Here are 10 methods to help staff handle the Autumn Blues as the clocks go back at the end of Summer Time.
1. Make the transition gradual
A one-hour difference in the day can have a noticeable effect on some people. Staff may initially feel fresher from the extra sleep but find energy dips quickly.
Making this change gradual might make it easier for them. Instead of moving shifts back an entire hour in one go, move them in small increments. Shifts could be altered by fifteen minutes for the four working days leading up to the end of Summer Time.
It takes some planning, and will need to be very well communicated to staff, but it could help them to adjust.
2. Review office light levels
A lack of adequate light exposure during winter can seriously impact mood, especially among people suffering from Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD).
One of the simplest ways to address this is to incorporate as much natural light into the office as possible. Make the best use of space and avoid burying agents in the centre of offices away from windows.
Additionally, invest in artificial light sources and fluorescent bulbs that mimic natural light. Depending on the size of the office, this could represent quite a large expenditure – but it could also return great results for staff well-being.
3. Prepare a BST goody bag
In general, people find the ‘fall back’ adjustment easier to deal with than the ‘spring forward’ because they’re gaining an hour rather than losing one. Nonetheless, the disruption of routines means some staff are likely to forget and show up very early to work.
Handing out BST goody bags on Friday afternoon is an effective way to help colleagues remember the Sunday-morning change. It can also be a way to sugar the pill – goody bags might include snacks associated with healthy sleep like valerian root, natural cereals and caffeine-free teas.
This is a fun way to remind staff about the fall back, and should help to limit the number of early arrivals on Monday morning.
4. Tackle the afternoon slump
Most people feel an energy dip after lunch. It happens all year round, but the end of Summer Time can worsen the effect as staff feel it is later in the day than it actually is.
Motivation and drive are likely to be in short supply until staff have adjusted, so it’s worth making an effort to help them adapt.
Low-impact physical movement can give staff a boost, so set aside a few minutes to stretch or walk a lap of the office. Hydration is very important, and low-sugar and caffeine snacks will provide lasting energy.
If agents have any other projects they can be tackling away from their computer screens, an occasional change of scene will also help them to recharge.
5. Take the chance to improve sleep hygiene
There can be a tension between what staff do in their own time and how it affects their work.
Telling agents when to go to bed is certainly not feasible, but the ‘fall back’ can be an opportunity to offer advice on improving sleep habits.
Many people will not realise that sleep loss can lead to very serious health consequences in the long term. A good sleep routine is about consistency, eating habits and exercise, as well as simply getting enough hours.
Try to discuss the relationship between healthy sleep and general well-being with leaflets, emails, and posters in the break room.
6. Encourage staff to go outside
Studies have shown that just a few minutes of fresh air increases alertness dramatically.
There are several creative approaches to encouraging staff to take a walk. One way is offer an additional five-minute break in the afternoon to anyone who will spend it outside – although perhaps not in the smoking area.
Leaders could also set up a basic scavenger hunt for groups to tackle on their lunch break. Alternatively, they could start a competition for the best photograph taken within walking distance of the office.
Even in overcast conditions, natural light and fresh air have an amazing impact on drowsiness.
7. Make the most of all festivities
There are plenty of holiday celebrations in autumn and winter, and the office mood can be improved by celebrating each one. Depending on where you are in the world, there is Diwali, Halloween, Día de los Muertos, Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Year and more.
Assign a team of party planners to design some celebrations, and give out an events calendar to staff. The winter months will be easier to get through if agents have a lot of fun days to look forward to.
Managers might even treat this as an opportunity to celebrate the multiculturalism of their office by having staff recommend celebrations from their own traditions.
8. Be sympathetic to illness and lateness
Some people barely notice the effects of winter, while others are guaranteed to get ill several times a month. For certain members of staff, both the end of Summer Time and the general decline in weather conditions are going to pose real challenges.
It may be the case that managers need to re-examine their attitude to sickness and lateness through these months, perhaps adopting a softer approach.
Policies around illness should clearly state that if a staff member is ill they should not come into work. They will recover much more quickly at home, and businesses stand to lose less from people taking liberties than from illness spreading around the office.
9. Revamp the office space
As the weather gets colder and the time difference makes the afternoons darker, it can be hard to maintain an upbeat office.
Some workplaces compensate for the world outside the office by improving the inside of the building. Redesigning social spaces and bringing in new furniture can create a fresh feel.
Another approach is to hang brighter artwork and introduce exotic plants. More and more businesses are coming to understand the psychological benefits of an attractive working environment – this is more important than ever during the autumn and winter months.
10. Start a BST tradition
Having something fun and unique to look forward to will take the edge off the inconvenience of the clocks changing. It doesn’t need to be anything elaborate, so long as it is a reflection of what staff will enjoy.
It could be an after-hours social event, a casual clothes day, or a games tournament. The office could also supply joke prizes to anyone who forgets the change and turns up an hour early for work, putting their picture on a ‘most dedicated employees’ board until next year.
With thanks to Jack Barton, a regular writer for Call Centre Helper.