As employees everywhere return to normality after the Christmas break and New Year’s Eve festivities, it’s normal for moods to seem a bit low around the office.
This can be due to a number of things – returning to work after having had such a long, luxurious time off with loved ones and being forced back into a dreary commute; empty pockets after splashing out over Christmas and the holidays; the dark and gloomy outside world after all the festive lights have been taken down.
So, what can employers do to tackle this problem head on? The first thing worth noting is that the winter blues are very much a real thing – and if you want the best work out of your employees, it’s worth taking it seriously.
What causes SAD
SAD stands for Seasonal Affective Disorder, and according to the NHS the common theory is that low moods in the winter months are caused by the way the human body responds to daylight.
The suggestion is that shorter daylight hours means some people produce higher levels of melatonin, which can cause the symptoms of depression.
This is bad news for employees’ health and wellbeing, especially when there are many other factors contributing to this time of year being particularly hard. It’s also bad news for a company’s bottom line if its employees are less productive than usual.
Top tips for winter mental health
There is of course a difference between an employee feeling a bit down because they’ve spent all their cash and suffering from a real mental health problem, such as depression. Sometimes, it may be appropriate to steer an employee towards professional advice.
However, for employers looking to brighten the mood around the workplace, try some of these suggestions:
• Eat healthy – eating right can help people feel better, and although there might be mountains of leftover chocolate from Christmas left to get through, a fruit bowl in the office probably wouldn’t go amiss
• Keep it light – it can be gloomy coming into work when it’s still dark and leaving when it’s dark – especially if your workplace doesn’t have windows to the outside world. Encourage employees to get up away from their desks and have a wander at lunchtime
• Exercise – Keeping active is also a good way to improve employees’ moods. Offering perks such as cheaper gym rates or organising a football team etc. can be a good way to instil motivation
• The usual – offering incentives, praise and generally fostering a healthy and nurturing company culture can go a long way to improving an employee’s attitude
• Get to know staff – as ever, what works for one person won’t necessarily work for everyone. Getting to know staff so that you know when someone might need a helping hand is always important.
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