How to Support Your Employees with Seasonal Affective Disorder

October 21, 2021

With the nights gradually closing in, the clocks will change from British Summer Time to Greenwich Mean Time next week. While there are those among us who generally dislike the colder and shorter, some of us will be anxious for entirely different reasons.

In the UK, one in fifteen people suffer from the condition Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). The nature and severity of the condition varies from one person to another. Some people experience the effects in phases, while for others, it can have a devastating impact on their day-to-day life.

SAD is a form of depression associated with the change of seasons. Symptoms can include:

SAD can be difficult to diagnose and is not well understood. As a result, employers often dismiss it as an excuse for employees not wanting to get up and go to work on a cold and dark winter morning. However, when it comes to employee wellbeing, managers should be aware and proactive in recognising the symptoms and learning how to support their employees during the winter months.

So, what can you do, as an employer, to support your staff suffering from the effects of SAD?

Start the conversation

Break the stigma of talking about mental health by starting the conversation. It will make it easier for those impacted to step forward and ask for some help.

Remind your employees of the wellbeing tools available

If you offer an employee assistance programme (EAP), remind your employees of the benefits and how to access them. These schemes are often underutilised because they are either forgotten about, employees are unsure about the services offered, or they are worried they have to pay for them. If you offer discounts for gym memberships, remind your employees about that too. Exercising regularly can help to lift a person’s mood and aids to improve sleep patterns.

Encourage your employees to take regular breaks

Studies show that even brief distractions from a task can dramatically improve one’s ability to focus on that task for prolonged periods.

It allows employees to destress and stay focused, whether they are sitting in front of a display screen or working on their feet all day.

Invest in a Light Box

Light therapy can effectively treat a number of illnesses, including insomnia, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), and depression. For people suffering from the effect of SAD, light therapy can help to improve their mood significantly. Lightboxes come in a range of different designs, including desk lamps that can be placed on a person’s desk. The light emitted is intended to imitate the sunlight that is missing during the darker months of the year. It is thought that sunlight encourages the production of serotonin, which is the hormone that makes you feel happy. While lightboxes are not available via the NHS and employers are under no obligation to provide them, they can be purchased relatively inexpensively online and will help make your employee feel valued and understood.

Have Regular Team Meetings and One to Ones with your team

A positive workplace culture, where your employees feel they can be open and honest about their wellbeing and how they are feeling, is promoted via strong communication between you and the team. Regular team meetings help team cohesion and strengthen employer/ employee relationships, helping to increase your team’s overall engagement with your organisation.

Say “Thank you”

Sometimes a simple “Thank you” can go a long way! Let your employees know that they are appreciated and that their good work hasn’t gone unnoticed.

There are many ways you can help and support your employees. Here at Vero HR, we offer a range of HR services to meet the needs of your business. For an informal chat, please do not hesitate to give us a call on 01733 830830 or email us at enquiries@verohr.co.uk.

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