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4 Tips to Manage Seasonal Depression in the Workplace

24 Feb


Everyone has heard of seasonal depression, but not everyone knows that it’s a real disorder that affects millions of people year-round. While seasonal depression is how most people refer to it, the clinical name is Season Affective Disorder (SAD).

SAD is defined as an extreme form of common seasonal mood cycles that can be associated with depression. It is so common, in fact, that the National Mental Health Association (NMHA) says it affects 10 million Americans (mostly women in their 20s) every year. While individuals can experience SAD throughout the year, it’s most prevalent during the autumn and winter months. This is because it is attributed to an imbalance of two chemicals in the brain (melatonin and serotonin) due to less sunlight being available.

Although SAD can be viewed as more of a societal phenomenon, it can have a negative impact on your business. Employees experiencing SAD can cost employers $51 billion according to Mental Health America, due to absenteeism from work and lost productivity. This is a statistic that has cause for concern.

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Here are a few tips to help you manage season depression in the workplace.

Know the Signs

Similar to employee burnout, there are many symptoms of SAD that aren’t as easily noticed, and some may be unethical to ask an employee about.

According to the Mayo Clinic, the following are considered symptoms of SAD:

  • Depression
  • Hopelessness
  • Anxiety
  • Loss of energy
  • Social withdrawal
  • Oversleeping
  • Loss of interest in activities previously enjoyed
  • Appetite changes, especially a craving for foods high in carbohydrates
  • Weight gain
  • Difficulty concentrating and processing information

Some of these could be symptoms of other things as well. However, if you consider the time of the year and your employee’s state of wellbeing during other seasons, it isn’t unreasonable to connect these symptoms to SAD.

It is important to keep in mind that you can check in with your employees, but there’s a fine line between trying to be supportive and asking questions that are offensive. For example, you can ask an employee if there is anything you can do to help them improve focus, but you cannot ask an employee if their noticeable change in physical appearance is due to seasonal depression.

Conduct Regular Evaluations

If you are having difficulties spotting the signs of workplace depression, especially in the winter months, consider conducting evaluations with your employees. If this is a method you are comfortable with, be sure to evaluate all employees, not just a few. This way no one is being singled out.

During evaluations, not only will you be able to identify any problems going on, but you’ll also be able to give positive feedback to your employees which will make them feel more appreciated and boost their mood.

It is important that your employees are happy because it has a direct effect on the productivity of your business. According to Good.co, happy employees have 31% higher productivity, 37% higher sales, and 3 times more creativity than unhappy employees.

If you need help conducting evaluations, use an eval template to guide you through the process.

Offer Flexible Work Environments

Although you may want all your employees in the same place, this may not be an effective solution to managing seasonal depression. Allowing employees to work remotely will give them more freedom to choose their location, which gives them the opportunity to be in a comfortable setting where they can be more productive. This includes a workspace with more direct sunlight.

According to Mind’s Workplace Wellbeing Index 2017/18, more than a quarter of employers (26%) do not have exposure to natural daylight in all their workspaces.

If remote work isn’t a possibility, there can still be more autonomy when it comes to the workplace environment. Autonomy is the power to shape your work environment in ways that allow you to perform at your best. This may include changing desks, sitting closer to windows, or even outdoor working spaces.

Autonomy in the workplace could drastically boost the mental well-being of your employees. The Society for Human Resources Management (SHRM) conducted a study that shows 87% of employees said flexibility in their next job was either important or very important.

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Say Thank You

While it may not seem like much, a simple thank you can go a long way. Your employees work hard and they should be recognized for their efforts. If they aren’t, morale can start to decline.

According to HR Daily Advisor, one in five employees feel their company does not do a good job recognizing their hard work and commitment. Not only will it make them happier to be recognized, but it will also help build your company’s reputation and retention rate. If you still need help managing seasonal depression, consider working with a professional employer organization (PEO) like VensureHR. PEOs are masters of human resources and can provide a wide range of resources like recruiting guides, onboarding checklists, and more to put you on the right path.

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