It’s that time of the year when the daylight hours are shortening and the temperature is low. Your workers are likely getting in to the office before the sunrise and leaving after it sets. Everyone is aware of how crappy that feels, but what you’re probably less aware of, is that this lack of Vitamin D from natural sunlight has some serious effects on health, which can have some flow-on effects to employee engagement and overall productivity. It is important therefore, to help employees deal with this natural reduction in sunlight exposure, particularly around the winter solstice, in order to prevent them becoming down or stressed as a result.
Maximise opportunities for sunlight.
There are several ways you can do this, within the office, and by taking employees outside of the office at regular intervals. Firstly, inside the office, if you are able, have as many windows as possible with blinds drawn to expose employees to sunlight inside. If you are unable to do this, UVB lamps inside offices can improve vitamin D production through artificial lighting.
Then, outside the office, make sure your employees have the opportunities to go outside for their lunch break as often as possible. At this time, more than ever, it is important to encourage workers to go outside to eat lunch, rather that sit in the office tea room, or at their desks. If you can, encourage exercise at this time as well. A further opportunity to do this is to go for an early morning walk with your employees before beginning work for the day. This has the added benefit of helping the brain to produce more serotonin, both preventing low mood, and improving wakefulness during the day. This will have an added benefit of compounding increased productivity through this improved wakefulness.
Watch for burnout
Burnout is particularly problematic around this time. You can recognise it through symptoms of self-isolation and irritability of your employees. Burnout leads to dramatic drops in productivity and can create issues with absenteeism. It is important to let your employees know that at any point when they are feeling stressed they can come and talk to you, which is an effective strategy to prevent burnout when employees can recognise the early warning signs of poor mood and irritability. Educate them to recognise these signs, and institute an open-door policy. Additionally, it is a good idea to avoid having workers stay back for long hours. In the long run, this will worsen the progression of burnout. Send workers home, make sure they keep regular office hours as a further strategy to prevent employee burnout.
Finally, it may be worthwhile having an external psychologist or counsellor come in to talk about the potential negative health consequences of reduced sunlight. Inviting these healthcare practitioners in can potentially create links to the individual employees, who make seek their services if they begin to struggle with deeper issues.