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Tips to a Healthy Workplace Culture this Winter

As Winter settles in for New Zealand for 2021, the temperature is getting cooler and the daylight hours are reducing. With Winter also comes frosty mornings, a later sunrise and the absolute chore of getting out of a warm toasty bed- or better explained as the perfect excuse to skip our daily dose of morning exercise!

Most experts believe that the lack of sunlight during the winter season throws off the body’s rhythm and leads to hormonal changes as well as a decrease in the production of serotonin, the chemical your brain produces when you have a lot of energy and are in a good mood (humanity, 2017).

Couple the environmental elements with the usual long hours, a seasonal dip in staff morale, and an increase in sick leave, and it is no wonder that your workplace culture may be taking a hit!

Never fear, because we have decided to get in early this year and provide you with our top four tips to equip you and your employees with the tools and knowledge to get through the season while staying as positive, upbeat and productive as possible.


Embrace the sunshine

Living in the south means we don’t need to say goodbye to sunshine like our northern hemisphere neighbours, it just means we need to be strategic in our approach. As the temperature drops its only natural that many of us feel it’s best for our health to spend more time indoors where it’s warm, when in reality the opposite is true.

Spending time outdoors and getting our daily dose of vitamin D is imperative for both physical and mental wellbeing.  According to Blackmores having low vitamin D levels puts you at risk of poor bone health, while having healthy levels has been shown to boost immune health and offer protection from colds and flu- it’s a win win!

So just how much sunlight do we need?

During the colder month’s experts recommend two to three hours of midday sun exposure to the face, arms and hands spread across the week.

Put it into action in the workplace:

There are many ways to promote getting outdoors within the workplace and added benefits to your culture while you do it…. Did someone say team bonding?

Try creating a walking club and get the added bonus of exercise (more on that topic next) or if budget allows why not try an outdoor team building exercise. Your team will enjoy the fresh air, the sunshine and the natural surrounds.


Don’t skip the exercise

Miserable weather is really clever at diminishing any motivation to get outside and get moving, but regular exercise is just as important in winter as it is during other seasons – if not more so. Research shows people exercise for an average of eight minutes less during the cooler months, while time spent sitting and sleeping is increased.

Prioritising physical activity during the winter months has been shown to reduce fatigue and enhance job satisfaction, optimism, self-esteem and better stress management. Exercise can also be used effectively to treat mental health conditions such as depression and anxiety, and promote positive mood (SONSTROEM, ROBERT J.; MORGAN, WILLIAM P. Exercise and self-esteem, Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise: June 1989 – Volume 21 – Issue 3 – p 329-337).

So just how much exercise do we need?

Aim for 150 to 300 minutes of “moderate intensity” physical activity, or 75 to 150 minutes of “vigorous intensity” physical activity, each week

Put it into action in the workplace:

Why not try establishing fitness Fridays? Well, it can be any day you choose but generally speaking, everyone’s spirits are higher on a Friday. Start a group fitness session at lunch time on whatever day you end up choosing. Make sure it’s at a level that can involve everyone regardless of ability and fitness level. Then witness how much fun this will bring!

minutes of "moderate intensity" physical activity each week OR

minutes of "vigorous intensity" physical activity each week


keep the fun alive

Just like enduring the cold outdoors or pushing yourself to get physically active the motivation to keep up social appearances can reduce during the colder months. I mean what’s more inviting than heading home to Netflix and bed on a cold gloomy day, but the outcome of social interaction can have amazing benefits for both your wellbeing and your work life.

Winter months bring with them shorter daylight hours, which means your body begins producing melatonin earlier—signaling to your brain it’s time to get ready to sleep. But when you spend time socialising with your circle (in this case your work buddies), this leads to a dopamine reaction, which tells your brain it’s having fun (Kevon Owen, Licensed Professional Counselor).

If you are a regular reader of my articles then you will know how persistent I am at raising awareness of the importance of having fun in the workplace and this is no exception. When I say ‘fun’ and the term ‘play’ in the workplace, I am not suggesting for your staff to ‘mess around’ and lose sight of what your business goals and objectives are. I’m also not suggesting that every task we do at work will be fun, but in essence, imagine looking forward to and being positive about going to work each day. ‘Fun’ and ‘play’ is about incorporating tasks, processes and activities into the workplace that put smiles on the faces of staff, creates some laughter and generates a positive vibe.

Put it into action in the workplace:

Regular occasions for the team to come together will help everyone learn, understand and appreciate each other. This may include birthday activities, team building events, professional development days and milestone celebrations. It is important also to consult with your team in deciding what games and team events to stage. Find out what they enjoy and what motivates them and witness the positivity emerge!

By bringing fun into your workplace, whether it’s by a regular social club gathering or a game to see which team displays their weekly results in the most creative fashion, there will be myriad of benefits for the business including increased productivity, engagement, creativity and teamwork.


Change up your workplace environment

We are constantly influenced (even unknowingly) by the environment around us.  Everything from our emotions to our physical well-being can be greatly affected.  It’s no secret that we spend a large portion of our lives in the workforce, so it is important for us to think about what this environment looks and feels like.

During Winter when its often cold outside, everyone seems to be coughing and sniffling and the commute to and from work can be a tad miserable, its more important than ever to make the workplace environment a more enticing place to be.

Put it into action in the workplace: 

A study conducted by the University of Queensland concluded that offices with plant life can increase worker productivity by as much as 15 per cent.  Adding a bit of nature to your workplace is a great way to liven things up and make the environment feel fresh.  Not only does adding in some green affect the appearance of the office, but it also reduces stress and helps increase focus and creativity.

Finding a good office temperature is also key to keeping everyone happy. According to the Guidelines for the Provision of Facilities and General Safety in Commercial and Industrial Premises , the MBIE recommends that the temperature range providing thermal comfort for most people is 18-22°C during Winter in an office environment.

A light and bright colour scheme combined with good ventilation and the perfect temperature will have your team feeling the summer vibes all through the year!


plant life can increase worker productivity

While we can’t control the weather, we can help ourselves and our co-workers get through the winter to be a stronger, more engaged, happier and more productive workforce once the spring season returns.