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Beating the winter blues

Published: 21/02/14

A survey of over 1,000 UK office workers, carried out by Opinium and Epson, has highlighted the ways in which the winter months impact UK office workers, with 60 per cent stating that it makes it harder to get out of bed. This was closely followed by decreased levels of motivation (59 per cent), depression (58 per cent) and greater susceptibility to illness (52 per cent). The research stated that almost half of workers rarely or never see sunlight on the way to work during the winter months.

When asked what measures would improve the mood of employees in the office, 33 per cent of respondents stated better lighting, while 27 per cent wanted a more colourful workspace and one in five would like to see more creative visuals and colourful presentations.

“From a business perspective, the opportunity of 2014 is there for the taking,” says Neil Colquhoun, Director at Epson UK. “Companies have to remain competitive and start the year on a high – losing valuable manpower because of winter weather is not an option. Workers are calling out for simple steps, such as bringing more light and colour into the workplace. We understand the importance of colour quality and brightness and are developing our technology to deliver the most exciting visual content.”

Angela Wright, colour psychologist, comments: “Grey is always a favourite colour for office design – yet, the human instinct in a grey world is to hibernate – so the winter months are already a constant battle to fight the instinct to sleep. When the world turns grey, we know we could be in for a long winter and we naturally draw into ourselves – hoarding both resources and energy. Therefore, it’s no surprise that light and colour have come out on top as remedies for the winter blues; the quality of visual intake for busy, hardworking employees plays a crucial role in brightening up their days and keeping motivation levels high.”

Action on Depression, a Scottish based national charity says that one in five employees is likely, at some point in their lives to be hit by depression and encourages businesses to put policies and procedures in place to offer support to those affected by mental ill health. They suggest the following points about how companies can help:

  • Ask the employee if the depression is caused by problems at work and try to find a resolution to their concerns.
  • Encourage employees to raise and discuss issues concerning their depression in confidential settings. Stress that everything they tell you is confidential and make sure you keep it that way.
  • If your employee goes off sick with depression you may be concerned that you are wasting money, particularly when money is tight. However an employee who knows the job and has had training is an investment worth keeping, even if absent from work for a longer period it can be favourable to training a new worker from scratch.
  • Keep in touch with employees who are off sick with depression. Don't over-pressurise them but encourage them to keep you informed so you know where you stand. Tell them how much you value them.
  • Offer those returning to work from depression or other mental ill health a gradual return. For example they could start by working two days a week and gradually build up to full-time.
  • Encourage your employees to look after their mental health. Ensure people take lunch breaks; have a good work-life balance and exercise regularly (perhaps look into discounted gym memberships for your employees).
  • If, like many employers, your company or organisation is going through a time of financial uncertainty and/or redundancies, be sensitive that this is a difficult time for your employees and they are likely to be feeling anxious and stressed. Take time to listen to their concerns, to learn about what they are doing and how organisational changes have affected them.
  • Watch out for other things that can cause depression or stress in the workplace like bullying and harassment, unsocial hours, too much responsibility or not enough responsibility, lack of job satisfaction.

Action on Depression has also set up a Mood Matters micro site, which offers further help and advice

http://www.actionondepression.org/mood_matters/

Acas also offers tips on how employers can promote positive mental health in the workplace. http://www.acas.org.uk/CHttpHandler.ashx?id=3385&p=0

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