Over 54% of British workers revealed they do less work during the winter months with the darker days spoiling their mood, frustrations over office temperatures and over-indulging in unhealthy snacks adding to the list of distractions.
Industry body, British Summer Fruits, explored how the different seasons affect workplace productivity and brain function in a study of 2,000 workers. The findings were in line with a recent neuroscience study conducted in Belgium, which revealed brain activity may follow a similar pattern to the Seasonal Affective Disorder, or winter blues.1
In the study of UK workers, employees consistently reported lower outputs in the winter season compared to the summer. Over two thirds of workers believe they are less productive, have lower concentration, are less creative and have less energy during the winter season compared to the warmer summertime. Shockingly, very few believe they work better in winter.
The darker winter days also appear to affect people’s mood, with most complaining of lower morale, and over half consider their colleagues to be more difficult to work with during the winter too. Half blamed the office temperature as another distraction, with 21% believing it was too hot and 31% considering it too cold to work effectively.
Even though a third of people put poor work performance down to a lack of energy, the majority confessed to reaching for unhealthy snacks as a pick me up to sustain them in the colder season. A whopping 82% of workers had no access to fruit in the office, and instead just under half were surrounded by sugary chocolate, biscuits and crisps.
The UK’s leading food psychologist behind Channel 4’s Secret Eaters, Dr Christy Fergusson said: “Relying on high sugar foods, biscuits and crisps to keep us going can leave us riding the blood sugar rollercoaster. We feel buzzed for a spell but soon our energy, concentration and mood can plummet.”
“One of the best foods to snack on has to be berries. Not only are they loaded with antioxidants and highly nutritious, they are also low in sugar. You could say they are nature’s brain food. They pack a serious nutritional punch for every calorie consumed. This makes them the ideal way to supercharge your system with nutrients, without escalating your blood sugar levels.”
“During winter, the lack of sunshine can leave most people suffering the effects of dwindling serotonin levels. Serotonin is our feel good happy brain chemical which keeps our moods high and our cravings at bay. As the dark nights roll in and our serotonin levels plummet, we can find our energy drops, our moods turn and the sugar cravings kick in. If you find yourself losing focus and the brain fog descending as the afternoon wears on, bust out some berries and the antioxidants will help sharpen your mind.”
While on average workers say they feel less than 100% for two days a week in the winter, simple changes to the office environment could overcome the winter dip. Working at an office temperature of 20C, with a desk three meters from a window, and sharing a desk with only three other people were thought by the respondents, to be the most successful set-up to boost flagging productivity levels. The ability to work flexible hours was overwhelming seen as another way to avoid the negative effects of the gloomy winter season on working life.
Laurence Olins, Chairman from British Summer Fruits, said: “There are several factors which contribute to workers feeling less productive and research suggests the change in seasons plays its part. More employers could encourage their staff to adopt a healthier diet, providing greater access to fruit in the office to prevent people reaching for sugary confectionary, particularly in these cold winter months.
“Eating healthily shouldn’t feel like a chore and snacking on fruits like berries can help with food cravings during the day due to their natural sweetness”.
According to the Belgian neuroscience study, patterns in brain activity can be seen to change from season to season.1 Attention span was found to be at its peak during the summer solstice but slumps to its lowest on the shortest day of the year. As colder, darker days are thought to play a part in how our brain functions, Britons will be bracing themselves for another long day at the Arctic freeze sets in!
TOP 10 REASONS WORKERS ARE LESS PRODUCTIVE IN WINTER:
- The darker days makes it harder to concentrate
- Darker days make people want to go home
- The office is too cold / too hot to concentrate
- Lower energy levels in general
- Dark or rainy days negatively affect their mood
- More likely to feel ill
- Less inclined to exercise so feel more sluggish when at work
- The commute takes longer
- There are more distracting treats
- The view from the window is less inspiring