Five self-care tips to boost your winter productivity

The winter season doesn’t only bring cold weather and darker days: it often bring with it a slump in workplace productivity.

One study showed that a whopping two thirds of workers felt less productive in the winter time. So how can you beat this? Office experts Making Moves have consulted a range of wellness experts to put together their top five tips for boosting your winter productivity through self-care.

1) Make time for exercise

The benefits of exercise go far beyond improving your physical health – being active can also help your mental wellbeing and contribute to better concentration.

Try to work a bit of exercise into your daily routine, whether that means going for a morning run, or participating in a walking meeting. An unplugged walking meeting or ‘walk and talk’ can not only allow for physical movement during the working day, it can also boost creativity and can lead to more honest employee exchanges in comparison to traditional sit-down meetings.

Exercise has long been recommended as a strategy for dealing with stress, and the mental health charity Mind asserts that it can release feel-good hormones that improve our mood, as well as reducing anxiety and any racing thoughts you might have.

If making time for a full workout is too much to fit in, try to incorporate some stretches throughout your day to improve your back health. Nicola Cher Geismar, back health movement expert, stresses the importance of taking care of our spinal health while working at a desk.

As we have become increasingly more sedentary due to our tech heavy and digitally inspired work cultures, it is imperative we ensure that we have set up our desk and office environments as best as we can to promote optimum physical health whilst sitting at work.

Looking after our physical bodies, and especially taking care of our musculoskeletal health is so important for our productivity, focus and concentration levels, as well as our mental and emotional wellbeing. Have a go at incorporating these ‘back care’ focused stretches into your working day (mid-morning and late afternoon) to prevent future fall outs with your body, whilst also improving your alertness and attention when working.

2) Optimise your work environment

It’s easy to get caught up in the demands of your workday, and not take the time to properly organise your timetable and inbox.

Email categories and colour coding can help you to keep track of important conversations if you are dealing with a lot of correspondence, and this can make your morning email check much quicker too. It’s also well worth your effort to ensure that your work folders are neat and tidy as well, so you can always find whatever you’re looking for.

There are increasingly many virtual office tools to make keeping on top of your work easier, so invest in learning about these if you think they could streamline your workflow. While it might not seem like the most luxurious act of self-care, having a well organised desktop can really make things easier when you come to round off a busy project.

From the virtual to the physical, your work station should be an environment that sparks joy, is free of clutter and is optimised for a productive day. Having an ‘object of solace’ present on your desk during the work day, whether that be a family photograph or a holiday souvenir, can uplift your mood, connect you to a positive memory and act an emotional and physical comfort during stressful times. 

Having a stash of essential oils can also be beneficial for relieving workplace stresses and elicit scents memory to evoke feelings of calm and happiness. Choose a familiar scent that you like, have fond memories of or find energising such as orange or bergamot can uplift you throughout the day.

3) Socialise with colleagues

Our colleagues are often what makes a workplace enjoyable, so take the time to chat and take part in company events. With many people increasingly working from home, it can be tricky to stay connected to each other, so having a regular office day or a team lunch can really boost your wellbeing throughout the week and give you all a well-earned break.

Curating healthy and supportive working relationships is an important part of self care so consider taking time away from your desks to enjoy some new cuisine, play some crazy golf, or just do a pub quiz after work can mean that you return to your work feeling refreshed and relaxed.

4) Make time for your hobbies

However committed we are to our work, it’s important that we take time to do other things. Having interests outside work allows us to decompress, and exercise our minds in a different way, making us more alert and productive when we return to our tasks.

If there’s a hobby that you’ve let fall by the wayside, try making some time each week to bring it back into your routine. This might be playing video games, learning a language, gardening, or just watching more movies.

Whatever you choose, make sure it’s something that you find relaxing – it’s also ideal if it’s at least somewhat different from your work, as this will provide your brain with the variety it needs to stay alert and interested.

You might also want to rethink your commute to see how you can make time for your hobbies on your way to work. Making Moves spoke to Donna Reilly, of Donna Reilly Wellness, who offers coaching and consultancy, and she offered the following advice:

“For me, the commute is a fantastic ‘transition’ time.  It allows employees to transition, in the morning, from their personal life to their work life and, in the evening, from their work life to their personal life.

“I encourage clients to think about how they are spending their commute time.  Most will reply that they are unsure or that they spend the time scrolling on their phones or on work related phone calls.

“I ask, ‘is there an opportunity to give this time to you and to your self-care?’  ‘What could you do during your commute to ensure you are switching from personal to work mode and vice versa?'”

She then gave these suggestions:

  • Listening to a podcast
  • Listening to music
  • Calling a friend
  • Reading a book
  • Practicing mindfulness
  • Audio journaling
  • Completing a gratitude journal

5) Get plenty of rest

Sleep is one of the most important factors in allowing us to be active, productive and happy throughout the day. According to this study, lack of sleep can impair cognitive function, which makes it more challenging to concentrate and stay motivated, and can affect your memory too.

There is also research showing that tired employees are 70% more likely to be in workplace accidents, so it’s vital to make sure that you’re aware of your energy levels and getting enough shut-eye if you want to perform well at work.

To improve your sleep, introduce a relaxing night-time routine that helps you to wind down and get to bed at an appropriate time. Limit or stop the use of screen devices a few hours before bed, to ensure that the blue light won’t keep you awake – there are also apps that can be installed on your devices to turn the light they emit red after sunset. This can help by ensuring that even if you do check your phone, the impact of the light will be lessened.

Take the time to find calming pastimes to do prior to bed, such as reading, taking a warm bath, or enjoying a cup of herbal tea. Building a routine that works for you is called sleep hygiene, and is recommended by the NHS as a good strategy for getting the rest you need.

During the workday, build restoration breaks into your schedule to allow for a moment of calm and reflection particularly after a big meeting. Blocking a chunk of time off in your calendar will help you to remember to take a break to get some fresh air, enjoy a healthy snack or practise some guided meditation. Just 5 minutes of meditation and focussed breathing can decrease stress, help to organise thoughts and increase productivity.

Self-care can boost your productivity

Finding the time for self-care can be challenging in a busy working week, but it’s an important factor in staying productive and alert throughout the day.

Having a work-life balance that includes good quality sleep, exercise, and time spent on relaxing hobbies is an ideal recipe for being happier – and therefore performing better professionally.

As well as prioritising taking space away from work, you can take the time to make your work space into a calming, productive area to be in. Whether it’s a home office, a hot desking space, or a permanent desk in your company’s building, making this space personalised and comfortable can contribute to your self-care routine.

So, ensure that you have a comfortable chair, and any keyboards or screens are at the right height for your body. Then, try adding some more individual touches like good quality headphones if music helps you concentrate, an extra cushion or some artwork to brighten things up. By taking time for self-care, both in and outside work, you can increase your productivity and your wellbeing.