Do you feel better when it’s sunny? Most people asked that question would most likely respond with a resounding “yes”. The world seems a nicer place when the weather’s fair, trips to the coast, sitting outside in the sun, inviting friends over for a BBQ. But what about our working lives, does fair weather effect employee productivity, mood and engagement?
Sunlight is our primary source of natural vitamin D. When you’re exposed to the sun, your brain releases serotonin and endorphins into your body, as it does when you laugh or exercise. This causes you to feel happier, and increases the overall feeling of wellbeing. A happy employee is also a productive employee so you could say that the more sun your employees get (safely), the more productive you’ll be as an organisation. Sunshine can also have a positive effect on individuals physically. Small doses of sunlight can help to reduce the appearance of acne or other skin conditions. As a result this can increase confidence and positivity, both in and out of the office these effects will help to improve how individuals interact, work together and collaborate as their confidence increases.
Our immune systems are under constant attack from viruses. It’s pretty common for at least one colleague to have a cough, sniff or general cold that could be passed to others. Absence due to the common cold, flu or other contagious infections are not uncommon, and cost business in the UK £28 billion per year (from CIPD). Vitamin D is known to have a positive effect on our immune systems and, as a result, can reduce absence and associated costs by reducing the chances of employees contracting viruses that could otherwise be spread through the workforce.
Simply being in the light is known to have a positive influence on our mental health. It’s thought that there may be adverse effects on our body clock when we experience a lack of light, effecting our mood.
In an experiment carried out by neuroscientists, rats were kept in dark conditions for 6 weeks. The rats exhibited depressive behaviour and also suffered damage in brain regions known to be underactive in humans during depression. These findings could be connected to a condition called ‘seasonal affective disorder’.
More and more people are known to suffer from ‘seasonal affective disorder’ (SAD), which it’s believed is caused by a depletion of norepinephrine, dopamine and serotonin, which are common neurotransmitters involved in emotion, pleasure and cognition. This can cause those affected to become lethargic, withdrawn and maybe even need to take time off of work due to their symptoms. These include, but are not limited to:
- feeling stressed or anxious
- being less active than normal
- feeling lethargic (lacking in energy)
- finding it difficult to concentrate
- a loss of pleasure or interest in normal everyday activities
Business owners and managers should be aware of the symptoms of SAD within their employee base and ready to assist employees where possible to treat the condition. Dealing with conditions such as this can reduce absence costs and help to maintain a positive, productive workforce.
Arranging outdoor activity and exercise among employees will help combat the effects for SAD. Sports initiatives and social events, which can be created and shared to the business using CIPHR Net, are great ways to get people together, outdoors and active throughout the year. There are also other benefits such as increased engagement, collaboration and team spirit within the employee base.
Ensuring that your employees are aware that they can speak to managers regarding such conditions is also important. Employees need to know that they can trust senior staff and talk to them if they are feeling depressed or would like help from the business to help them back to full health.
Managers should also be actively encouraging their employees to use their holiday entitlement in order to get some sun and relax. 2 weeks laying on a beach will provide the employee with an often much needed break form the stresses of everyday work life, as well as the benefits mentioned above from the sunlight. As a knock on effect, the business will benefit from a happier, healthier employee.
Please note that any time in the sun should be regulated and the proper sun protection used.
Do you feel happier and more productive at work after a sunny weekend? Let us know your thoughts in the comments.