Benefits and Compensation, Learning & Development

How to Support Employees Suffering from Seasonal Depression

For the millions of people who suffer from seasonal depression, also known as seasonal affective disorder (SAD), the winter months can be especially difficult. But did you know SAD can also influence workers in the workplace? Employers therefore need to be aware of this problem and do their part to help employees who may be struggling with seasonal depression.

What Is Seasonal Depression?

Seasonal depression, also known as the winter blues, is a type of depression triggered by a lack of exposure to natural light during the shorter days and longer nights of winter. Common symptoms include feeling down for an extended period of time, difficulty sleeping, changes in appetite, fatigue, and a loss of interest in activities. According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), up to 10 million Americans suffer from this disorder each year.

Why Is Seasonal Depression Bad for Employers?

As with any mental health issue, employers should be aware that seasonal depression can impact employee productivity and morale. Studies have shown that employees suffering from SAD are more likely to take more sick days than those who are not affected by the disorder. Furthermore, they may experience higher stress levels and lower job satisfaction—factors that can lead to decreased productivity and ultimately lower profits for businesses.

How to Address Seasonal Depression

Employers should proactively address any issues related to seasonal depression among their workers by recognizing the signs and offering resources such as counseling services or employee assistance programs (EAPs).

In addition, taking steps like encouraging employees to get outside for some fresh air during their breaks—even if it’s just for a few minutes at a time—and promoting healthy eating habits throughout the workday can have a positive impact.

Finally, employers can also provide access to light therapy lamps, which use special bulbs designed to mimic natural sunlight and help alleviate symptoms associated with SAD.

Seasonal depression affects millions of people each year, including those in the workplace, so it’s important employers recognize this issue and take steps to support their workers accordingly. By providing resources such as counseling services, promoting healthy habits like getting outside during breaks, and offering light therapy lamps, companies can ensure they are doing their part to help reduce the negative effects associated with SAD among their employees.

The costs can be minimal, but the benefits can be significant.

Lin Grensing-Pophal is a Contributing Editor at HR Daily Advisor.

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