Winter Wellbeing: Supporting Employees with Seasonal Affective Disorder


As the winter months approach, many of us look forward to cosy nights in, sitting by the fire, and holiday festivities. However, for some employees, this time of year can trigger Seasonal Affective Disorder (otherwise known as SAD), a form of seasonal depression, often during the darker winter months. As an employer, it’s crucial to recognise and support employees who suffer from SAD. As the days get shorter, it’s a good time to pay a little extra attention to your people.

What is Seasonal Affective Disorder?

Seasonal Affective Disorder is a type of depression that typically occurs as we move into the winter months when daylight hours are shorter, and natural sunlight is limited. As we get deeper into winter, there may be days when we don’t see the sun at all. The exact causes of SAD are not fully understood, but factors such as reduced exposure to sunlight, disrupted circadian rhythms, and changes in serotonin and melatonin levels may contribute to its development.

Common symptoms of SAD may include:

  1. Feelings of sadness or hopelessness
  2. Fatigue and low energy
  3. Difficulty concentrating
  4. Changes in sleep patterns (oversleeping or insomnia)
  5. Weight gain and increased appetite
  6. Social withdrawal or anxiety
  7. Increased irritability

Recognizing the signs of SAD in your employees is the first step in providing the necessary support.

Creating a Supportive Environment

  1. Promote Awareness: Encourage open conversations about SAD in the workplace. By creating a culture where employees feel comfortable discussing their mental health, you can help break down the stigma surrounding SAD.
  2. Offer Flexibility: Where possible, consider flexible working hours or remote working options. Employees with SAD may find it challenging to wake up early and commute in the dark, so allowing them to adjust their schedules can have a positive impact.
  3. Provide Adequate Lighting: Ensure that the workplace is well-lit. If possible, use natural light sources. Proper lighting can help improve mood and energy levels.
  4. Encourage Your Employees to Stay Active: Exercise has been shown to alleviate symptoms of SAD and improve overall mental health. Having fitness initiatives and incentives in place can keep your employees motivated and moving during the colder, darker months of the year.
  5. Mental Health Support: Offer access to mental health resources and employee assistance programs. It’s important to ensure that employees are signposted to the available resources for seeking professional help when needed.
  6. Promote a Healthy Diet: Encourage a balanced diet to ensure your employees are getting the nutrients, vitamins and minerals needed to fuel their body and maintain energy to fight off the sluggishness and fatigue often associated with SAD.
  7. Conduct frequent one-to-ones: Regularly check in with employees, this is a great way to spot any early signs of declining mental wellbeing, allowing you to be proactive in offering support.
  8. Educate Your Team: Train managers on how to recognise the signs of SAD and provide guidance on offering support without judgment.

Seasonal Affective Disorder is a real and challenging condition that affects many employees during the winter months. Companies can play a vital role in supporting their employees’ mental health by creating a supportive and understanding workplace environment. By promoting awareness, offering flexibility, providing access to mental health resources, and implementing other wellness initiatives, employers can help employees suffering from SAD cope more effectively and maintain their productivity and well-being throughout the winter season.

How can oneHR help?

oneHR provides you with a platform to communicate with your people, share information and resources, and record your one-to-ones.

Additionally, SAD can be a cause of increased absence within your business. Being able to spot absence trends using oneHR’s absence calendar and reporting tools will allow you to spot the early signs of an employee’s declining wellbeing and take early action to offer appropriate support and guidance.

Speak to the oneHR team today for help with managing Seasonal Affective Disorder within your business.

Call: 0330 107 1037


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