Winter working
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How to survive work during winter

14 Dec 2017

When the temperature drops, going to work can become a lot harder. Luckily, Glandore’s Clare Kelly has some top tips on surviving work during the winter weather.

Winter is firmly here and with it, it has brought shorter days and colder weather. With the average working day ranging from anywhere between 6am and 8pm, it means many of us will be going to work and coming home in the dark.

This lack of direct sunlight during the day, the dramatic dip in temperatures and change in atmosphere can have an effect on our working routine and our overall mood.

During the winter months, it is important to focus on the way you are working and find a routine that fits your needs. This will help keep your workflow moving steadily along and help prevent a drop in productivity and mood.

How to prepare for the day ahead

One of the best ways to develop a healthy and productive daily winter working routine is to get the right start. Your morning routine is integral to boosting motivation and energy, and sets you up to tackle the challenges of the busy day ahead.

The US National Sleep Foundation recommends that adults between the ages of 26 and 64 need to get between seven and nine hours of sleep per night. A lack of sleep is proven to have both short- and long-term effects on our bodies and mental health, with high blood pressure and anxiety being some of the side effects.

Going to bed at a regular time each night and switching off backlit devices such as your phone are small ways to prepare for a good night’s sleep.

Your morning routine is also important. Along with the usual activities of breakfast and brushing your teeth, many successful CEOs cite advanced planning as an equally integral part of their morning ritual.

Visualising your day helps put your brain into work mode and allows you to plan for what lies ahead in the office. Taking five minutes in the morning to go over your task list can help boost morning motivation and productivity.

Combating SAD

Seasonal affective disorder (SAD) is a type of depression specifically related to changes in seasons. A combination of reduced natural daylight, hectic lifestyles and poor weather can affect our circadian rhythms.

The symptoms for those who suffer with SAD commonly begin in autumn and continue into the winter months, with most people experiencing a decrease in energy level and a change in mood.

In Ireland, we are more susceptible to SAD due to our location in the northern hemisphere. According to Mental Health Ireland, approximately one in every 15 people in Ireland will suffer from the disorder between September and April. This can be in its most disabling form, or a milder version call sub-syndromal SAD or ‘winter blues’.

It is important that those suffering from the disorder seek help and try to come up with ways to combat seasonal distress. Maximising exposure to daylight, engaging in activities you enjoy and practising healthy habits such as maintaining a well-balanced diet and regular exercise are simple ways to help reduce the symptoms of SAD.

Another recommendation to consider is light therapy. Exposure to artificial light is thought to affect brain chemicals linked to mood and sleep, which can ease SAD symptoms.

There are multiple devices available from battery-powered visors, portable light boxes and special lightbulbs. These can be easily implemented into your office and can be beneficial for the whole team.

Although these routines and methods can help combat SAD, it is also important that those suffering with the disorder speak to their GP or a mental health professional that can guide you to the best treatment.

Mixing up your usual routine

Everyday routines are comfortable and usually productive. However, during the winter months, there can be benefits to mixing things up.

Any time you force yourself to make a change to your workflow, you encourage your brain to make new connections, forcing your brain to pay attention and learn. This is known as neuroplasticity.

Changing your working location is a simple, cheap and effective way to change your working routine and boost productivity. Flexible workspace providers offer a number of options that can accommodate the needs of freelancers, SMEs or larger businesses.

In recent years, there has been an increase in the number of businesses introducing hotdesking to their working environment. This is an office system whereby one workstation is used by multiple employees during different time periods.

Usually, employees work different shifts or have flexible schedules. This allows a number of employees to benefit from a change in location at different times during the winter months.

In an effort to boost employee wellbeing and mental health, many businesses and flexible workspace providers have begun introducing workplace wellness programmes for their employees.

Whether it is a lunchtime mindfulness seminar or morning pilates class, it can be useful to take advantage of your company’s wellbeing programme, especially during the winter months.

By Clare Kelly

Clare Kelly is the director of Glandore, which offers fully fitted, flexible workspaces in Dublin and Belfast.

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