The darker evenings are creeping in and waking up in the morning is already tougher with no sunshine to greet us when the alarm sounds. No matter how many times we experience it, the clocks going back is a shock to the system every year, and a reminder that winter is just around the corner. These days it is well-documented that fewer hours of sunlight have a significant effect on how we feel and how our bodies work. Of course some are more susceptible than others, but we all feel it on some level and the impact can be seen both at home and at work.
Call it what you like, the “winter blues” can make us all feel lethargic, fatigued and demotivated. It’s harder to get out of bed in the morning, unpleasant leaving the house in the dark, and annoying having to defrost the car windscreen before you can set off. As a result businesses frequently notice a decline in productivity at this time of year, not to mention an increase in staff absenteeism, and it’s no coincidence. Our environment has a profound effect on us all and these seasonal changes have both a physical and mental impact. However, it is possible to combat these effects and fight off the winter blues.
Making changes to our immediate environment is a great first step. Employers can take responsibility to make the working environment appealing and positive to help the workforce to feel energised and proactive. Bright, airy offices are ideal, and a light, bright colour scheme can make a big difference if access to natural sunlight is difficult. Allowing employees to take breaks to walk outside can help, providing both sunlight and fresh air to invigorate and refresh. Holding meetings in the brightest rooms, preferably with big windows and natural sunlight, can boost concentration and attention levels. If access to natural light is scarce then fluorescent lighting is the next best thing. Some businesses are even investing in sun lamps to provide employees with light therapy to combat the negative effects of fewer daylight hours.
Ensuring that staff have access to plenty of drinks to stay hydrated can also make a big difference, so providing a water cooler or filtration system for a constant supply of drinking water is a good start. Also, providing the means for staff to make hot drinks as and when desired not only helps with hydration, but also helps them to maintain body temperature in the cooler months. In fact anything that helps staff to focus on general wellbeing and health can really help, perhaps laying on fruit or other healthy snacks to boost energy levels. Some companies even offer subsidised gym memberships to encourage exercise; we all know it releases feel-good endorphins, so it’s a great way to increase positivity and motivation, not to mention it demonstrates to employees that you care about them.
Employees need to help themselves
Having said all of this, it remains important for employees to take responsibility too, and seek out or seize opportunities to battle the blues. If company policy encourages breaks away from the desk or short walks outside, then employees need to take this advice and actively embrace it. Of course there are other things they can do, even something as simple as de-cluttering their work space, can be a positive step and reduce stress levels. It not only facilitates a short break from daily tasks, but also improves the working environment and removes distractions and irritations.
Ultimately we all have a job to do, regardless of the season or the weather, so we all need to maintain focus and work hard to achieve results. However, if there are ways of making this easier and more enjoyable, then why not put them into practice and have a happy workforce rather than a miserable one? After all, the happier they are, the more productive they’ll be.