Help your staff beat the winter blues

Winter has a huge impact on the mental health and wellbeing of British workers, according to a new survey from consultants, Peldon Rose, which reveals that over two-fifths (44%) of employees say winter has a negative effect on their mental wellbeing, half (51%) believe it adversely affects their mood and 30% state winter affects their productivity.

Over a third of respondents (35%) even identify themselves as suffering or having suffered from Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) – a form of depression that becomes more severe in the winter –  and three-quarters (76%) say they have experienced or are currently experiencing stress in the workplace.  This presents a rather gloomy prospect for employers who might be hoping to see the return of a refreshed and invigorated workforce after the Christmas break, as it is likely that the long, darker days will continue to have a negative impact on their wellbeing and productivity well into the New Year.

However, the survey also reveals some important ways that businesses can make a difference.  Workers believe the office environment in particular has a key role in helping to tackle the January blues, with office-based factors such as exposure to natural light (90%), quiet and private areas (76%) and social and collaborative workspaces (75%) all rated as being significantly more important in supporting mental health than traditional workplace benefits, such as health insurance (62%) or gym memberships (58%).

Based on the survey findings, here are four New Year resolutions your businesses can make to tackle the symptoms of SAD and boost staff wellbeing: 

  • Natural lighting:Nine in ten (90%) consider exposure to natural light as important in supporting their mental health and wellbeing at work, but only 63% currently have it in their workplace.  Wherever possible employers should introduce more natural lighting into the office, which may involve reconfiguring seating arrangements, if necessary, and removing any obstacles that are blocking out sunlight.
  • Quiet areas: Three-quarters (76%) say quiet and private workspaces support their wellbeing at work, 82% value them – but only 40% of people have them in their workplace.  Employers can create a bespoke quiet area by re-thinking how space is currently used.  You could designate part of the office a quiet area or reallocate a specific meeting room as the ‘quiet zone’.
  • Social and communal areas: 77% value them and 75% think they’re important to support mental health, but only 51% have them.  Employers can create social areas by making existing communal areas, such as the kitchen, more welcoming with comfy seating and more relaxed, homely designs.
  • InclusivityInclude everyone in decisions being made about the workplace; greater employee involvement will have a positive impact on staff productivity (70%) and mental wellbeing (56%)

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