The shortening of daylight hours and lack of exposure to sunlight during the winter months can cause us to feel down and less able to cope. Not only do our immune systems take a hit between September and April meaning we are more vulnerable to infections and illness, there is also a rise in depression and mental health related problems[i].
This shift in seasons can be known as the “winter gloom”. There has also been links between the sudden onset of darker nights and a drop in employee productivity levels[ii].
Mark Pinches, Head of Coaching at Westfield Health, discusses ways employees can sustain productivity during the winter months.
- Don’t take on too much
“If productivity levels are low following the change of the clocks, don’t feel bad about saying no or asking for help. Taking on too much at work will make you feel stressed and run down so it is better to have a smaller work load and complete tasks efficiently than to over-stretch yourself. To help order your thoughts and stay productive, break down larger tasks into smaller ones and prioritise their importance.”
- Get enough rest
“In the run up to Christmas you’re likely to be socialising more and sleeping less. If you’re burning the candle at both ends, you’re bound to be tired and less productive whilst at work. Getting a good night’s sleep is the only way you can properly recharge your batteries, having a combination of quantity and quality. Most of us will need somewhere between 6-9 hours of sleep to feel good during the day. Turn off all electrics 30 minutes before going to bed or read a book to help you relax and unwind.”
- Get active
“Lack of sunlight during the winter months increases melatonin levels in the brain which can make you feel lethargic and therefore less motivated when it comes to exercising. By keeping up with physical activity, you will naturally boost your mood as your brain releases endorphins which are ‘feel good hormones’. A good way to stick to this is to commit to exercising at least a couple of nights a week with a friend or colleague as you’ll be less likely to cancel last minute. Whilst it might be too cold to run outside, a gym or home workout can be a great alternative and also means you don’t have to battle the winter weather.”
- Take a break
“Working long days once the clocks have gone forward will mean there’s not much time left during the evening for ‘you’ time. Take a break during this period to recharge and replenish energy levels. Be careful not to use all your annual leave in the summer, save a few days to take in the run up to Christmas to get organised or simply do nothing.”
- Eat well
“A good diet is key to sustaining a strong immune system during the autumn and winter months. Craving carbohydrates and junk food is a common symptom of Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) so it is important to avoid reaching for unhealthy foods.
“Incorporate plenty of vitamins and minerals into your diet to boost your immune system and help fight off illness. Drinking water will also help your brain operate effectively meaning you can concentrate and be more productive whilst at work.”