People & Human Resources

Weather affects our mood and performance: How to avoid SAD employees

Eve Ash /

The days are getting darker and some people are already suffering from Seasonal Affective Disorder — or SAD!

We all discuss the weather, and it’s true, its permutations do affect our daily mood. Our unique genetic mixes react to different seasons and shifts in wind and humidity. You know the story — some love tropical climes, others thrive in the cold, while most of us don’t like dry, dusty breezes.  

We all react to the climate, and we all need light and sunshine.

Even when we’re busy, we’re subconsciously reacting to our climate every minute. Sudden changes in weather can cause immune systems to wobble, even crash, and when we move between seasons, people’s allergies and skin problems sometimes spike.

Humans need sunshine, plenty of green and natural light in workplaces. The good news for companies is that a report by the World Green Building Council found that workers exposed to daylight are 18% more productive.

Before an order is dispatched to install a lightwell in your building (with your chief financial officer wringing his/her hands at the expense of it all), there’s a no-cost way to ensure more Vitamin D dosage and at least reduce the likelihood of SAD.

Taking Control

We can’t control the weather (although much more is needed to reduce our collective impact on the earth atmosphere that we all depend on) but smart companies might actively consider how to get the best from their employees in terms of improving their physical environment.

Fresh air during the day

Ensure there’s scope for allowing fresh air in where possible, or failing that, install an energy-efficient green-ticked thermostat (set somewhere between 18 – 22 degrees celsius)

Go outside — work walks work

Encourage everyone to go outside for at least 30 minutes a day (and perhaps organise fitness breaks to assist health and wellbeing). Instigate a walk to/from/during work and recommend that everyone does this, for 30 minutes on a daily basis. There’s no need to wail, “but who has the time?” We all do, including people working nights. It’s all a matter of determining how your body clock functions and the best time of day to get it ticking. Some like an early start, while others prefer before the sun goes down. In winter with fewer hours’ sunlight at our disposal, this calls for a brisk walk or run at lunch, when the sun is at its peak. Get moving outside, perhaps with weights for strength-building, and see the difference in your mood, physical health and performance within a very short time.

Natural light

Allow for as much natural light in your building as possible while checking out better office lighting to assist employees (don’t forget that computer screens’ lighting should vary according to the time of day — they should not be blazing too strongly in the evenings and early mornings). 

Office plants

Installing plenty of office plants helps purify the air and generally contributes to people’s sense of wellbeing

Creating a good place to work

Facilitate a pleasant, cooperative and helpful place to work, rather than oppressing staff with toxic behaviours and unconscionable targets. Environment doesn’t stop with the weather outside! 

Adjust your mindset to making the most out of whatever the weather or climate. Instead of complaining about bad weather, bad light, or no plants, do something positive and constructive, for yourself and your team. It may just be the very thing that improves productivity!

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Eve Ash

Eve Ash is a psychologist, author, filmmaker, public speaker and entrepreneur. She runs Seven Dimensions, a company specialising in training resources for the workplace.

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