The New Year means a new start, and a return to pace following a Christmas time wind down. It often takes longer than first expected to pick up where you left off though, as there are many factors which make it difficult for employees and managers alike to kick start in January. Many employers report a decrease in morale during winter months, and this may be attributed to a condition called Seasonal Affected Disorder (SAD). Symptoms of depression and a lack of motivation are brought on by short days and cold weather.
SAD at work: winter and workplace morale
We came across an interesting article on HR Review that looks at the effect of winter on workers and their morale. They point to a survey carried out by Opinium of over 1,000 office workers in the UK, which found that one in five employees call in sick due to low enthusiasm as a result of winter. What’s more, those that do take time off take 4 days a year on average.
When asked for reasons as to why workers feel so low in the winter months, the responses were as follows:
- 60% - Harder to get out of bed
- 59% - Decreased levels of motivation
- 58% - Depression
- 52% - Greater susceptibility to illness
Solutions for SAD at work
So what can be done to combat the dreariness of winter and inject some much needed enthusiasm back into the workforce? HR Review has 5 suggestions to break up the dark and repetitive period of the working week. They propose:
- Outdoor exercise during the week
- Customising the office environment
- Bringing greenery into the office
- Livening up meetings by introducing colours and imagery
- Having more face to face interactions instead of email
The Telegraph highlights a survey conducted by Mental Health Research UK (MHRUK) which claims that one in ten people see no natural light at work, and 30 per cent of people go to and return from work in the dark during the winter. Long periods without natural light can have a detrimental effect on mental health and can ultimately lead to the development of SAD.
There is also some discrepancy over how many working hours are lost every year due to SAD. Clearly there is confusion about SAD, along with the causes and preventions. Spotting low motivation and signs of decreased morale will enable employers to help their staff and to take steps to preventing a more serious mental health problem.
Related article: Improving employee mental health at work
Image Credit: by alegri / 4freephotos.com
Written by Fiona Sanderson
Fiona is Marketing Manager at myhrtoolkit. Her areas of expertise include HR systems, productivity, employment law updates, and creating HR infographics.