How to combat lost productivity as the days get shorter

Seasonal changes and dark evenings have well documented affects on mood and our physiology and psychology. 

In its most severe form: less daylight can cause seasonal affective disorder (SAD) marked by episodes of depression some people experience in winter months. 

In fact very few people can claim to be completely unaffected by darkness. Most will feel the blues associated with shorter evenings, a sense of having less time to be outside and attend to life outside work, darker colors and general mood of wanting to withdraw from damp and cold. 

This can have a big impact on work and performance. Here are a few useful tips on how to stay productive, happy and topped up with energy through this period and how to ensure your team does as well.

Acknowledge the situation

There’s no reason to deny the elephant in the room. Instead, make it a team meeting agenda item now, and tap into the creativity of your team to identify simple ways to manage office mood and motivation.

Make flexible working really count for you

Much of the blues come from people feeling they have less time for what matters in life: time with family, friends and social activities. Adding flexibility to working hours is the most effective means of helping everyone meet their goals and keeping motivation and engagement high.

Establish clear team goals

Cold temperatures highlight the need for coziness and togetherness. Tap into this by establishing clear team goals that everyone can track together and contribute towards. Make them have a Christmas deadline so there’s an extra reason to celebrate the year.

Provide nutritious snacks

As winter is well-linked with comfort eating of less nutritious snacks that make the brain sleepy and slow. Consider investing a small amount of budget in having nutritious lunch or breakfast delivered to your office or perhaps a healthy smoothie. It will help you support responsible organic food suppliers and ensure everyone is fueled to work at your best.

Mind the office temperature

This is often the time when people are either too hot or too cold. Both will distract and demotivate. Check in with people and if necessary ensure people get access to heaters. Have a flexible workstation next to a window where people can cool down if the office heats up or create a standing work desk for creative work.

Share how you really feel

Best teams share time and talk with each other on a regular basis. So share your thoughts and feelings with others. Create a culture where people trust each other and can lean into the team to feel supported and motivated. Emotions are catchy. Talking about them allows everyone to feel better and creates good vibes that make people enjoy their work and their colleagues.

Magdalena Bak-Maier is a neuroscientist, and author of Get Productive (Capstone).

For more ideas and a system to stay productive and feel happy, see Magdalena’s’January Secret to work-life balance and results you actually want through heart & mind fusion,’ January 8 2013 or e-mail mbm@maketimecount.com to schedule a workshop in your workplace.

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