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Winter affects mental wellbeing of nearly half

Supportive line management, exposure to natural light, and quiet and private workspaces can all help

More than two in five (44%) workers say winter has a negative effect on their mental wellbeing, according to a survey from interior designer Peldon Rose.

Only a quarter (26%) said their office environment has a positive effect on their mental health, and only 30% believed their company values their opinion on the working environment.

More than a third of respondents (35%) identified 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%) have experienced or are currently experiencing stress in the workplace.

Cary Cooper, 50th anniversary professor of organisational psychology and health at Manchester Business School, told HR magazine that employers can find ways to help their employees.

“Seasonal affective disorder, commonly referred to as the 'winter blues', is a real phenomena for many people who have to get up in the dark and return home in the dark, and get very little full spectrum light from outside the office environment,” he said.

“The cold or damp weather adds to SAD, but employers can help by encouraging people to leave the office over lunch, even if it is cold, because they at least get some full spectrum light. They also need to take a break from their computer screens and be more physically active. Going to the gym or swimming before or after work – or during lunch – will help psychologically as well, and should be encouraged by employers.”

When it came to steps to tackle winter's negative impact, supportive line management (93%), exposure to natural light (90%), an open culture (81%), quiet and private workspaces (76%), and social and collaborative workspaces (75%) were rated the most important, the survey found.

Jitesh Patel, chief executive of Peldon Rose, explained that it is important to involve staff with changes. “The first step is for businesses to engage with their staff via change management and get them more involved in decisions about their workplace environment,” he said. “By doing this it will boost their motivation, mood and productivity.”