The holidays should be a happy time, but often they're not. This season can have a huge impact on physical and mental health. People used to complain of the “winter blues,” but scientists now know that some people are actually afflicted with a real condition called Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). And even for those without a diagnosable level of the winter doldrums, it’s still a very real hindrance to your energy, attitude, and happiness.
Unsurprisingly, these emotional struggles can carry over to your business and hurt your bottom line. You, your employees, and your profits can suffer the effects of employees that have less energy to interact with clients, uneven demeanor when dealing with colleagues, and lowered ability to concentrate on the most important tasks. You might even witness more frequent illnesses in your team members. No need to panic. You can stave off the infection with a few simple steps to bring the sunshine back into your work life.
Don't put your success at risk. Here are some steps you can take and the scientific studies behind them:
1. Open the Blinds
The best light is sunlight. Natural light helps regulate your circadian rhythm and helps keep you productive. In this study published in The Lancet, researchers found that serotonin turnover in the brain is slowest in the winter. Moreover, they found that the rate of production of serotonin is directly related to length of exposure to bright sunlight. Employees frequently commute to and from work in the dark, while the few hours of sun are spent hidden away in the office. Thus, opening the blinds in your office is especially important in the winter, when there are fewer hours of daylight to begin with. Additionally, you could rearrange your office to maximize each person’s exposure to windows. This could include changing the direction that desks face or removing high cubicle walls.
2. Change Your Light Bulbs
Even if your office doesn’t have huge windows, you can still mimic some of the effects of natural sunlight by choosing the right, bright light bulbs. In one study, this method was found to improve the moods of people both with and without a history of depression. In another study, researchers at NIH and at Northwestern University found increased productivity in offices with lensed, indirect lighting systems. Warm white is the best color - and no fluorescents!
3. Offer Work Day Exercise Benefits
You already know that regular exercise is great for your health. It helps you live longer, produces endorphins to keep you upbeat, and strengthens your immune system. But can it help prevent SAD in your office? Yes! This study shows how effective exercise can be in treating seasonal and non-seasonal depression. There are several ways you can incorporate physical activity into your office. Some healthcare insurance offers reduced-price gym memberships or premium discounts for those who exercise. If that’s not within your budget, you can encourage your employees to exercise by allowing them a set number of hours per week they are allowed to leave the office to work out. If some employees don’t like to hit the gym, you can lead a twice-weekly morning walk outside, or conduct a weekly small group meeting as a walk around the block. Get your heart rate up and absorb some sun!
4. Bring in Specialists
There are other complementary treatment methods science has evaluated in the treatment of depression. This study from Australia found evidence to suggest massage therapy, yoga, and breathing exercises can be effective. There’s also meditation and guided visualization. Business has been catching on to this trend: yoga studios all over the country are offering their services to businesses, sending a teacher to the office and leading a group session. Other companies have designated a particular area of the office as a meditation space, where employees can escape for a few minutes of peace. Some even bring in a group of massage therapists for a monthly chair massage.
5. Consider Homeopathic Methods
There are also other homeopathic possibilities for improving your office environment in the winter. Several clinical and non-clinical studies have demonstrated hopeful results for negative air ionization. There are a multitude of devices for sale that can serve this function, including Himalayan salt lamps and some air purifiers. Another method with some research behind it is aromatherapy, in which essential oils help the brain keep your mood steady, and help the body keep your sleep cycle regular. There are several good products on the market for this.