The colder months of the year are when seasonal affective disorder is most common. Approximately 5% of the American population suffers from seasonal depression each year. You can do your part as an employer to preserve your employees’ mental health during the winter. Here are some tips and things for you to consider as you help your employees get through this challenging period.
What is Seasonal Affective Disorder
Seasonal affective disorder is a type of depression linked to seasonal changes in weather. Through the fall and winter, people with SAD may feel lethargic and irritable. They are more likely to call in sick, have trouble performing at work, and lack energy.
As a result, you may discover it affects your employee’s daily performance. Here are some of the most common symptoms:
- Feeling depressed constantly
- Sluggishness and fatigue
- Having trouble focusing
- Not being able to sleep
- Disinterest in commonplace activities
These symptoms tend to occur when employees arrive at work and leave work in the dark. A lack of sunlight can trigger SAD, especially in people with other mental health issues. Their productivity may be lower, and they may call in sick more frequently, affecting your company’s overall performance.
Workplace Strategies for Seasonal Affective Disorder
These are some of the steps that you can take as an employer to assist your employees in dealing with SAD symptoms during the winter months.
Let the Sun In
Encourage your employees to go outside as much as possible. Serotonin increases your feelings of happiness when you spend a few minutes in the sun.
This may be as simple as pulling back the curtains or opening the shades of your office windows. Installing special SAD lamps in your office will simulate the effect of natural sunlight. You should encourage your employees who work from home to take lots of breaks and to get some fresh air during these breaks.
Factor in Downtime
While it is beneficial for employees to take breaks during the day, they must also spend ample time with their loved ones. They are even more likely to experience mental health issues if they are overworked or pushed too hard at work as Americans are among the most stressed workers in the world.
Communicating the benefits of the company’s paid time off policy and encouraging your employees to use it can reduce stress, even if only for one day to catch up on family time and personal projects. Tell managers and other employees not to shame those who are taking time off from work. You can also set an example for your colleagues by taking time off to refresh.
Provide Mental Health Training
SAD is one of many mental health issues that go unnoticed mainly because people are not sure how to classify their symptoms. They may be unable to pinpoint why they are feeling so low. Others may avoid talking about their feelings until spring arrives.
Provide your employees with virtual mental health training sessions to teach them how to look after their mental health and spot any problems. Throughout the course, you can address SAD and its consequences. As a final note, describe how you are available to your team throughout the season. Your colleagues may find the workshops entertaining and interactive with a relaxed atmosphere that encourages open dialogue.
Incorporate Self-Care in the Workplace
There is growing awareness of the importance of caring for your physical, mental, and emotional needs all over the world. When your colleagues already suffer from SAD effects, a stressful incident may set them off into depression.
You can ask your employees about the behaviors and other elements your business lacks to help them stay focused and avoid workplace conflict through surveys and one-on-one chats. Together, you can come up with creative ways to improve your culture of self-care at work.
It can be as basic as providing healthy snacks in vending machines and communal spaces and serving nutritious catered lunches. People who stand for long periods should be able to sit and take a break when they need it. Offering on-site yoga classes or massages from local vendors can help employees relax and get started for the workday if there is enough interest. You can also check with your health insurance provider to determine if proactive health benefits and reimbursements cover gym memberships or fitness programs in part or in whole.
Make Your Workforce SAD-Free
You will need to intervene with mental health training when seasonal affective disorder threatens the performance and well-being of your employees. Working together to ensure that your employees can blend their personal lives and careers is key to combating the impact of SAD. By doing so, people can take time off, enjoy the outdoors, and improve their mental health.