The Dim Light Epidemic (AKA: how winter impacts employee engagement)

November 6, 2015 Zach Saul

Employee engagement in winter


Last weekend, half the workforce rejoiced in unison when the Halloween festivities ended at 2 am that morning, and we set our clocks back an hour to enjoy the (slightly) longer weekend. Glorious as the extra hour was, it also means it’s that time of year when our workdays descend slowly into darkness. It might sound silly, but at least one in five Americans are at risk to exhibit decreased productivity (and therefore lower employee engagement)  because of some form of the ‘Wintertime Blues’.

In 2015, 71% of employees reported being less than fully engaged.

The reasons are varied, based on your particular situation.  Perhaps your office could use more camaraderie events? Maybe employees are in need of new professional opportunities? Whatever your situation, there is another challenge as November rolls around,  another cause of low employee engagement - perpetuated by dim lighting and shortened daylight. 

Growing up in the Pacific Northwest, we often used to joke that for nine months out of the year the entire region is in a bad mood. Although an obvious extreme, there is a nugget of truth to this sentiment because dim lighting and shortened daylight does affect your employees, and actually damages your business’ productivity.

A study in “The Responsible Workplace” showed that windows are the number one deterrent of employee satisfaction within a workspace.

If you or anyone in your office notices coworkers seeming irritable, low energy, or constantly oversleeping: S.A.D (seasonal affect disorder) could be factoring into their less than stellar performance. S.A.D employees also are at risk for additional health problems such as weight gain, fatigue, and changes in their appetite.

So how can you fight back against the perils of winter’s dim light? 

1.    Keep your office and workspace well lit, with natural and not artificial light when possible. Installing lightboxes is one great way to distribute light evenly throughout a large space and will certainly make a difference.

2.    Reposition the office furniture to take advantage of all the natural light coming in. This is an extremely easy way to combat boredom, increase employee engagement, and decrease stress. 

3.    Include travel rewards in your employee engagement program’s strategy. Psychologists recommend that the average American take frequent “light breaks” in which they venture outside - so what better “light break” is there then a weekend at the beach?

Obviously not every office in the United States is going to drop the capital on a massive lighting remodel, but in 1980 a U.S post office in Reno did, and discovered massive ROI after doing so. Their mail sorters became the most productive in the the western united states, machine operators had the lowest error rates, and the branch saved a fortune on electricity. 

So as you think through the most effective way to motivate your workforce keep in mind that something as simple as light can be a huge motivational factor. Taking simple steps every office on every budget can survive the winter, and outlast the dim light epidemic. 

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About the Author

Zach Saul

Zach Saul is a Graphic Designer, Content Writer, and Marketer for

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