Autumn’s arrival heralds the start of long nights and short days, when it’s dark by 4pm and early starters might find their first hour of work is also under the cover of darkness. A survey conducted by Mental Health Research UK (MHRUK) found 1 in 10 people see no natural light at work at all and this can be detrimental to the productivity, health and overall wellbeing of workers. The good news is a well-planned office refurb can often balance out darker days.
For some people, however, the lack of natural light triggers a much more serious condition - SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder) - a debilitating form of depression that is more prevalent in the winter. A survey by Epson quantified how SAD – also referred to as winter depression or the ‘winter blues’ - affects productivity, with an estimated 9.6 million work days lost due to SAD and average of four days per employee taken off due to the condition.
Know the symptoms of SAD
SAD has many symptoms but the lack of natural light can lead to exhaustion, anxiety, irritability and a struggle to get through a daily routine – all of which impacts the quality and quantity of work an employee will output. SAD especially affects shift workers, although working environments that rely heavily on artificial light can also make SAD symptoms worse.
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How employers can tackle SAD
- Encourage workers to take lunch and walks outside, even if they’re tempted to stay in in front of their computer screens
- Make special SAD desk lamps available to workers – look for blue-enriched LEDs or a full-spectrum light output and a lux output of about 2,500
- Ensure at least one break-out area is fitted with SAD-busting light bulbs that mimic natural light, relieve eye strain and alleviate tiredness. Vibrant bespoke office furniture also uplifts mood.
- Encourage exercise – studies have shown that a combination of light therapy and exercise can help treat SAD, so consider incorporating a small gym into your workplace
- Move desks in front of windows so staff benefit from as much natural light as possible
- Keep the interior colour scheme bright and fresh, with colourful office wall art and house plants
Like to know more?
Further details about the causes of SAD and available treatments can be found at mind.org and nhs.uk