HR & Management

Banishing the winter blues from the workplace

6 min read

16 December 2016

Admit it – we’ve all been there. Those grey days from September to April which bring with them low moods known as “the winter blues”.

Winter blues present employers with some real challenges, not least how to best support employees in remaining buoyant and motivated, in good health and resilient to the feelings of gloom and despondency that affect so many in this season.

After all, the short days and long nights of winter, going to and from work in the dark whilst simultaneously battling the inevitable cold weather snaps and illnesses of the season are reasons enough to make even the cheeriest employee want to pull the duvet back over their head and stay in bed.

However, there are some simple changes that employers can make to the winter office environment to make it a more welcoming, healthy and happy place that employees are happy to head for and which will boost spirits through the hard months ahead.

Make food a feature

Whilst human nature and bad habits dictate that the winter blues might send us hurtling towards the nearest vending machine for a bar of chocolate to cheer us up, a much better solution is to ensure staff are supported to eat sensibly throughout the day.

This can mean encouraging a proper lunch break, so that grazing at the desk and potentially overeating is less likely.

Research also suggests that those who don’t take a lunch break work more slowly and less accurately in the afternoon than colleagues who take at least 30 minutes away from their workstation.

A proper break helps ensure employees are in a more positive mood to tackle the afternoon and ultimately, more productive. A well-refuelled body will help avoid energy lows.

Try to ensure that where food and drink is available on site, healthy choices are available. Menus should aim to include foods with a low glycaemic (GI) index – these are the foods that we digest slowly, leaving us feeling full for longer. Low sugar cereal bars, wholemeal bread sandwiches, yoghurt, fruit and nuts are all ideal.

Think about creating bespoke monthly leaflets, educating employees on topics such as the health benefits of certain foods and ways in which they can incorporate activity in their daily lives to adopt a healthier lifestyle.  It’s a tried and tested method – across our customer base research tells us that 37% have been influenced to make a positive lifestyle change, based on information received. A small action can have a huge impact.

Revamp your office space

Lighting can influence feelings of wellbeing so try to ensure that this is right for the time of year. Dim or subdued lighting when it’s dark outside can be a major demotivator and contributor of winter blues.

Ideally, employees should be working in natural light, replaced with bright lighting as daylight fades and amid a warm comfortable background temperature.

Bring in some new inexpensive furnishings to create some colour. Add a punch with some warm and cosy cushions for shared space or invest in some colourful office plants or weekly vases of flowers. Music can also lift the mood so consider if this is a feasible background addition.

Inspire your employees to share their ideas on how to create a super seasonal office to avoid winter blues – maybe you could run a competition for best ideas?

Something to look forward to

Having good times to look forward to can lighten the mood, so running regular social events is a great way to build some fun into winter days.

Positive reward – such as a bonus, pay rise, or the award of thank you gifts for good work – will certainly help contribute to good feelings so if you can, time some good announcements in the winter months.

Also use the time to investigate what will help employees: a little flexibility that allows someone with a long dark journey ahead to leave earlier will go a long way to banish winter blues.

The value of exercise also shouldn’t be underestimated. Linking with a local gym to offer reduced membership, supporting employees with facilities that enable them to cycle or walk to work and making working flexible to accommodate regular exercise regimes are all worthy of consideration.

Charity fundraising through activities ranging from sponsored walks to tougher challenges are a fun way to engage people of different levels of physical fitness and enthusiasm, whilst potentially raising money for charity and creating a feel good factor.

Sue Wainscot is HR director at Dine Contract Catering

Image: Shutterstock