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Office Spaces Should Be Taking Proactive Steps in Tackling Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD)

Posted: 20th February 2024 14:20

During the winter months as many as 1 in 3 individuals experience the effects of Seasonal Affective Disorder, a form of depression that is associated with changes in seasons. Typical symptoms of SAD include a persistent low mood, a loss of pleasure or interest in everyday activities, feeling irritable and feeling stressed or anxious - all issues that can be amplified in a poor working environment. Incidents of searches for information on SAD have risen 47% since 2019 showing this yearly issue is becoming more prolific.

According to a study released by HR software firm CharlieHR, January stands out as the month with the highest number of recorded 'sick days' in the United Kingdom. Remarkably, the sick days recorded during the first month of the year are 53% higher than the average of the remaining 11 months. The Office for National Statistics attributes the main causes to ailments such as coughs, colds, stress, depression, and anxiety, with a notable impact from seasonal affective disorder.

However, the influence of Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) extends beyond sick days. Recent research indicates that over half of British workers experience a significant decrease in productivity during the winter months. Factors such as the shorter and gloomier days making concentration challenging, coupled with less inspiring views from the office in darkness, are identified as contributors to the observed decline in motivation.

Interior design company Copper & Ash, which designs for both office spaces and hospitality venues, has come up with easy-to-implement ideas to improve office surroundings to help elevate the symptoms of SAD and reduce sickness incidents.

Lack Of Natural Lighting:
If natural light is in short supply, try indirect lighting in warm tones and extra desk lamps rather than fluorescent lights. Direct, bright lights cause eyestrain and flickering can trigger headaches and stress for those working under them. Correct lighting will make any workspace easier to work in.

Prioritise Break Spaces:
Have regular screen breaks and relaxation by dedicating a space for employees to unwind. Rearrange existing furniture to create a chill-out area, complete with soft furnishings, comfortable seating, and natural lighting, providing an alternative setting for staff to rejuvenate away from their desks.

Introduce Greenery:
Biophilic office design has been trending for several years, and won't be slowing down any time soon. Introducing greenery into an office environment can not only improve its aesthetics but it’s proven that being in and around nature can improve mental health and reduce stress levels.

Harness the Power of Scent:
Acknowledge the influence of scents on performance by incorporating air diffusers throughout the office. Opt for mood-boosting scents such as jasmine and peppermint, proven to enhance mood and energy levels, contributing to a pleasant work environment.

Streamline and Modernise:
Resist the temptation to hold on to outdated office setups. Many offices are due for a refresh to align with the evolving work landscape post-pandemic. Revamping office spaces to create a warm and inviting atmosphere that includes the use of calming colours, natural elements, and comfortable furniture will enhance employee comfort and well-being and alleviate feelings of stress and anxiety.

By making that initial investment to create a workplace that truly enriches the people within it you can create a real positive change on your business, that will produce a tangible return on your investment.

Whilst managing SAD should be done with the supervision of a trained mental health professional, there are many options employers can choose from to improve the mood and productivity of their employees without triggering the symptoms. These changes will also lead to an overall positive change for everyone in the workforce.

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