When it comes to work, winter can often be a very different experience compared to the rest of the year; shorter days, colder weather and in particular, the lead up to Christmas, can be contributing factors. These seasonal changes can be disruptive, stressful, or exciting. And they’ll most likely have an effect on apprentices. Here’s a handy guide to everything you’ll encounter at work this winter, along with all the tips and tricks that are essential for survival.
Dropping temperatures, rain, ice and snow can affect numerous aspects of your job, and whilst lowering temperatures are almost certain, flooding, freezing and heavy snowfall may take you by surprise. Make sure you have a reliable system for getting into work, and be prepared to set out earlier if you think adverse weather conditions may occur. It may also be a good idea to have a back-up plan if your usual form of transport is no longer an option.
Winter weather can bring some safety risks too. When the roads begin to get icy or snowy, they can be more dangerous than you think. If you drive to work, be aware of ice on the roads and in some cases it may be worth considering a safer alternative to driving.
If you walk for all or part of your journey and have to wear smart shoes for work that don’t offer much grip, it may be worth wearing more weather appropriate shoes or boots during your commute and changing into your smarter shoes when you arrive at work.
Keeping warm plays a hugely important part in making sure you are fit for work. Dress for the weather. If you are too cold it can be detrimental to both your productivity, and your health. Try to find the line between weather appropriate and work appropriate clothing, this is especially important if you work outdoors, or have to walk during your commute.
The spreading of illnesses is prevalent during winter; the common cold, influenza and pnuemonia are some of the most common illnesses that thrive at this time of year. If you become ill during winter and you feel that you are unfit for work, or if your illness is contagious, it may be best not to go into work. Make sure that you follow the correct procedures for reporting your illness and absence from work. If you are unsure of the procedures, you should be able to find them in your contract, employee guidelines or workplace policy. If you are going to be absent from work, try to give your employer as much notice as possible, and do not return to work until you have recovered from the illness.
Your mental health and wellbeing should also be taken into consideration during the colder months. In winter your more likely to be affected by stress, anxiety and depression. A form of depression directly linked to winter is SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder), which is caused by a lack of daylight, and affects 2 million people in the UK.
With the sun rising later, setting earlier and days becoming continuously shorter, It’s likely that you’ll be travelling to and from work in the dark. At these times, its particularly important to consider your safety and be aware of your surroundings. When travelling to or from work in the dark be particularly careful on or near the roads, and try to stick to well lit and populated routes when walking from work.
Short days and a lack of light are known to disrupt sleeping and waking cycles, this causes an increase in melatonin, which makes you feel more tired. Fitting in a small amount of excursive after work is a good way to combat this tiredness. It’s also really important that you make sure you’ll get up in time for work, so set plenty of alarms and avoid the ‘snooze’ button when possible.
With Christmas fast approaching, your workplace will probably have a christmas outing or party planned; 75% of workplaces do. Whilst it’s not compulsory, attending the events is courteous, and it’s also a great opportunity to get to know your colleagues better in a less formal environment.
Whilst it may be a party, workplace celebrations still require you to maintain a level of professionalism. Remember that you’ll be amongst colleagues and managers, and probably also amongst the public, so you still have to consider how you are representing yourself and the company you work for.
Alongside the Christmas party, you may also be invited to take part in a ‘Secret Santa’ or other gifting scheme with your colleagues. When buying a gift for a colleague, steer clear of anything that may be perceived as offensive or inappropriate, and when choosing a gift, be mindful of the recipients religion and personal beliefs. Allergies and intolerances are also a good thing to keep in mind. If you want to share gifts and cards with your colleagues, it’s important to make sure you don’t exclude anyone.
Throughout the Christmas celebrations, remember that not everyone you work with will celebrate Christmas so be respectful of other peoples wishes regarding how much they want to be involved in the festivities. On the same score, don’t exclude anyone who you think may not ordinarily celebrate Christmas. Although Christmas celebrations may not be a part of their religion or personal beliefs, it does not necessarily mean that they don’t want to be included in the festive workplace events.
Maintaining A Work/Life Balance
You will probably find you’ll be up to a lot more outside of work in Winter compared to the rest of the year.
And whilst December is usually a busy month for people socially, It’s also a busy month for companies who are attempting to meet deadlines before the new year. This may mean that you will have a few deadlines to meet yourself. Try and stay focused in order to meet these deadlines, but if you find yourself overwhelmed with work, don’t be afraid to let your line manager know that you are struggling.
As an apprentice you will also have some coursework to complete. Whilst you can complete some of this inside work hours, it may be best to set aside some time in the evenings or on weekends to get things done.
Booking Annual Leave
Chances are you won’t be the only one in your workplace wanting to book time off over the Christmas period. Some workplaces will give all staff a week or two off towards the end of December, and sometimes they will ask that you use some of your annual leave for this. Make sure to check what the holiday arrangements are in advance, and if you do need to book time off, make sure you do so well in advance. This is especially important if your workplace stays open over Christmas because it’s likely you will be needed to work at least one or two of the shifts surrounding Christmas and new year.
Managing Your Christmas Spirit
It’s understandable to be excited about Christmas, New Year or even just having a break from work, but remember to keep your excitement in check.
Whilst you may want to spread your excitement for Christmas through playing songs, wearing festive themed clothing or adding a few seasonal decorations to your desk, don’t forget that you are still in the workplace. Some employers may perceive these as distracting, unprofessional or inappropriate, but in most cases they should be relatively well received. Just make sure you check your contract and employee/ office guidelines to make sure any changes to clothing and workspace are allowed, and if you are not sure, ask.
Remember that unless indicated by your employer, business should continue as usual until you finish work. So don’t let the impending celebrations be an excuse to get distracted or to do less work.
If you’d like to find out more about apprenticeships visit the Creative Alliance site.