January can be a hard month for many, and a lot of people feel a bit of back to work blues. This can sometimes be too easily dismissed as simply pining for the summer months, but it can be more serious and can begin to affect people’s work lives. The winter blues are in fact something to take note of as an employer.
According to the NHS website, the winter blues (or seasonal affective disorder) affects around two million people in the UK, and more than 12m across Northern Europe.
What causes the winter blues?
There are plenty of contributing factors to people feeling a bit blue over the winter months.
These can include: returning to work after spending a long break with family and loved ones; being a little short of cash after an expensive Christmas season; and the lack of daylight hours and festive lights coming down, among other things.
These things may sound trivial on their own, but they can add up – even returning to a long commute after a week of lie ins can take its toll.
If employees are less happy at work than usual, they may become less productive, which can impact a company’s bottom line. Luckily, there are some things employers can do to battle the blues.
What to look out for
If employees become noticeable lethargic, start being less sociable or more irritable, it could be a case of seasonal affective disorder, or the winter blues.
Of course, there is a difference between feeling a bit down and depression – it may help for employers to distribute leaflets on seasonal depression if they deem it necessary, to raise awareness and encourage any employees who need a bit of extra support to reach out.
Top tips for avoiding it
• Keep fit – keeping active can help, even if it’s just a light walk. Employees should be encouraged to use their lunch hour to get away from their desks and stretch their legs
• Get some daylight – one of the contributing factors to the winter blues is the lack of daylight, and this is exacerbated if you get up in the dark for work and leave when the sun has already set. This is just one more reason to make an effort to go outside on a lunch break
• Eat healthily – there might be lots of leftover goodies from Christmas, but overeating is a bad sign, and won’t do much for health and wellbeing. A fruit bowl in the office can work wonders
• Keep warm – Lots of people get bugs and colds around the winter months, and that doesn’t help shake the blues. Wrap up warm, and make sure the office is the right temperature to keep people ticking over.
As with anything, no advice is universal and what works for some employees might not work for others. It is important to get to know staff, and foster an open culture so that mental health issues can be discussed openly.
While these tips may help improve overall office morale, don’t be afraid to seek professional help where appropriate.
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