Why it is extra important to be at the office this winter

The Nordic winter is long, dark and cold – and when daylight is scarce small things can have a big impact. Social contact with good colleagues is one of the small things that can have a large impact on one’s mental health; “A vitamin pill,” says Psychologist Berge.

The office is a central arena for social interaction in everyday life for many of us. A recent survey conducted by YouGov on behalf of Technopolis proves the importance of office space for Norwegian office workers. The study concludes that 22 % of office-working respondents find social gatherings to be the most important thing about the office. In addition, 60 % state that it is somewhat important, important, or very important that colleagues are physically present at the office.

Alf Astrup, Business Unit Director of Technopolis Fornebu in Oslo and Technopolis Kista in Stockholm claims that companies thrive when the majority of employees work from the office, and not from home. He encourages colleagues to take care of each other and to show up at the office as much as possible.

“Most people appreciate a good work environment, and most will agree that this cannot be created when working from home. Meetings face-to-face in the office create a sense of community and belonging. It increases well-being and motivation, reduces feelings of isolation, and facilitates better collaboration. The winter also affects us differently, making it especially important that we take care of each other and show up at the office even though working from home is tempting," says Astrup.

An antidepressant effect

Jan-Martin Berge is a specialist in clinical psychology, work psychology, and cognitive therapy. He emphasizes the importance of being present in the office and believes that colleagues can have an antidepressant effect.

"Social contact at work and good collegial relationships are like a vitamin pill for employees. One of the most important things for our physical and mental health is the quality of our relationships. A good work environment and a good relationship with colleagues are created in between meetings, not through a screen. It's about the informal, social contact that arises between colleagues and forms a basis for friendship, which is crucial for culture," says Berge.

Berge emphasizes that there are several benefits to showing up at work and that it may be extra important to be a good colleague during the winter season.

"Many of us are lucky to have colleagues we really like, and it's simply healthy. We need social contact to feel good at work," says Berge.

The office offers daylight

Lack of daylight is also a challenge during the winter. According to the Norwegian Working Environment Act §2-10, the workplace should provide access to both daylight and a view, with some exceptions. When sunlight or even daylight is scarce during wintertime, access to this is particularly important. However, this is not a given when working from home.

"We know that light affects our health. Light exposure, especially early in the day, is particularly good for improving your circadian rhythm and sleep pattern," says Berge.

Astrup emphasizes that even though it is beneficial to meet one’s co-workers, it’s up to each company to set the framework for working from home.

"There is no one-size-fits-all solution, and the flexibility that the home office provides is important for many employees. Regardless, it is nice to remind each other that it shouldn't be too long before we see each other in the office. We all benefit from that."

About the survey

  • The survey was conducted by YouGov for Technopolis.
  • 1000 employed persons who work wholly or partly in an office outside the home have responded to a questionnaire.
  • The survey was conducted in weeks 35-39 in 2023.