Most of us will identify with the dampening effect that dark and dreary winter days can have on our mood. However, for as many as one in three people, this is more than just a temporary feeling and is a form of depression known as Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) brought on by limited exposure to daylight through the winter period.
Studies have shown that women are more susceptible to SAD than men and that it affects young adults most widely. A family history or personal history of depression also increases a person’s risk of experiencing SAD. Symptoms include negative changes in mood, low energy levels and a strong desire to sleep or rest.
Like all forms of depression, SAD can have a debilitating impact on the daily life of the person affected, including their work. Naturally, employers will be keen to know how they can assist employees affected by SAD in order to reduce absenteeism and maintain productivity. So, what practical steps can be taken to offer support?
Awareness of mental health and a focus on wellbeing in the workplace has increased in recent years. Early identification of SAD symptoms can be crucial in managing it and identifying the symptoms to look for is a positive starting point to help your employees.
Exposure to daylight is key to tackling SAD. Encouraging employees to get outside at appropriate periods during the day may be one option to explore. Literally, ‘think outside the box’ - walking meetings could be a great alternative to boardroom meetings in some situations. Managing the working day differently may also be viable, with some employees taking advantage of flexi-time to maximise their opportunity to see daylight. Access workplace or external counselling is important too.
Ultimately, through a combination of healthy working practices and provision of support services, employers can be at the forefront of tackling SAD and keeping everyone in the workplace happy and productive.