How Winter Can Affect Employees' Mental Health and Wellbeing

While winter and the holiday season go hand in hand it's not always a cheerful affair.

There's plenty to look forward to in the run-up to Christmas but not everyone will be feeling the same

Most of us will already be looking forward to Christmas and New Year's, but the end of year also brings with it autumn and winter. For some, these seasons brings with them challenges that go way beyond trying to stay warm when going outside!  

As an employer it's important to be aware of the issues that may be affecting your employees' physical and mental wellbeing as the days get colder and darker and how you can help them.

Here's some of the challenges that winter can bring for your employees' mental health and wellbeing and how you can support them... 

The effects of winter

Research found that 35% of individuals experience Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), which is a type of depression that's exacerbated by winter (Peldon Rose). This is not surprising in northern hemisphere countries where the daylight hours become significantly shorter in the winter months and our access to natural Vitamin D and outdoor exercise become limited.

The winter blues are, indeed, a very real phenomenon which negatively affects the mood of 51% of workers (Peldon Rose). 

Along with the environmental factors, the end of the year brings with it end of year deadlines, targets to meet and less time to do so! These factors can cause stress, and with 52% of employees already feeling burned out (Indeed), this is something you need to tackle.  

All of these challenges can have a negative impact on your team's ability to perform and remain motivated.

Download your Free 'Employee Burnout Cheat Sheet' Our free resource will help you to identify symptoms of employee burnout, as  well as ways to resolve and prevent them. Click here to get your free copy.

how employers can help... 

44% of employees say that winter has a negative effect on their mental wellbeing (Peldon Rose). To support your teams' wellbeing start by understanding your people's concerns and challenges and then you can create a realistic and genuinely impactful plan. Here's a few suggestions... 

Let there be light

Between dark mornings and evenings when we finish work, it can feel like we never get to enjoy the sunshine! Allowing your employees to get decent exposure to natural daylight can have a hugely positive effect on their mental and physical wellbeing. Encourage your people to take walks or eat lunch outdoors to help them feel the mood-boosting benefits. If your premise, or their home working environment allows for it, position workstations near windows or provide your employees with SAD lights to help their brains produce the essential serotonin they need throughout the day. 

Find a balance between keeping things Zen and social

For tasks that require a high level of concentration, having a quiet space where employees can work uninterrupted is very useful. These private zones can also be utilised by individuals who'd simply like a little time out from the usual office hubbub if the pressure is getting too much. 

Likewise, the opportunity to collaborate and work in a more social manner is essential for building those human bonds between employees, so ensure that your office space makes provision for this way of working. 

For employees working from home, it's important to supply the tools and training that will help them to communicate with other team members and prevent the evolution of lonely silos. Whether it's Slack, Zoom or Microsoft Teams, select a software that will support easy and regular communication. 

Remove any stigma around managing sickness

Winter also brings with it an influx of colds and flu, and trying to work through these will only make matters worse in the long run.  

As an employer it's important to be flexible to look after your wellbeing throughout winter. As well as allowing employees to work from home where possible, make sure to encourage your teams to take the necessary time to recover if they need it. Make sure they don't worry about losing their jobs or getting a negative reception from managers when they put in sickness leave requests. 

Have a healthy workplace culture

Most importantly, make sure that your organisation's workplace culture is based around inclusivity and people-first values.

Showing appreciation for your employees’ efforts and achievements will encourage them to keep engaging with your objectives and communicating when they need help. This type of environment promotes better mental wellbeing habits as it removes any anxiety or stigma around feelings of overwhelm. 

For more practical tips on supporting your employees during the winter months, click here.

take it to the next level

This winter will give many businesses the chance to show true leadership through genuine health and wellbeing initiatives that support the needs of their employees. Creating a strategy that will help your people feel listened to, appreciated and acknowledged will help to keep your organisation productive and profitable, while also being caring and humane. 

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