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Winter slump – productivity suffers in the colder months

Delegates down't feel encouraged to participate in meetings

More than half of British workers get significantly less work done in winter, causing a worrying productivity slump, new research reveals.

In a recent study, employees consistently reported lower outputs in the winter season compared to the summer – with rainy days, gloomy workplaces and illness to blame. More than two thirds of workers believe they are less productive and have lower concentration, 69% are less creative and half have less energy during the colder months.

Four in 10 people say they have lower energy levels in winter and 66% are more likely to comfort eat. The office being too hot or too cold, naughty snacks and treats and doing less exercise all make people feel less efficient in the office. Only 12% of those polled believe they work better in the winter than during the summer months.

Industry body British Summer Fruits explored how the different seasons affect workplace productivity and brain function in the study. The findings were in line with a recent neuroscience study conducted in Belgium, which revealed brain activity may follow a similar pattern to Seasonal Affective Disorder, or ‘the winter blues’.

Laurence Olins, Chairman from British Summer Fruits said: “There are several factors that 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 confectionery, 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.”

During the colder months, 74% of people find it harder to get out of bed for work and 37% are far more likely to call in sick. For two out of every five days in winter, Brits claim to feel under the weather – and 81% admit they often go into work when they are unwell.

Two thirds of people say they are also more likely to indulge in unhealthy options in the winter than in the summer – with snacks such as chocolate, biscuits, crisps and sweets readily available in the office. But researchers have discovered that to feel 100% productive during cold weather, workers simply need to work six hours instead of eight and have two breaks more than they would get during the summer months.

Flexible working hours, the opportunity to get fresh air during the day and access to healthy foods are also conducive to a positive work environment. Other factors that could increase productivity are reduced background noise, the option to work from home and access to water during the day. Respondents also claim they would function better if they could get a good night’s sleep, exercise more during the day and have access to an open window.

The UK’s leading food psychologist behind Channel 4’s Secret Eaters, Dr Christy Fergusson, commenting on behalf of British Summer Fruits, 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.”

Top 10 reasons workers are less productive in winter:
1. The darker/dimmer/gloomy light makes me feel sleepy and I find it hard to concentrate
2. If it is dark outside I just want to go home
3. The office is too cold/too hot to concentrate
4. I have lower energy levels in general
5. Dark or rainy days negatively affect my mood
6. I am more likely to feel ill
7. I exercise less so feel sluggish and lethargic when at work
8. My commute takes longer
9. There are more treats and snacks around, which distracts me
10. The view from the window is less inspiring.