While the Christmas holidays are tantalisingly close, many schools are struggling with the norovirus outbreak that is sweeping across the country. It got us thinking about the way that winter can leave us feeling washed out, both physically and mentally and how that could have an impact on more than just the mood at work.

Short winter days leave us sleepy, often hungry and lower in mood and that’s not even considering those individuals who suffer from the more serious Seasonal Affective Disorder. The causes of these issues are poorly understood, but in general, our bodies expect to sleep when it’s dark and be active when it’s light. Our fixed working patterns don’t allow us to accommodate this type of change.

You might ask, how does this relate to data protection? We know that how people feel has an impact on the tasks they must perform. Tiredness tends to lead to errors in judgement which, when dealing with personal data, can lead to data breaches.

Add to this the many activities that everyone is trying to get done before the Christmas break and you have a recipe for mistakes. We talked about this in our white paper Taking Control of Data Breaches.

Given that it’s probably fairly difficult to relocate your workplace to somewhere closer to the equator (that has more even daylengths), what can be done to avoid the data protection winter blues?

  1. Recognition: We’re now close to the shortest day, but did you know that the third Monday of January is considered by some to be the most depressing day of the year. If this is true, then we need to accept that December and January may represent periods of higher risk. Recognising risk is critical to mitigating it.
  2. Resourcing: It’s unlikely that you’ll be able to put off tasks until the spring, so you may need to consider how to ensure they are completed without issue. Simple steps like having a second pair of eyes checking before a large group email is sent or moving to envelopes with windows to avoid mismatched labels can make a huge difference, but you may have to prioritise.
  3. Rest: Once the break arrives, if you can, take the chance to switch off for a while. We’ll be thinking about data protection after the Turkey, but hopefully you won’t have to.
  4. Resolutions: With the new year it’s time to remind people of their responsibilities. But, rather than presenting to people; get them to consider what might ensure that all of your personal data is managed to plan.
  5. Remember, YOU are important too! Self-care is important for all of us, however, according to a recent report by Education Support, 75% of all education staff have faced physical or mental health issues within the past 2 years due to their work. So, taking some time out for you is vital to keeping your spirits up. Some things to help with self-care include listening to music, waking 15 minutes before you need to and practicing breathing techniques.

We can’t say whether any of these will guarantee you don’t make mistakes, but maybe you can have some fun finding out.