The end of winter may be in sight, but its effect on mental wellbeing – especially in younger workers – could have a lasting impact for the rest of the year, according to new research from Canada Life Group Insurance.
Over half (55%) of workers under 30 are more stressed than usual during the winter months, compared to half (49%) of all employees. One in three (29%) younger workers are also more likely to be depressed during the winter months, compared to 22% of all employees.
Workplace environment is detrimental to winter wellbeing
One of the reasons that younger workers struggle more during the winter months is the workplace environment.
In total, one in five (22%) employees say their workplace environment is more stressful during winter, rising to over a third (35%) among workers under 30. One in six (16%) employees say that their workplace environment makes it difficult to maintain good mental health, rising to three in ten (29%) for under-30s employees.
Younger workers more likely to ask for flexible working
Flexible working is viewed by employees as the main solution (33%) to improving their wellbeing during the winter months, which all employees have the legal right to request. This does not mean all employees are entitled to flexible working, but employers must deal with any such request in a ‘reasonable manner’.
On average, one in five are more likely to request part-working from home (17%) or more flexible working hours (20%) during winter. However, this proportion is much higher amongst workers under 30 (35% and 32% respectively).
All employees Under-30s employees
Take annual leave for a week or more 26% 38%
Request part-working from home 17% 35%
Request flexible working hours 20% 32%
Pull a ‘sickie’ 18% 28%
None of the above 45% 13%
Table 1: Percentage of employees who would take the following action during winter
This suggests that younger workers are more in tune with their mental health and the remedies to improve it; this is reinforced by the fact that younger workers are more likely to practice self-care. One in five (22%) under-30s employees say they are more likely to set time aside to practice self-care during winter, compared to just 8% of employees over the age of 30.
Aside from flexible working, one in five (20%) workers under 30 also say that access to an Employee Assistance Programme would help improve their wellbeing during the winter months.
Paul Avis, Marketing Director of Canada Life Group Insurance, comments: “The heightened levels of stress and depression experienced during the winter months will not disappear with the first flush of spring. The knock-on effect it could have to employee wellbeing throughout the rest of the year is likely to be highly detrimental.
“Getting up in the dark, going home in the dark, a longer commute, and the bad weather all play a part in reducing people’s feel-good factors, and so at this particular time of year organisations need to be ever more diligent when considering employee welfare, especially for younger workers.
“No one should suffer in silence in the workplace. Employers must take responsibility for employee wellbeing and create an open atmosphere which encourages engagement and emphasises the importance of staff wellbeing. Employee Assistance Programmes (provided alongside most Group Income Protection products) can help communicate this message and provide practical support to those with longstanding or particularly acute problems.”