It’s not official but it might as well be: winter is a tough time to be at work. The reduction in light, the unforgiving temperatures (we’re British, so anything below 10 degrees is eligible for complaint), the frenetic workload in the run up to Christmas – these can get on top of us. Plus, despite conflicting reports about what causes it, winter is the time to get ill for many of us.
Thankfully, there are countermeasures you can take to combat these seasonal assaults. By redistributing your efforts, you can stave off many of the negative effects that winter threatens you with. Here are five ways to stay in top form over the colder months:
Get some hand sanitiser
Whether or not cold weather causes illness is still up for debate, but viral infections certainly spread more easily in the winter. This is because when it’s cold outside, we tend to congregate inside, meaning we’re in closer proximity to one another and if one person has a virus, it’s more likely to come into contact with somebody else.
Purchasing some hand sanitiser and getting into the habit of washing your hands regularly is a sure-fire way to minimise the risk of catching – or spreading – illness. Even if you’re not feeling ill, it’s an effective way to prevent catching an infection through touching shared surfaces or items like kettles or keyboards. And if you are feeling a little under the weather, you’ll be doing your part to ensure you don’t infect all your colleagues.
One more technique to employ in your battle to thwart the common cold is to sneeze into a tissue or, if you don’t have one, the inside of your elbow. You may think that putting your hands over your mouth is courteous when you sneeze but unless you immediately decontaminate your hands afterwards, you’ll just be spreading your germs to the next thing you touch. The inside of your elbow probably wont be picking up the kettle, unless you prefer unconventional methods to impress people.
Prioritise exercise even more
The benefits of exercise have long been documented. The lack of daylight in the winter however, along with the generally unforgiving outdoor climate, means that we often gravitate away from al fresco activities. Exercise is known to reduce stress, strengthen the immune system and release endorphins that promote a happy state of mind.
Being cooped up inside and spending the majority of your time sat on a chair or a sofa, while admissible, means you neglect the positive effects of exercise. With the other stresses coming at you at this time of year, these effects are really quite useful.
If you don’t feel like going on a crisp early morning run then join a gym. Some workplaces have an on-site gym, which can be indispensable when it comes to fitting exercise into you schedule.
Counteract your caffeine increase
When it’s cold outside, one of the most common comforts is a hot beverage. If you notice your coffee breaks have multiplied since October, it’s worth noting that caffeine actually dehydrates you, which leads to a decline in energy levels and focus.
Try replacing one of your coffees with hot water with a squeeze of lemon – you’ll still get that warm fuzzy feeling of a hot beverage and the citrus will perk you up. Alternatively (or additionally), make sure you have a water bottle by your desk to regularly drink from.
Let your schedule keep you grounded
With Christmas approaching and all the associated stress that comes with it, you can quickly feel encumbered with things to do. Workload can often spiral out of control as the new year looms, which, if left unchecked, can hinder the business.
Using an Excel document to create a simple timesheet is a good way to stay on top of your priorities in the workplace, allowing you to be more systematic in how you complete work. For employers, there’s a myriad of choices when it comes to employee management software, allowing you to provide something a little more in-depth to track time and job costing.
Try some...light therapy?
During the winter months, the lack of daylight can cause something called Seasonal Affective Disorder (or fittingly, SAD). It's characterised by low mood, lethargy and general 'winter blues'. Some people get it and some don't, but it's persistent enough to be listed on the NHS website, so don't dismiss it. Theory has it that the lack of sunlight affects our brain function, in particular it disrupts our circadian rhythm - our natural sleep cycle - and affects the production of serotonin.
One of the remedies for it is called light therapy, most often provided in what is commonly known as a SAD lamp. These lamps simulate daylight and have been known to improve mood during the winter months, so give them a try if you think you suffer from SAD.
Yes, winter can be a little taxing on our wellbeing. However, like adjusting your apparel for the weather, it's important to adjust your attitude and take measures to counteract the negative effects. Then you can enjoy winter for what it is - cold, but sort of beautiful in its own chilly way.