Regardless of changing guidelines and government advice on working from home, many businesses have learned to embrace and adapt to remote working.
With social distancing guidelines and restrictions expected to last until at least March 2021, many face a winter working from home.
According to ONS, over 42% of working adults now work from home full-time, and after the challenge of adjusting to this new way of working earlier in the year, many of us now face a different challenge going into the winter.
How different seasons can affect us
Some might feel like they aren’t phased by longer, darker nights and colder weather. However, the changing seasons can affect people in different ways, to the point where some experience Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD).
We’ve written previously about SAD, the symptoms and how to combat it here, but in this article we’ll explore mindset, remote working and how your approach to the winter months can determine how it affects you.
In many countries, longer nights, colder weather and less sunlight hours are shown to affect mood and serotonin levels. With less exposure to Vitamin D, many also experience low energy and low mood.
So, what can we do? Well, the Norwegians have an approach we can all learn from.
Dealing with the “polar night”
In the city of Tromsø situated above the arctic circle in Norway, the city’s residents don’t see any daylight from mid-November to mid-January. During their “polar night”, the average temperature drops to -4C, making wintertime in northern Norway rather cold and dark.
Yet one study from the University of Tromsø found that the wellbeing of the people of the city barely changes across the year. Despite a long, dark and cold winter that might leave many feeling low and lethargic, the citizens of Tromsø have learned to adapt and develop a resilient mindset that helps them make the most of the winter months.
So, how do they do it?
How ‘Mental Framing’ could be the answer
Studies have shown that mental framing of stressful events is highly powerful and highly influential when it comes to how that event affects you, your mood and your response to the event.
It can also affect you physiologically too, regulating your blood pressure and heart rate.
It’s all about how you view a stressful event. Do you view it as a challenge and an opportunity to ultimately learn from, improve and conquer? Or do you view it as more of a threat, where you might focus on the possibility of failure, embarrassment, or some kind of negative outcome?
For example, you may have a fear of public speaking. To conquer that fear, you might need to put yourself in the stressful situation of speaking in front of larger audiences and practicing your public speaking. Would you see this as a threat? Where you’re worried about embarrassing yourself or messing up in some way? Or would you see it as an opportunity to improve, grow and develop a skill that not many have?
A person’s ability to mentally frame their situation to their advantage in this way will depend on circumstances, the event itself and the individual’s mental resilience.
Some events lend themselves to this kind of practice quite well, whereas other events will need an entirely different approach, depending on how stressful the event is.
Practice makes perfect
Using potentially stressful situations as an opportunity to practice mental framing can be hugely beneficial, which rather ironically requires some mental framing itself. The better you become at this, the more you’ll see stressful events as an opportunity to learn, grow and improve and the better you’ll feel.
Some forms of therapy focus on this sort of behaviour, such as Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT), which helps people re-evaluate thoughts and feelings that may have otherwise had them feeling low, into something more constructive and realistic.
This behaviour is then encouraged to be repeated until it is learned and applied almost subconsciously, or even consciously but at least regularly.
The power is in your hands (and mind!)
The key is to recognise that beliefs are subjective, mindsets exist, and you have control over your mindset.
Being armed with the confidence and knowledge that you can change your mindset and mental approach to certain situations can be very powerful. It can help develop attitudes similar to those of the citizens of Tromsø to help mentally frame stressful events, thus maintaining good mental wellbeing and reducing any negative effects.
Mental framing isn’t a cure-all and it’s important to also recognise that you shouldn’t supress emotions. As mentioned, some events are more stressful than others and will require a different approach.
How can we apply this to working from home during the winter?
Well, just as the people of Tromsø do every year, we can see winter as a time of opportunity. The colder winter months are a time for baking comfort food or cuddling up in front of the fire. It’s about the positivity and happiness around Christmas and the chance to break out that side of your wardrobe that hasn’t seen daylight since early spring.
In terms of remote working, very rarely will you have to wipe the snow off your car in the morning or wait for the bus in the pouring rain. You’ll be able to create the ideal working environment for you in the comfort of your own home. Maybe it’s a good time to pursue a course or study again while many Universities begin their new semesters. And as soon as you’ve finished working for the day, you’ll be able to get comfy in front of the fire and not have to worry about that dreaded commute home in the rain and snow.
Seeing opportunity in the coming winter months could be just what you need to maintain a positive mindset and learn to love working from home as the weather gets colder and the nights get longer.
Embrace the winter months!
Many of us might feel we’re not quite prepared for winter this time around as we find ourselves in a situation not many of us have experienced before. That uncertainty can be quite daunting.
However, by mentally framing the coming months and viewing it as a time for learning, enjoying the good things about winter and embracing remote working, just like the citizens of Tromsø you’ll develop a mindset that will help you stay on top of your mental wellbeing and enjoy the winter months working from home.