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Unexpected Ways Autumn Will Affect Your Workplace Performance

The temperature is starting to lower, the leaves are changing colour and the holiday seasons are creeping ever closer. This means autumn is finally here, and so too are the natural seasonal changes in our workplace behaviour.

We’ve already explored the way winter and summer can affect our performance so now is the time to prepare ourselves for Autumn. The more aware we are of how our minds and bodies change with the weather, the better we can set ourselves up for success.

Reduced distractions

Studies have shown that bad weather makes for great workplace productivity. This largely comes down to the reduction in distractions during colder months. When being outside to do things like sunbathing, going to the beach, or enjoying water sports is no longer desirable workers tend to be much more efficient in their business tasks.

Whilst mental distractions may be at a low, reminding yourself of the fun summer times will negatively impact your performance. Stay focused on the work at hand and the areas of autumn that you enjoy to avoid your mind wandering to sunnier times.

Increased weather-related absence

Sick days increasing during the colder months are no surprise to anyone. We all know that cold wet days will put us at risk of common colds and viruses. However, we often forget the other ways in which the weather will affect our absence.

Particularly bad weather might keep people from arriving to work on time, and in extreme cases, it will keep workers at home for days at a time. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2% of workers miss a day of work because of the colder months. A worrying statistic when you realize it’s less than 0.5% during the warmer months.

You may not miss a day of work, but no doubt you'll have to pick up the slack when your co-workers are out. As we head into autumn and winter, make an effort to stay on top of your game, keep up with work even when you can't be at the office, and help others get caught up when they return from an absence.

Decreased moods

Weather affects our negative moods more than it does our positive moods. Bad weather, especially increased wind and darkness, will heighten our negative thought patterns while beautiful weather will ease them.

The change in seasons can also trigger seasonal depression, called Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). This is a much more intense shift in mood, often caused by our decreasing exposure to sunlight and vitamin D as the days get shorter. If you feel particularly depressed, less energetic, and tend to sleep more yet still be tired, you don't have to just chalk it up to the "winter blues." There are ways to address this serious condition, including phototherapy and medicine.

As we welcome autumn and its shorter days and chilly winds, be aware of how these environmental changes might affect your mood and the general feeling of well-being, your work, and your interactions with co-workers and clients. Awareness is critical to abate the effects of environmental influences. Don't be afraid to take action and ask for help or understanding.

Increased compassion

There's a reason the weather is a go-to conversation topic--we all have it in common. In the face of a challenging climate--dropping temperatures, chilling winds, increasing darkness, and the chance of weather emergencies--we band together. We are more accepting when a co-worker comes in grumpy because their car was buried in snow, and we go out of our way to show our understanding and cheer them up. At some point, we all fall into the pit of bad weather grumpiness and suffer the consequences of weather emergencies, but we will help each other overcome them.

Combined with an autumnal season of giving, don't be surprised to see a more cooperative and generous team. Given the low moods but increased empathy that comes with colder weather; focus on keeping people together in the workplace. If your company often has people working in isolation, consider a change in office structure, with more co-working spaces and fewer individual offices.

Changed in creativity

Interestingly, the weather makes us favourable to certain types of creativity. In a 2014 study, researchers found that our levels of physical warmth affect the way our brains process information.

When we are warm, we are more relationally creative--creativity that involves thinking about others and the relationships between people and objects. When we are cold, our distant and abstract creativity thrives. If you are a leader or manager in your workplace, think about how you frame certain problems or brainstorming prompts--the weather can affect the results you receive.

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