Your workers will also feel the effects of Seasonal Affective Disorder in summer and businesses should think of implementing initiatives and services to help support employees, writes Clare Price.
Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) is a form of short-term depression that affects 3 in 10 adults. It targets the levels of mood hormones (melatonin and serotonin) in the part of the brain that controls how you’re feeling.
People mainly suffer from SAD in the colder months, where there is a lack of sunlight in the winter, but they can also feel the effects in the sunnier seasons.
Those who are affected will have difficulty concentrating, a lack of energy, want to withdraw from being productive at work, burnout, sadness, guilt, or hopelessness.
Here are some ideas for how you can implement small workplace changes to support employees who suffer from SAD and promote good mental health.
Educate employees and managers about SAD in the workplace
Your workforce need education on how SAD affects productivity and HR teams should encourage employees to seek help when needed. Reduce the stigma surrounding Seasonal Affective Disorder and train managers and the workforce on how to start a conversation if they are concerned about an employee.
Include content about Seasonal Affective Disorder in company newsletters, and in other employee communications. Identify a mental health first aider at a senior leadership level who might have experienced Seasonal Affective Disorder and is willing to talk about it. This helps to normalise the experience.
Tea & Chat
Set up a weekly tea and chat meeting for teams and departments to attend outside of their usual break times. We recommend setting this up in a comfortable environment (if the weather is good, find a nice outdoor space). You can also do an online meeting if your team is remote.
Grab some biscuits, chocolates and a cup of something warm to talk about something neutral.
- Ask about their hobbies
- Find out about their weekend or after work plans
- Ask what made them smile today
- Talk about any new books, films, or TV series
- Their favourite foods and recipes
Create a Mental Health First Aider
Enrol one person (or multiple people if you have a big team) to become your Mental Health First Aider.
All businesses have first aiders who you can go to in case of a physical medical issue, but many don’t have a Mental Health First Aider who people can talk to and confide in.
By providing peer-to-peer network support within your organisation, you are creating an environment in which the individual may feel more comfortable to discuss any issues they may be having, including the impact of SAD on their performance at work.
How can Cognitive Behavioral Therapy help those coping with SAD?
Alongside the proactive steps outlined above that employers can take to help employees combat SAD, they can also use Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT). is one of the fundamental treatments that help people cope with and recover from feelings of depression and anxiety.
- Sufferers of SAD can learn to recognise the signs and how it affects them, such as a strong desire to sleep and eat.
- Maximising your exposure to light is very effective. If you can’t get outside, using SAD LED/blue light therapeutic lamps which replicate natural light are very helpful.
- Eat a healthy and balanced diet to balance brain hormone levels.
- Manage stress – A culmination of tight deadlines at work, personal stressors at home and SAD could prove to push your stress levels into overdrive. Include ‘time out periods’ where you recognise and where possible remove yourself from issues of conflict, friction and raised anxiety. Also try some CBT coping techniques, such as active problem solving, breaking tasks into small steps, and delegating tasks someone else could do.
More and more businesses are putting in place initiatives and services to help support employees, including those who are trying to cope with SAD. Sometimes it’s the small things that make the greatest difference.
Clare Price is a Head of Psychological services at Onebright. She has designed, developed and implemented a wide range of clinical services and pathways within the corporate wellbeing sector winning awards for innovation.