Winter Wellbeing: How to Stay Healthy at Work
For office workers, winter is a challenging time of year. You get up in the dark, drive to work in the gloom, spend your day indoors and then arrive back home... in the dark.
It’s easy to feel a little under the weather at this time of year. Colds and bugs are rampant and are easily spread as more people spend time indoors. What’s more, our mental health can suffer due to the dark, gloomy conditions.
According to the NHS, Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) is a type of depression that comes and goes in a seasonal pattern. It’s often known as ‘winter depression’ because the symptoms - which include a persistent low mood, lethargy, social withdrawal and a lack of energy - are usually more apparent during the winter. This disorder is often blamed on a lack of sunlight, which slows brain function and increases melatonin in the body - a hormone that regulates the sleep-wake cycle.
Whether or not you suffer from SAD, winter has a significant impact on the mental and physical wellbeing of office workers. So what can you do about it?
Tips to Improve Your Wellbeing at Work this Winter
Take a step closer towards improving your wellbeing this winter with these top workplace tips.
Try a change of scenery. Rather than working from the same office all day, why not mix things up? Head out into a shared lounge, work from the kitchen area, or make use of a coworking space in the building. Change is as good as a rest, and being in a different environment and spending time with different people can help you refocus and improve your productivity.
Refresh your office. Switch things up a little. Get the decorators in to brighten up your walls. Change your artwork with some bright, vibrant pieces (tropical beach scene, anyone?). Or simply furnish your desk with some fresh photographs - ideally ones that bring you happy memories, such as a holiday or fun days out with family or friends.
Work flexibly. If your company doesn’t operate a flexible work policy, consider introducing one. Flexible working doesn’t just mean working from home - as the name suggests, it’s a flexible policy that’s adapted to each employee. For example:
- Flexible hours - the option to start and finish the working day earlier, or later (such as 8-4 or 10-6 as opposed to 9-5). That way, employees have a little more daylight time at home to do things that are important to them - such as hobbies, exercise, or spending time with family.
- Flexible locations - the opportunity to work in an alternative environment for some of the week. This could be working from home, or from a workspace closer to home, so employees spend less time commuting. Again, being closer to home offers more opportunities to maximise daylight hours.
- Flexible break times - for example, allowing employees to take longer lunch breaks to go to the gym, or to fit in a long walk at lunchtime when natural daylight is at its strongest.
Add plants to your workplace. The power of plants is amazing. Did you know that office plants not only look attractive, they can also help purify the air? Plants improve air quality by producing oxygen and removing pollutants, leading to a cleaner, healthier space.
What’s more, humans are hard-wired to seek out nature. Just looking at plants - whether in a natural environment, or in the office - is enough to help lower stress levels, reduce blood pressure and improve your mood. If you work in a large office space, you can use tall, bulky plants as natural screens to create areas of privacy. Plants also absorb sound, which is ideal for those times when you need to work quietly or concentrate on complex tasks.
Make the most of daylight hours. As we mentioned earlier, Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) is often blamed on lack of natural daylight. Every day, do what you can to maximise the amount of time you spend outdoors. Take a long lunchtime walk, take phone calls outside (during dry weather), and park at the farthest end of the car park to spend more time walking into the office.
Also, make use of your onsite facilities. For example, Birmingham Business Park runs activities every working day, from yoga classes and meditation to cycling groups and jogging. These activities are a great way to get outside, meet new people and improve your overall wellbeing.
Take a walking meeting. For short meetings, take to your feet rather than sitting in a meeting room. In addition to being outside, the extra movement promotes positive wellbeing by increasing blood circulation along with cardiovascular and pulmonary (heart and lung) fitness. Walking can help to manage conditions such as hypertension (high blood pressure), high cholesterol, and joint or muscular pain or stiffness, therefore helping to improve your wellbeing over the winter period.
If you’re still feeling the winter blues, remember that winter never lasts forever and brighter, warmer days will be here again soon. In the meantime, get the kettle on and enjoy your warm comfortable office with a warming cup of tea or hot chocolate.