Comment by David Price – Health Assured CEO and Employee Wellbeing Expert
As the colder autumn months creep in so does the introduction of darker mornings and earlier nights, which can have a detrimental effect on an employee’s mood and motivation.
If an employee feels that their mood is particularly low and their energy levels are depleted they may be suffering from Seasonal affective disorder (SAD). SAD is sometimes unfortunately dismissed as just ‘winter blues’ and an excuse for an employee to not get up and go to work on a cold, dark, winter, morning however, it is a classified type of depression and whilst employers cannot control the changing seasons, what they can do is spot signs that an employee is suffering from SAD and consider how they can reduce the employee’s symptoms at work during bleaker periods outside.
Signs of SAD include:
· Low mood
· Decreased energy levels
· Stress or anxiety
· Low self-esteem
· Weight gain
· Struggling to wake up in the morning
· A loss of interest in normal daily activities
· Low levels of serotonin
Practical steps on how to combat seasonal affective disorder in the workplace:
· Open up a dialogue with the employee – The employee may not want to share their seasonal affective disorder with the entire office however the employee may appreciate if you sit down and discuss how they are feeling and coping
· Encourage employees to get exposure to as much natural light as possible; this could involve opening the office blinds each morning and ensuring staff take regular breaks from their desks.
· Natural light can be hard to find in some offices so it may be worth moving the employee suffering with SAD to a space with more national light or investigate SAD solutions such as light boxes, which is a light that simulates exposure to sunlight.
· Offer flexible working – This can be easier for some businesses than others but flexible working can positive for the employee and employer as it allows the employee to gain a little more daylight before the work day than they would which can result in increased employee productivity.
· Provide healthy eating options – Weight gain and an increased appetite are symptoms often associated with SAD so a great way to counteract this is providing healthy alternatives such as fruit, herbal teas and fresh coffee. You don’t need to ban sugar and sweets but offering free alternatives gives your employees the opportunity to make healthy choices.
· Assist with the provision of an EAP service
· Promote the health benefits of regular exercise
· Organise office social events to boost morale
Taking such steps to support your employees through SAD will not only minimise potential costs from employee absenteeism or presenteeism but can also boost staff’s morale and productivity, come rain or shine.