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Health and SafetySeptember 29, 2021by Hope KirkHere’s How You Can Support Staff with Seasonal Depression

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The bleak and dreary winter weather affects everyone’s mood. The winter cold and shorter days, however, are much harder on those who experience Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) or seasonal depression.

What is Seasonal Affective Disorder?

Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) is a type of depression that follows a seasonal pattern. It usually appears in late fall and lasts through the winter months. Less commonly, some people also experience it in summer.

What causes SAD and what are its symptoms?

The exact cause for Seasonal Affective Disorder is not known. It is believed that lack of sunlight causes SAD in winter. Reduced daylight hours disturb the body’s biological clock and serotonin levels.

Common symptoms include changes in appetite, sleep patterns, social withdrawal, fatigue, and trouble concentrating.

How can I help my employees manage seasonal affective disorder?

The stress and isolation caused by the pandemic may make managing seasonal depression harder for those who experience it. It may be worse for remote workers who miss the social interaction in the workplace.

Here are some suggestions on how you can help your employees cope better:

Create awareness about seasonal depression

It is important that you create an environment where your employees feel comfortable reaching out to you if they are struggling with a mental health challenge. If you’re managing a remote workforce, you could send out informational emails and flyers to start a conversation. If your staff is back in office, you can do the same and also put up informational posters to raise awareness.

You could also invite a mental health professional to give a talk on SAD to your staff. If you’re managing a hybrid workforce (a mix of office-based and remote workers), you may want to also stream the talk online.

Training your managers and team leads on how to recognize symptoms of seasonal affective disorder and provide support is another effective way.

Educate employees on coping strategies

Given that we’ll be indoors and isolated more than usual this winter, making time for self-care is important for everyone. Even more so for those employees who experience a major depressive disorder this time of the year.

It is crucial that they seek professional help. SAD should not be taken lightly. Untreated, it can lead to thoughts of self-harm. Treatment for SAD includes light therapy, psychotherapy and – when needed – medication. Alongside treatment, the following tips may help:

  • Stick to a routine. As far as possible, try and go to bed and wake up at a fixed time.
  • Eat a balanced and nutritious diet. Avoid too much takeout or junk food.
  • Create and follow a regular exercise routine. Research shows regular exercise improves depression and anxiety.
  • Strive for a work-life balance. Take short breaks to stretch or take a walk.
  • Stay connected (virtually) with family, friends, and co-workers.
  • Sign up for an online activity or volunteering role that can be done remotely.
Organize virtual socials 

Besides regularly checking in with your remote staff, organizing weekly or monthly virtual socials may help your remote team stay connected during this long-drawn crisis. This measure would benefit all your employees, especially those who live alone and may be feeling socially isolated. For ideas on remote team bonding activities, read our blog on COVID-19 & Remote Work: 10 Team Bonding Games to Play.

If you have an office-based or hybrid team, a work social is still a good way to boost morale and help your staff bond. If you are planning an in-person social, ensure you follow all public health safety guidelines and rules on large social gatherings.

Offer flexible work hours

If the nature of your business allows it, you could offer flexible work hours to your employees affected by SAD. This would help them spend more time outside in the sun and complete their errands or follow exercise routines in daylight.

Connect employees to available mental health resources

Whether your staff is struggling with seasonal depression or anxiety caused by the pandemic, it is important that you inform them about the existing mental health resources. If your company offers an Employee Assistance Program, remind your staff about its benefits and how they can access it.

Do you need help creating a workplace mental health policy?

Our experts can help you develop company policies as well as with any other HR, health and safety, or employment advice you may need. To learn more, call an expert today at 1 (833) 247-3652.