Did the Groundhog See His Shadow? How to Keep Employees Motivated During Winter Months

Employees in the office

There’s a reason people have their fingers crossed that the groundhog doesn’t see its shadow on Groundhog Day. The winter brings colder temperatures, less sunlight, and overall lower moods. Think about it, when was the last time you heard someone say “I just can’t wait for the 127th bitterly cold, dreary day of the season!”

Even if your business isn’t in a cold climate, and you’re not dealing with frigid temperatures, winter still means shorter days and less sunlight. So regardless of the temperature, winter can have a major impact.

In the workplace, winter tends to make employees feel more tired and less motivated. Not only does that put a damper on team morale, but it can also significantly hinder productivity. In other words, winter weather is detrimental to your people and your bottom line.


While a winter slump seems inevitable as winter soldiers on, there are things employers can do to help their employees stay motivated:

Set the atmosphere

Something as simple as creating a comfortable workplace can help keep employees motivated.

Since sunlight is at a premium during winter months, consider ways to let as much sunlight into the office as possible. You can keep all shades and blinds wide open, or allow people to move their workspace into the areas that get the most natural light. If that’s not an option, find a type of light bulb that mimics natural light rather than fluorescent lighting.

Be mindful of the temperature within your workplace. Although bitter cold temperatures outdoors make it tempting to crank the heat inside, too high of temperatures can actually make people drowsy and lose focus. Find a sweet spot that has employees comfortable, yet productive.

Studies have also shown that indoor plants boost mood and productivity. Experiment with putting larger plants in different areas of the workplace, or give each employee their own succulent to care for.

Prioritize health and wellness

Physical health is closely tied with productivity and overall well-being. Prioritizing health and wellness can make a big difference in keeping your employees motivated.

This can be as simple as reminding employees to stay home when they’re sick. Often, they’ll feel pressured to come to work sick out of fear of falling behind or being viewed as unreliable. Giving them a reminder to stay home if they are sick can ease that concern and help keep other employees healthy.

Employers can also bring fresh fruit into the office or cater healthy lunches to promote eating well. Often, winter causes people to crave heavy, hearty foods that end up negatively impacting their health. Making fresh, healthy choices readily available can help combat this.

It’s also important that employees prioritize physical activity. The winter is a great time for employers to introduce gym reimbursements or launch a fitness challenge among employees.

Use gamification to break monotony

Winter days can seem long and tedious, especially if employees are doing the same thing every day. Employers can use gamification to break up monotony and present processes and tasks in an exciting way. For example, rather than having employees sit through training videos or read training documents, training can be turned into a game. Deloitte did this with their leadership training and saw a reduced completion time of 50% and an increase in 47% of people who return to the training site on a regular basis.

Capterra does a great job explaining the benefits and best practices of gamifying work tasks, which you can read more about here.

Plan special events

To further break up the mundane, employers can plan most of their special events for the winter months. Bring in interesting guest speakers, plan team building activities, or hold fun internal challenges. Although sometimes not directly related to work, these things help employees recharge and relax, which leads them to be more motivated when it comes time to tackle their work.

Understand SAD and offer support

Sometimes, lack of motivation is more than just the winter blues. Seasonal Affect Disorder (SAD) affects more than 3 million Americans each year. Employers can bring in guest speakers to talk about mental health, or make resources available for employees to seek help if they feel that they are impacted by SAD.

Also, it’s important for employers to show compassion and understanding towards anyone experiencing a mental health issue. Employers that are flexible about employees needing to visit doctors/mental health professionals during work hours are creating a supportive environment that employees need.


Overall, it’s important for employers to be proactive about keeping employees motivated and engaged during the winter. But soon enough, spring will come around again, and with it will come a new batch of intrinsic motivation!