- Employee Benefits and Wellbeing
- Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) and how to manage it in the workplace
Most of us in the UK are familiar with the typical British winter weather. Cold. Wet. And dark.
But just because we’re used to going to work in the dark and going home, yes you guessed it, in the dark, it doesn’t mean it won’t affect our moods, productivity, and general get up and go!
It is common for many of us to feel the effects of the colder weather, but in more extreme circumstances, many people can be dealing with Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). In this article we explore what HR support you can provide for SAD and how to manage employee depression in the workplace giving as much support as possible to help them beat winter depression.
What is Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD)?
By definition, Seasonal Affective Disorder is a type of depression that relates to the late autumn or winter months of the year when there is reduced sunlight.
SAD is a recognised form of depression, sometimes referred to as “winter depression” because of its close links to winter.
The NHS advise that common symptoms can include:
- low persistent mood,
- sleeping more and feeling more lethargic,
- persistent irritability,
- loss of interest of joining in with daily activities, or
- feelings of guilt, despair, or worthlessness.
As well, the lack of sunshine is believed to affect your body’s internal clock, leaving your natural rhythms out of sync, and therefore can make you feel off kilter.
How to spot the signs that you might have employees in your small business suffering with depression
Have you noticed increased absenteeism? Or have your high achieving employees reduced their efficiency? There may be many reasons why this is the case, but one to think about is whether you are contending with symptoms of SAD or general reduced mood and tiredness.
Given how long the winters can be, and that SAD affects a third of the UK population, it is important to be aware of how the gloomy weather can impact your employees and their work performance.
In turn this can affect your small business, as colleagues pick up their teammates’ workload and add to their own responsibilities, and therefore it is important to nurture the people that keep your company going before this happens.
While you can’t cure the bad weather, nor can you cure SAD, you can try to support your employees as much as possible and try to make a supportive workplace that they can thrive in.
Here are our 5 top tips on making your workspace a positive place during the winter months.
1. Maximise your workplace layout
A good place to start is to look at your workplace layout and see if you can improve your employees’ experience and comfort levels.
Can you position some desks closer to windows? Or create a free-flowing space so that no one in your team feels cut off. This will also help the flow of conversation and, as long as it doesn’t impact on work, create a more sociable and supportive space for your colleagues.
Covid precautions such as perspex screens, bigger distances between workstations and other social distancing measures may limit what you can do here, but even small changes might encourage those who are working from home to visit the office more when they feel comfortable doing so.
2. Put your lights on
Some of you might not be familiar with the 1999 hit by Santana and Everlast, but putting your office lights on can make a huge difference in the workspace. Can you invest in brighter lights or Light Therapy lamps as an additional alternative to bring a warmer feel into work?
If you have the advantage of good natural light in your office, why not open the blinds and make sure the windows are clean to let in maximum sunlight, even on those darker days? Try and remove any obstacles too, like posters or office equipment, that block the light coming in.
3. Go green
According to a study, having plants in your office space can significantly reduce physiological and psychological stress, and can help your staff beat their winter blues.
Having plants in the office can help with productivity and creates a refreshing workspace for your team.
Alternatively, encourage your team to get outside during lunch breaks, even if they take a short walk to get a coffee for some fresh air and get a change of scenery.
4. Flexible working
While you can maximise how the office makes your team feel, it is important to know that they may also need time outside of work to deal with their low mood or SAD that is induced from the darker and colder weather.
Reassure your team that you are flexible and can accommodate flexible working hours if they need to, whether this is for a GP appointment, or later start times.
Can you suggest alternative start or finish times, or a temporary change to shift patterns to maximise the daylight hours? Can you encourage your employees to take holiday at this time of year to get some time in the sun?
5. An orange a day keeps the doctor at bay
Maybe the saying is an apple a day, but here at citrus HR, our staff look forward to complementary fruit (mainly oranges!) and other treats in the office to keep them going and help to refuel throughout the day.
Looking after our immune system during the colder months is really important and can help us to feel healthier and more productive. Can you offer free fruit in your office to help boost your staff’s immunity and overall physical wellbeing.
A healthy body is so crucial to your mindset so offering immune-boosting treats, is a really great idea.
How can you normalise conversations around mental health in the workplace?
Although some individuals may not want to share their SAD with colleagues, increasing conversations around winter blues and letting colleagues know that support is available is really important.
Normalising conversations around mental health issues, including SAD, helps to raise awareness and break down the stigma which often prevents individuals from accessing help. Here are some examples of HR interventions that you can implement to support your team.
Can you send comms to your colleagues about winter blues, highlighting the support you offer and reiterating that anyone needing help, can discuss this with their manager or a Mental Health First Aider? Regular one-to-ones with your employees can also help pick up on issues and can help highlight if an employee needs further support.
Another idea would be to introduce some wellbeing initiatives to encourage employees to step away from their desk and get outside, like a ‘steps challenge’ or socially distanced outdoor lunch.
Here at citrus HR, we can support all our HR Service customers with any HR advice or guidance that you may need, and help with creating, reviewing, or amending your relevant policies, and help you keep everything transparent for your staff.
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