordingly,” he said. “These days it takes us by surprise, if we even make the connection at all.”
The big solution? Sharp says you should help your employees (and yourself) live mindfully, in the present, to become more aware of the changing seasons. As the seasons turn, remind your employees to:
Pick their favorite part about each season: Your employees’ relationship to each season is a personal one, so try to recommend positive attributes about each season but allow them to determine what it is they love best about the changing environment. Communications that illuminate unique aspects of the current season might be a helpful and fun place to start. For winter, you might illustrate that it’s a time to share a cup of (healthy) homemade cocoa with someone who makes you smile. Reminding your team to find seasonal features they enjoy helps them be present and mindful, which also has several health and workplace benefits.
Create new memories: Creating time for a microadventure midweek or planning a weekend getaway can relieve stress, refresh cognition and creativity, build teamwork, and more. Remind your employees to make a date to do something seasonal as a way to focus on the positive part of the season and to form new, happy memories. Perhaps you could offer suggestions for microadventures tailored to your employees’ geographical location. See if you can match a seasonal outing with a healthy activity that involves balanced nutrition, rest and relaxation, healthy relationships, exercise and movement, or reflection.
Get outside: Remind your employees that it’s OK to be a kid again. Big fuzzy hats and wool mittens are trendy if you’re warm and happy. Bundle up and go for a walk. Just because it is winter, doesn’t mean you must stay indoors.
Eat seasonally: Peak season produce has more vitamins, minerals and antioxidants than other options that are picked and shipped across the country. Direct your employees to resources that will share which foods are harvested each season, such as here
or here. It would also be helpful and practical to share a few healthy recipes that focus on seasonal produce. You might also host a seasonal potluck each quarter.
Take care of themselves: Promote seasonal health hygiene topics, such as hydrating during the summer or eating more vitamin C throughout the winter to protect against seasonal viruses.
Practice good emotional hygiene: It can be easy to take care of ourselves when we’re feeling under the weather or we have a physical wound. But it’s a little trickier to know when we need to practice psychological or emotional hygiene. Emotional hygiene is “being mindful of our psychological health and adopting brief daily habits to monitor and address psychological wounds when we sustain them,” says psychologist Guy Winch.
“To be interested in the changing seasons is a happier state of mind than to be hopelessly in love with spring.” – George Santayana
Encourage your employees to live seasonally to improve their health and your company culture.