The new year is traditionally seen as the chance for a fresh start and new beginnings but, with winter drawing to a close, and the promise of longer days, there’s never been a better time to update your routine and maximise productivity.
As spring is here and summer approaches, Mark Pinches, head of coaching at Westfield Health, discusses how you can maximise your productivity and make the most of the extra daylight hours
Many people end up going to work and coming home in the dark for much of the year and fewer than 10% of the UK population are now working in natural light,. Working in unnatural light means our body clocks are unable to rely on the natural cues of sunrise and sunset. As working days are getting longer it’s no surprise that the NHS has suggested that around 1 in 15 people in the UK suffers with Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD).
A type of depression that comes and goes in a seasonal pattern, SAD has often been linked to a lack of sunlight exposure during the winter months which can affect the body’s production of melatonin, serotonin and our internal clock (circadian rhythm). This can lead to persistent low mood, lethargy and unusual eating habits, all of which can affect an employee’s ability to enjoy work and be productive.
The greater exposure to sunlight we enjoy once the clocks have gone forward can provide a natural boost to our mood and immune-systems, which can decrease the effects of SAD and the likelihood of developing mental health issues. If you’re feeling better, perhaps it’s time to refresh your routine, maximise productivity and make the most of the extra daylight hours.
Here are five tips you can use to make the best use of the longer days.
- Exercise outside
Incorporating regular exercise into a routine will help to trigger positive feelings due to the release of endorphins. This positive feeling is amplified if you find time to exercise outside. This will maximise exposure to sunlight and naturally improve your mood, especially as we see more hours of daylight; improved health and mood can aid motivation.
This doesn’t, however, have to be extreme exercise, such as marathon training! Anything from outdoor yoga to a short bike ride will have a positive impact. If this is difficult to fit in, try walking to work or going out at lunch or take a walking meeting for some fresh air.
- Take a break
While extra daylight can be a key factor in improving mental health and wellbeing, it can encourage heavier workloads or working longer hours. More daylight can encourage employees to spend more time in the office but it’s important that everyone takes a break. Whether it’s enjoying time off in the evening, or doing something enjoyable at the weekend, it’s important to rest and recuperate each week to make the most of an increase in good mood and greater productivity at work.
- Flexible working
Employees suffering from increased stress and reduced productivity at work can benefit from flexible working. It’s recommended that employers offer this so that employees can make the most of working when it suits them – and this can help them to secure exposure to natural light. This can benefit productivity as employees will feel supported and less stressed at work; they will also be able to make the most of the extra daylight due to not spending a majority of their time inside.
- Eat well
A good diet is key to sustaining a strong immune system and, of course, improving both health and mood. With a huge range of fruits and vegetables coming into season as we see more daylight it’s a great time to make the most of this and focus on eating fresh food that incorporates plenty of vitamins and minerals.
Good, healthy food – combined with plenty of water and exposure to sunlight – will help your immune system and brain to operate more effectively, meaning employees will be less likely to suffer from illness and be better able to concentrate and maximise productivity whilst at work.
- Maintain a regular sleep cycle
Although increasing our exposure to natural light once the clocks go forward is important to maximising productivity and wellbeing, it’s still crucial to sleep well. As the length of the day increases, it can be common to want to stay up later and enjoy more social activities later into the night. This can, however, have a negative impact, as the body’s circadian rhythm may suffer. Keeping sleep patterns as regular as possible will help to avoid confusion and also keep you feeling refreshed and ready to cope with workplace tasks and challenges.
For more information, visit: www.westfieldhealth.com.