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5 Misconceptions About Motivating Employees during the Winter
Paul Burrin

How motivated and engaged are your company’s employees this winter?

The holiday season is over, but the days are still short, and the weather remains unbearably cold. We’ve officially entered a season known for low productivity, sluggishness and a lack of creativity.

Paul Burrin
But what if winter doesn’t have to be the most depressing time of year? What if, instead, it’s seized as an opportunity to recalibrate our efforts to motivate employees and build an engaging, rewarding work environment? What if the stereotype of an especially unproductive January and February is a myth that can be debunked with a bit of research, and reshaped with a little effort?

HR and People teams as well as company leadership can easily counteract the winter blues and set the tone for a productive 2019 – provided they have the right insights, and the right strategies in place, instead of falling into the habit of addressing common misconceptions about workplace productivity with equally misconceived solutions.

Here are the most common productivity myths followed by tips on how to deliver on what employees really care about instead.

Myth #1: Employees want perks like video games or team-building activities

It might seem like the cool companies all have an office with ping-pong tables or arcade cabinets– 40% of companies believe employees value these types of perks, but according to our research, only 5% of employees actually do.

In fact, more than half of respondents – 53% – said they considered office games a distraction.

The truth is, employees don’t value gimmicks as much as employers think. Instead of springing for a basketball nets, businesses should consider investing time into ensuring their employees feel valued and recognized for their hard work.

Speaking of which…

Myth #2: Saying “thank you” is enough to show employees you appreciate their work

More than 66% of respondents from our survey report feeling valued and recognized as the most important contributor to their overall job satisfaction, they want to feel more valued and receive recognition for their work. Sadly, too many feel that they are not getting the level of recognition they deserve.

Saying ‘thank you’ may be a great start, but employers need to start going beyond this by creating a system for recognizing and rewarding great work, whether it’s by sending out a quarterly email spotlighting great performance, or scheduling a monthly review highlighting significant contributions for management. It’s important to make sure your workforce feel appreciated and receive feedback regularly.

Myth #3: Employees are thinking about their health in winter

Chances are your employees returned from the holidays with health-related goals, and they are likely to target both emotional and physical wellness. Naturally, you should be prepared to support these priorities–but not just in January.

Our research study “Why your workforce isn’t working” found that 39% of employees believe HR and People teams could do more to improve wellness at work. And though many employers use January as a launching point for health initiatives, this can come off as an empty gesture if businesses fail to stay consistent with its wellness commitment throughout the year.

Whether it’s offering subsidized gym membership, providing free fruits, ensuring there is mental health support in place, or establishing a corporate culture that prioritizes employee health and wellness, employers need to ensure they are supporting their workforce to maintain physical and mental well-being year-round.

Myth #4: Flexible work schedules and remote work distracts employees and reduces productivity

Some companies may be hesitant to instigate flexible hours or work from home policies, fearing a loss in productivity if they do so. However, research suggests they might want to consider the consequences of insisting that employees come to the office: 81% of respondents to our survey identified the ability to work remotely or set flexible hours as “highly valued.”

That such a policy can boost productivity makes as much intuitive sense as the fear that it won’t: Why shouldn’t employees work from 7 am and finish earlier if they’re more productive in the mornings? Why should parents have to miss picking up their children from school just to be seen in the office, when they may be working long evenings too?

Companies should consider giving their employees the freedom to create their own hours and work remotely. Doing so can be especially valuable in months like January and February when general morale tends to dip.

Or does it? Speaking of intuition…

Myth #5: Motivating employees is a priority in January because productivity is low

You’re reading this because you assumed that your employees’ engagement is low as the January blues kick in–but is that really the case in your organization? How do you know?

Too many organizations rely on intuition to build their HR and People goals rather than on data and People analytics. When is turnover highest in your company? Have you found out? How engaged do your employees feel? Do you distribute surveys asking them, and more importantly, have you made an effort to understand what affects their engagement, and done something about it?

Using analytics to identify actionable insights can make all the difference between basing your HR strategies on myth versus reality.

Ready to become a People Company in 2019?

If your organization understands the importance of recognition over video games and ping-pong tables, gives employees the ability to choose when and where they work, offers health-related programs throughout the year, and makes decisions based on data rather than intuition, it is well on its way to becoming a truly people-focused organization.

If not, then maybe now is the perfect time to start.

Find out more about what really gets employees productive; download Sage People’s research from 3,500 workers, ‘Why your workforce isn’t working’.

Paul Burrin is Vice-President of Sage People, a cloud HR and people system that helps transform mid-sized global businesses into people companies, masters at recruiting, managing and engaging talented employees.

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