As memories of Christmas fade and we settle in to winter weather, many of us will try to stay warm, fit and healthy whilst those around us develop seasonal flu-like symptoms and the office starts to sound like a doctors’ waiting room. Many of us will face the dilemma of whether we are too sick to come to work and whether we want to sit anywhere near our colleague who is bravely soldiering on and spreading germs throughout to one and all.
The Office for National Statistics estimates that in recent years, over 130 million working days are lost due to sickness or injury in the UK every year. In our most recent winter survey, we explored people’s attitudes to sickness over winter and the most frustrating behaviours exhibited by colleagues.
Aside from the trying behaviours exhibited by some of our colleagues, adding to this is the fact that our happy office survey found that winter has a negative effect on peoples’ mood (50%), motivation (45%), mental wellbeing (42%) and happiness (41%) in the office. The most frustrating winter office behaviours highlighted in our survey were:
If we look around the office today, it’s likely we can think of at least one person would fall in to a category or two! Thankfully, there are ways to help minimise the risk of falling ill over winter and help you remain healthy during the flu season:
According to the British Journal of Sports Medicine, people who exercise regularly reduce their risk of catching a cold by almost 50% because it increases their ability to fight back against the latest ‘bug’ going around the office. If you don’t have them already, try setting up a walking, running or badminton club or maybe even Yoga or Mindfulness sessions. It’s also worth investigating whether your company has incentivised cycling scheme or discounted gym membership available and, you could always ask whether underutilised areas of your office could be transformed to provide in-house shower and changing facilities to help support you in keeping fit.
Recent research by the American Medical Association identified that stress can suppress the effectiveness of the immune system, making it more likely you will get ill. The study found that stress is a factor in 75% of all illnesses and diseases that people suffer from today. To help minimise stress levels, take breaks every hour or so by going for a walk around the office or leaving your desk to have a quick chat with colleagues. Whilst at work, it’s also important to enjoy fresh air and daylight whenever possible and find a quiet space in your office when you feel you need it to help with your mental wellbeing.
A balanced diet is important for a healthy lifestyle and strong immune system. After the indulgence of the festive season, prioritise healthy food which will boost your energy, mood and motivation. Hopefully your office has a well-fitted kitchen, so you make healthy meals and snacks, and maybe you even have fresh fruit or even healthy breakfasts provided. If you don’t, then it’s worth suggesting this next time you’re asked for your opinions on how your workplace can support your wellbeing.
Think about your colleagues before soldiering in to the office and sharing your germs. No one will thank you if you wipe out half the company with a contagious virus. If you have a laptop and are able to, then maybe you could stay warm and work from home instead. If you feel well enough to come to work, then make sure you catch your sneezes and coughs, especially if you are working in agile or shared office space.
The Medical Journal recently reported that individuals are four and a half times more likely to get ill if they get less than five hours of sleep a night compared to someone who sleeps for seven hours. A good sleep will help increase productivity, creativity, problem solving, mood and more, so try to maintain a regular sleep pattern, especially during the week. Some companies have even introduced nap pods in their office so staff can recharge their batteries when they feel the need.
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