As winter approaches some employees may be finding that they go to work and come home in complete darkness. This lack of daylight exposure can cause some to experience winter depression, also known as Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). This disorder impacts around 20% of the population and typically causes low mood, fatigue and increased irritability.
Obviously these symptoms can affect the productivity of workers and the overall office morale. To help combat the impact of SAD at work, the experts at We Are WildGoose, team building activity providers, have put together five ways that employers can help their staff stay motivated through the winter months.
For some getting to work while it is still dark may make being ready for their day a little more difficult. Employers should review their flexible working policies to give employees the option of starting and finishing later to allow them to start their working day in the daylight. It is also worth seeing if remote working options fit with your business, if not already an option.
Offering employees the opportunity to work from home will allow them to get up slightly later and will perhaps provide them with the opportunity to experience more daylight than if they were in an enclosed office.
One of the main triggers of SAD sufferers is the dark mornings and evenings. Your body’s circadian clock responds to light as a signal to be awake, this means that without sufficient light during the day, employees can feel lethargic. There is not much that can be done about this outside, but employers can ensure that the inside of the office is sufficiently lit using daylight imitation bulbs.
If there is the space for it you could even set up a corner of the office where there is a comfy chair and a SAD lamp to give employees the option of getting 30 minutes of exposure to help combat their SAD symptoms.
It can be a difficult argument to make when the weather is wet and cold, but encouraging your employees to spend time outside will do them the world of good. Remind your employees to take regular breaks and get lots of fresh air. If possible, it’s also worth investing in your outdoors office spaces. If you can fit heating outside, it will be easier for your staff to walk around in the winter and stay warm. It also means they can take quick breaks from their desk without having to go too far from the office.
Team building is a great way to get your staff motivated and boost the mood in the office. Whether it’s games, virtual escape rooms or more adrenalin-based pursuits such as a treasure hunt, autumn/winter is a good time to plan something fun and engaging for your team to help improve morale. A Gallup study showed that employees work 20% better when motivated. For anyone in your team who is struggling with SAD, renewed focus from taking part in a team building activity will help them to take their mind off it and will boost productivity as a result.
Those suffering from SAD may be tempted to comfort eat in order to try and boost their dopamine. But this might not be the best strategy for dealing with a low mood. Exercise and a good, vitamin rich diet are known to enhance serotonin levels, making people feel happier and healthier.
Consider introducing healthy initiatives at work, simple things like treadmill or standing desks, promoting regular screen breaks, a free fruit bowl and healthy snacks are a great start. If you have some extra budget, you might also consider organising some fitness classes such as yoga or zumba for your employees.
It is also important to ensure that your employees’ mental health is being addressed, as well as their physical health. Consider subscribing to a mental wellness app and offer training on mental health to help break down the stigma within the office.