10-20% of your employees could be signed off with Seasonal Affective Disorder this winter

28th December 2017

Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) is, according to the NHS, a ‘type of depression that comes and goes in a seasonal pattern’. The symptoms (including low mood, loss of interest in daily activities, irritability, lethargy, feelings of despair and craving carbohydrates) are more common and serious in the winter. This is widely believe to be due to a lack of sunlight due to the weather and shorter daylight hours in these months.

It’s important that as managers and HR professionals alike that you look out for your employees and their wellbeing; this is obviously vital year-long, but particularly relevant during times when depression, tiredness and an accompanying lack of productivity can be more common.

There are some treatments that GPs recommend for SAD, all of which can be supported by employers in the workplace to encourage two things: that sufferers feel better as soon as possible and that they can continue to work during this time.

  1. Lifestyle measures. This includes getting as much sunlight as possible, keeping stress under control and exercising regularly. Encourage all staff to take full advantage of their lunch breaks by stepping away from their desks and getting some fresh air. Offer subsidised gym memberships for employees and cycle to work schemes. Don’t stop reminding employees of these things just because the weather isn’t great – there’s no such thing as bad weather, just the wrong clothes! Providing showers at work may also encourage people to take the time to do some exercise on their lunch break.
  2. Light therapy. A UV light box can be used in place of natural sunlight if necessary. Have your company invests in a few and let people know they are welcome to borrow to keep on their desk if they wish.
  3. Talking therapies. Provide information about staff wellbeing services that you have in place and of any subsidisation that staff can get should they visit a practitioners. If these things don’t exist in your company then this season is a good time to give that some thought and consideration as to what it can offer.

It is essential that any workplace is a supportive and safe place for employees, particularly during dark (literally and figuratively) times. Remind staff that they are not living to work – they are working to live. Health comes first. Stress and anxiety over work will only exacerbate symptoms of many illnesses, including SAD. Alleviate worries as much as you can and ensure that mental health is prioritised.