Seasonal Affective Disorder, or SAD, affects around 1 in 15 people in the UK. Characterised by depressive symptoms, those who suffer from it can find it hard to carry out everyday tasks, especially in the workplace.

Keep reading as we discuss how SAD can impact your employees, the symptoms to look out for, and how to support workers with mental health issues such as SAD.

What is SAD?

Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) is a mood disorder with depressive symptoms that comes and goes in a seasonal pattern. It is sometimes known as “winter depression” as symptoms tend to be more severe during the winter months, and recess in the summer months.

Causes of SAD

The exact cause is not really understood, but it is thought it is due to reduced exposure to sunlight during the winter months.

Symptoms of SAD

The symptoms of SAD start in the autumn or winter and improve in the springtime. As with all depressive conditions, symptoms vary from person to person, and for some, can have a significant impact on their lives.

  • A persistent low mood
  • A loss of pleasure or interest in normal everyday activities
  • Feeling irritable
  • Feelings of despair, guilt, and worthlessness
  • Low self-esteem
  • Tearfulness
  • Feeling stressed or anxious
  • Becoming less sociable

How SAD can appear in the workplace

SAD and depressive symptoms can manifest differently in a work environment. Symptoms to look out for include:

  • Absenteeism & more frequent sick leave
  • Missing deadlines, making errors more frequently or a general reduction in productivity
  • Withdrawing from social events or office chats
  • Increased forgetfulness
  • Caring less about their appearance and/or personal hygiene
  • Becoming disinterested in work
  • Difficulty making decisions
  • Tearfulness and emotional reactions without clear triggers
  • Talking slower and communication difficulties.

What to do if you are suffering from SAD

  1. Get as much natural sunlight as possible:
    • A lunchtime walk will help
    • Morning sunlight directly into your eyes – don’t stare at the sun as that will damage your eyes or wear sunglasses
    • Sit near a window when working
  2. Stay in your routine:
    • Get up at the same time and go to bed at the same time
  3. Get regular exercise:
    • If you can, do this outside, walking is a great therapy for all types of depression
  4. Eat a balanced healthy diet:
    • Natural foods rather than processed foods
  5. Make your working area light and airy as possible.
  6. Manage your stress levels.
  7. If you are feeling down, talk to somebody.
  8. Try a light box to increase light levels.

If your symptoms get worse or they don’t go away, speak to your GP as soon as possible.

How workplaces can support employees’ mental health

Train staff on mental health

Help your team recognise signs of mental health issues in themselves and others with educational resources.

At Cardinus we offer Mental Health Awareness and Personal Wellbeing eLearning courses designed to support employees’ mental wellbeing and provide them with the tools to cope with mental health triggers.

Ensuring your workforce is aware of the risks and symptoms, as well as healthy ways to cope with stress and other factors will help to create a supportive workforce that looks out for one another to prevent crises.

Allow flexible work hours during the winter

To help reduce the likelihood of your team developing SAD and other mental health problems, maximise daylight hours by allowing your team to work flexibly. This can mean starting earlier and finishing earlier or allowing flexible breaks during the day so that they can get some natural light.

Promote healthy habits in the workplace

Organisations can encourage workers to look after their physical and mental health by offering workplace health schemes such as:

Cycle to work schemes, discounted gym memberships, free fruit, health and dental plans, private healthcare, mental health days, and access to counselling services

Promote open conversations

Create a culture that’s supportive of mental health conditions by encouraging regular and open conversations about mental health. This can occur in weekly catch-up meetings and one-to-one meetings with your employees. Ensure managers are approachable and conscious of their team’s wellbeing.

Encourage staff to seek support

Finally, organisations should encourage their workforce to seek help if they are struggling with mental health issues such as SAD. If you notice a colleague is behaving differently or struggling, gently and discreetly suggest they get the help they need.

Further help

If you are concerned about your mental health or somebody else’s, use the below resources to get the help you need.

Find out more

For more information about how Cardinus can help you address mental health in the workplace, contact us today.

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