Winter can bring holiday cheer and delightful wooly mittens to some, but to others, the darker colder days can trigger feelings of sadness and gloom, or winter blues. Winter blues can really put a damper on any positive inroads you’ve made in your workplace wellness programs and overall employee benefit programs over the year.
If winter blues are killing your workplace wellness program, read on as we do a run through of winter blues, hygge (pronounced Hoo-gah), and outline 4 easy areas you can add more hygge to combat winter blues in the workplace.
What are the Winter Blues?
“Winter blues” is a non-medical term used to describe seasonal decreases in mood, often starting in late fall or early winter and goes away as the days get more sunny and warm. Winter blues are mild cases of increased fatigue and irritability, changes in appetite and sleep, and decreased concentration, interest, hope and motivation. Individuals who suffer more seriously, to the point that their relationships and work life are overwhelmingly affected, may have a type of depression called seasonal affective disorder (SAD) and should seek professional assessment and treatment. Winter blues affect as much as 14% of the population and afflict women four times more than men. Winter blues can lead to seasonal decreases in employee wellness and productivity and should be a consideration in employee benefit and wellness programs.
What is Hygge?
Secrets to beating the winter blues may be found in the concept of Hygge. Hygge is a defining characteristic of Danish culture, repeatedly described as the happiest people on the planet. Winters in Denmark have short days with at most 7 hours of sunlight and temperatures easily below zero. With colder darker months ahead for all of us, how can we make our work life more hyggeligt?
You’ve probably already heard of Hygge. It’s been hash-tagged over 4 Million times on Instagram, and with a surge of more than 1,000 Hygge-related titles on Amazon, to say it’s a trend is an understatement. Hygge has recently been used to sell everything cozy, knitted and rustic. It invokes a lifestyle of simplicity, warmth, and many many candles that promise to bring you wellness by the wick.
So wait, what is Hygge? Hygge, derived from the Norwegian word for “wellbeing,” is the feeling of being cozy, holistically well and content, and is often talked about in spite of the bleak cold dark months of winter. Germans have their version called gemütlichkeit, and the Dutch, gezelligheid.
Reading a book by the fire under a weighted blanket with a hot cup of coffee is totally Hyggeligt. Having dinner and conversations with friends at their home is also Hyggeligt. More than just outward coziness, hygge describes a sense of inner wellbeing, of belonging, connectedness, and community; it is a feeling associated with enjoying the good things in life, both big and small, with the people around you. It is about making the most of every moment, however simple.
Adding Hygge to Workplace Wellness
Cozy is not the aesthetic businesses go for these days. Bright lights and trends towards open minimalist design have been considered synonymous with start-up style productivity and innovation, rather than warmth and connectedness. Still, most of us would probably choose to work in a comfortable chair at a worn wooden table by a fire, coffee in hand, any season of the year – we choose the hyggeligt.
Hygge can be incorporated into all areas in the workplace to fight off winter blues. Office hygge with all the good feelings of warmth, wellness and connectedness, can ultimately inform and improve everything from productivity, innovation, employment branding, and employee retention. Here are four areas to hygge away the winter blues at work:
Cultivating inviting spaces for employees and clients to get cozy, commune and connect can improve company culture through relationship building and employee satisfaction and wellness, as well as increased productivity. Soft seating configured to facilitate conversation, and providing easily accessible hot beverages and healthy fresh food and snacks are just a few simple ways to hygge.
There are a number of different ways to hygge your personal workspace. Consider the following possibilities:
- LED Candles: Danes are known to burn more candles than anyone in Europe, and hygge nearly demands us incorporate a candlelit glow. If candles are not possible, LED candles have come a long way, as have oil diffusers.
- Anchor Object: Place a meaningful object, quote or photo to anchor you to what matters most to you. This adds hygge to your workplace outwardly and inwardly, helping you feel connected and maintain a positive outlook.
- Plants: Adding a living plant to your workspace brings in the living outdoors and a little hint of spring.
- Get Cozy: Warm desk slippers, a space heater, or blanket can also instantly create a cozier environment to help you through the winter months at work.
- Warm Lighting: Use a desk lamp rather than an overhead light if possible. The isolated light fosters productivity and coziness.
Unplug and spend quality time connecting with colleagues in person over a healthy meal or snack. Perhaps schedule a meeting at a local coffee shop or sit down with a coworker to get to know them a little better. Managers can support hyggeligt activities through encouraging their employees to leave work at work and advocate for valuing and protecting their time and well being. Allocating uninterrupted time to spend with family and friends outside of work is very hyggeligt and creates better work-life balance and employee satisfaction and retention.
Throw on a warm sweater (double points if it’s a wool cable-knit) or fleece and go on regular brisk walks outside, no matter the weather. Danes believe there is no such thing as bad weather, only inappropriate clothing. They embrace the weather and season, however dreary. If you see yourself feeling a little sluggish or blue, walking creates instant change, physically and mentally. Try a walking meeting or a walking group to add even more hygge.
Winter blues will threatening to affect work culture and productivity over the next few months, as well as any efforts by your wellness programs over of the year. Look to hygge to inspire winter wellness while enhancing performance and employment wellness branding.