Battling the End of Summer Blues at Work

Have you started to detect a little “end of summer blues” creeping into your workplace? If you think you’re just projecting your own wistful nostalgia over losing the more relaxed environment that summer often brings – think again.Clam Bar, Broad Channel on Jamaica Bay. U.S. National Archives’ Local Identifier: 412-DA-5405

As the summer draws to a close, two themes converge in most workplaces.

The first is the sadness felt by those who pack a lot of summer fun into those few months that used to epitomize freedom from the restrictions of the school year. For these employees, as the days perceptibly shorten, energy and motivation often dips just because they hate to say goodbye to summer.

The second theme is the back-to-school madness that parents of school-aged children experience as schedules have to be re-worked to accommodate returning students. When children return to school or college, parents face a variety of stressors: financial, emotional, and logistical.

Whether plagued by melancholy or mayhem, your employees and your workplace are bound to be impacted by this seasonal shift. In fact, one survey of 427 American workers conducted by Workplace Options and Public Policy Polling found the following:

  • Twenty-seven per cent of respondents said the start of a new school year negatively affected the moods, attitudes or schedule availability of their co-workers.
  • Thirty-five per cent expect back-to-school preparations to produce additional financial or personal stress in their own lives.
  • Sixty-three per cent of workers said the start of a new school year adds stress to co-workers who are working parents.

While this study focused on parents, it’s not just the workers with school-aged children who can experience stress (or distress) with the shift from summer to autumn. Aside from being the most popular vacation time, summer also provides the most daylight. And exposure to daylight directly impacts mood and productivity. One particular study conducted on the impact of daylight on productivity suggests that, as the days get shorter, office workers “may be in ‘biological darkness’” during [shorter] working days, and further concluded that insufficient daylight negatively impacts productivity.1

How Can you Help?

There are a number of things you can to do to help employees manage the transitional stress associated with the end-of-summer and/or back-to-school blues.  Here are just a few ideas that will to help shore up flagging spirits and reduce the seasonal stress as summer fades.

  • Listen: Encourage them to talk about it, either to a manager, a colleague or an EAP counsellor. Often just being heard is enough to reduce anxiety and stress.
  • Be flexible: Provide flexible work schedules to help your employees through the seasonal transition: consider split shifts for those who really crave time outside while the weather holds; get creative for the parent who can’t find a caregiver to cover the last two hours of the workday when school lets out at 3:00 pm.
  • Give them something to look forward to: Consider instituting an end-of-summer celebration, or providing a small “back to school” discretionary allowance that employees can use to purchase something for their desk (or to buy school supplies for their kids). 
  • Get physical: The same benefits that daylight provides to the endocrine system can be duplicated by physical activity, so implement a physical activity program at work.

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1: Daylight and productivity – A possible link to circadian regulation. Figueiro, M.G., Rea, M.S., Stevens, R.J., Rea, A.C.

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