Winter health in the workplace

10 October 2019

Colds, flus and the winter blues – these illnesses can all affect your workforce. But there a few things you might be able to do to help your team stay well during the colder season.

Why are colds and flu such an issue at work?

Colds and flu spread between people through airborne droplets from coughs and sneezes. The workplace is unfortunately a dependable breeding ground for these viruses. Think of shared objects like door handles, phones and keyboards, as well as the sheer volume of people interacting at work in close proximity each week.1

How can I reduce the spread of infection?

  • Promote good hygiene - gently educate employees about prevention, and encourage healthy habits like regular hand-washing and using hand sanitisers. Why not put some light-hearted posters up in the bathrooms to get the message across?
  • Offer the flu vaccination - doing this can help to reduce occurrences of flu in the workplace.2
  • Encourage working from home if people feel a cold or flu coming on - if this is possible in your working environment, it could help to prevent viruses spreading. Working from home also reduces the need for commuting, and public transport is another environment where viruses can easily be passed on.3

What is seasonal affective disorder (SAD)?

You may have heard SAD being called the ‘winter blues’ or ‘winter depression’. It’s essentially a seasonal form of depression, with symptoms starting in autumn or winter, and often disappearing by spring or summer, when daylight hours increase and the weather improves.5,6 Anyone can be affected by SAD, but it’s around three times more common in women than it is in men.7 Symptoms can include a lack of interest in life, being less sociable and overeating.5

How can I help employees with SAD?

  • Encourage your team to get outside at lunch - SAD can be helped by natural daylight.7 Make sure people feel they have enough time to get out of the office for a break.
  • Regular exercise and eating a healthy, balanced dietcan also help, which are again things that you might encourage.5
  • Some employees may want to try light therapy, which involves using a light box to make up for a lack of natural light. You can help to facilitate this and might want to offer to supply the light box, if an employee tells you they’re experiencing SAD.7

More information from Bupa

  • Seasonal flu
  • The flu vaccine – what you need to know
  • Seasonal affective disorder


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