Winter has a huge impact on the mental health and wellbeing of British workers according to a new survey from workplace consultants, Peldon Rose, which reveals that over two-fifths (44 per cent) of employees say winter has a negative effect on their mental wellbeing, half (51 per cent) believe it adversely affects their mood and 30 per cent state winter affects their productivity.
More than a third of respondents (35 per cent) even identify themselves as suffering or having suffered from Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) – a type of depression that becomes more severe in the winter – and three-quarters (76 per cent) have experienced or are currently experiencing stress in the workplace.
The survey paints a gloomy picture for employers hoping for a refreshed and revitalised workforce to return following the Christmas break as the longer, darker days at the start of January will continue to affect employees’ wellbeing and productivity well into the new year.
However, the survey also reveals some important – and perhaps unexpected – ways that businesses can make a difference. Workers believe the office environment in particular has a vital role in helping to tackle the January blues with office-based factors such as exposure to natural light (90 per cent), quiet and private areas (76 per cent) and social and collaborative workspaces (75 per cent) all rated as significantly more important in supporting mental health than traditional, tailored workplace benefits such as health insurance (62 per cent) and gym memberships (58 per cent).
Yet, with only 29 per cent of people saying yes, they feel the company values their opinion in the workplace environment and only 26 per cent believing their workplace has a positive effect on their mental health, there is clearly more businesses can do. Reviewing the office environment and engaging with staff is an important first step for employers seeking to boost the wellbeing of their workforce.
The Winter blues
Half of workers (51 per cent) say winter has a negative effect on their mood, mental wellbeing (44 per cent) and motivation (43 per cent).
A third (35 per cent) have suffered or are suffering from SAD, 17 per cent are currently experiencing workplace stress, 59 per cent have done so in the past.
Only a quarter of people (26 per cent) say their office environment has a positive effect on their mental health; only 30 per cent believe their company values their opinion on the workplace environment.
Just three in ten (31 per cent) say their company does enough to support employee wellbeing and mental health and only 37 per cent feel their company appreciates them, down from 44 per cent a year ago.
Supportive line management (93 per cent), exposure to natural light (90 per cent), open culture (81 per cent), quiet and private workspaces (76 per cent) and social and collaborative workspaces (75 per cent) are rated most important in supporting mental health and wellbeing in the workplace.
Three-quarters (73 per cent) say greater involvement in decisions about their workplace would have a positive impact on their motivation, mood (70 per cent), productivity (70 per cent) and mental wellbeing (56 per cent).
How can businesses fix this
To address these findings Peldon Rose reveals the workplace improvements that will support businesses to help their employees to beat the winter blues.
Nine in ten (90 per cent) consider exposure to natural light as important in supporting their mental health and wellbeing at work, but only 63 per cent currently have it in their workplace. Wherever possible introduce more natural lighting into the office, reconfigure seating arrangements if necessary and remove any obstacles preventing sunlight from entering the workplace.
Three-quarters (76 per cent) say quiet and private workspaces support their wellbeing at work, 82 per cent value them – but only 40 per cent of people have them in their workplace. Create a bespoke quiet area by re-thinking how space is currently used, designate part of the office a quiet area or reallocate a specific meeting room as the ‘quiet zone’.
Social and communal areas
Three quarters (77 per cent) value them and 75 per cent think they’re important to support mental health, but only 51 per cent have them. Create social areas by making existing communal areas such as the kitchen more welcoming with comfy seating and more relaxed, homely design.
Include everyone in decisions being made about the workplace; greater employee involvement will have a positive impact on staff productivity (70 per cent) and mental wellbeing (56 per cent).
Jitesh Patel, Chief Executive, Peldon Rose, the office design specialists, says, ‘Thousands of office workers are struggling with their mental health, motivation and productivity this winter, but our survey reveals that there are steps businesses can take to try prevent SAD and the winter blues developing in the first place.
‘The first step is for businesses to engage with their staff via change management and getting them more involved in decisions about their workplace environment. By doing this it will boost their motivation, mood and productivity.
‘Employees are clear that rather than paid-for interventions, such as mental health support through health insurance, a supportive work culture and the right office environment will do far more to support their mental health and boost their wellbeing, meaning all businesses, regardless of size can look to make small changes that will have a big impact this New Year.’