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Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD)

Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) in the workplace, and how you can help

Anxiety and despair brought on by a lack of sunlight are known as seasonal affective disorder (SAD). It is connected with the months of late autumn and early winter. This occurs when your body’s internal clock, as well as the chemicals in your brain and body, all alter. According to some, this is known as ‘the winter blues’, and is most prevalent among people aged 18–30, although the disorder can affect anyone of any gender or age group, including children.

People experiencing Seasonal Affective Disorder may encounter the following symptoms:

  • Lethargy
  • Low energy and trouble waking up in the morning
  • Gaining excess weight
  • Reduced levels of concentration and productivity

Seasonal Affective Disorder in the Workplace

Sick leave is typically taken in greater numbers during the winter months. During the winter months, two out of every five days, the British have reported to be feeling under the weather.

According to a report issued by HR software company CharlieHR, the month of January had the highest number of sick days. Amazingly, the number of sick days documented in the first month of the year is 53 percent higher than the average 11 months of the calendar year. Coughs, colds, stress, melancholy, and anxiety, according to the Office for National Statistics, are the most common causes of chronic coughing. This could be the effects of seasonal affective disorder.

The symptoms of seasonal affective disorder can manifest themselves in a variety of ways, including sickness absences. A recent study has shown that more than half of British workers experience a considerable decrease in productivity during the winter months. When it is dark outside, factors such as darker and gloomier nights make it difficult to concentrate, and the view from the office is less inspiring. This has been attributed to a lack of motivation.

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How to help employees in the workplace with seasonal affective disorder

Treatment options for seasonal affective disorder symptoms include medical and non-medical approaches. If you are concerned about seasonal affective disorder in the workplace, employees could be suggested the following treatments:

Vitamin D3 supplements and supplying fruit – in the United Kingdom, studies suggest that one out of every five people is deficient in vitamin D3 throughout the winter.

Employees with weakened immune systems will have a lower winter mortality rate if their vitamin intake is increased.

Seasonal affective disorder sufferers may benefit from flexible work hours and the ability to work from home. Due to the fact that there are only eight hours of daylight on average in the UK in December and January – the same amount of time as the normal working day – many people have to commute to and from work in the dark. People may benefit from being able to leave the office when it is still light, by enabling flexible shifts or remote working.

Promoting the value of exposing employees to as much natural light as possible could require as simple a routine as raising the blinds in the morning, or consider encouraging people to take a short walk outside during the day.

Train a member of staff in Mental Health First Aid, to better support everyone in the workplace. Someone who is trained in Mental Health First Aid will be better equipped to spot the signs of seasonal affective disorder, and provide support and signposting to relevant services.

Internal memos and newsletters could highlight the advantages of regular exercise, no matter how small the amount of time spent exercising may be.

Some people may find improvements to their seasonal affective disorder from a light box, to imitate being outside in the sun. Consider whether light boxes could be installed in the workplace, or the NHS may be able to help with these in some cases. 

Suggest professional help, including psychotherapy based on cognitive-behavioural principles, counselling, and medications that treat depression (via referral to the GP).

Providing support for your employees with any or all of the above will not only make your employees lives better by helping their seasonal affective disorder in the workplace, it could lower days off and increase productivity. Being trained in Mental Health First Aid will help you help those around you, whether that is in the workplace or elsewhere.

Supporting mental health in the workplace is a corporate responsibility. By encouraging positive support, it demonstrates that mental health awareness is being taken seriously, giving employees to speak with confidence.

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