Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD)
Autumn is here, and with it comes earlier sunsets and more overcast days. For many people, the transition can bring on symptoms of Seasonal Affective Disorder, or SAD.
Seasonal affective disorder is a type of clinical depression that typically causes symptoms in autumn and winter, easing off in the spring and summer.
Symptoms of SAD are similar to classic depression symptoms, and can include:
- Feeling run-down or lacking motivation
- Sleep disturbances (sleeping too much or having trouble sleeping)
- Difficulty concentrating
- Feelings of hopelessness or despair
- Changes in appetite (in particular, unusual cravings for carbohydrates)
Though the causes of this disorder are not fully understood, a decrease in sunlight and concurrent decrease in Vitamin D production are likely contributing factors.
SAD and the workplace
Though September is often seen as the time when everyone returns to work and school after summer vacations, it’s actually quite common to feel less productive during the fall.
Not only can the change in weather have a negative impact on our energy levels, but it can also have damaging effects on our physical health. With sick days being most common this time of year, and bad weather leading to more traffic and poorer travel conditions, you might notice the number of colleagues in your office beginning to dwindle in late September and early October.
Seasonal Affective Disorder can cause many issues in the workplace, the most pressing of which are absenteeism and a loss of productivity. Workers that suffer from SAD are likely to experience a drop in productivity and may take more sick days than they would during the summer months.
Strategies for mitigating SAD-related productivity loss
One of the biggest hurdles in mitigating the impacts of SAD at work is the fact that SAD may be tough to recognize at first. Employees who suffer from SAD may not be aware that this disorder is what’s causing their low mood or difficulties with focus. Educating your employees and showing compassion when they are struggling are great ways to help bridge the gap.
As an employer or supervisor, the health and wellbeing of your employees should be your first priority. You have the power to create a workplace culture where employees feel comfortable and safe bringing up mental health concerns. A positive workplace culture can go a long way toward ensuring that those concerns are addressed early, so they don’t spiral out of control and lead to significant performance issues.
Here are some strategies that you can use to start a conversation with your employees:
- Host an informational workshop on Seasonal Affective Disorder and its symptoms
- If you’re managing a remote workforce, send out informational emails and flyers to start a conversation.
- Educate employees on healthy coping strategies
Ensuring that employees are comfortable coming to you with their concerns is one step. You also need to make sure that you have policies in place that can help employees get help with mental health concerns.
Offering flexible work hours if possible can be a good strategy to let employees adjust to changing daylight hours, or get work done when they feel most productive. Having an Employee Assistance Program (EAP) that includes mental health support can also be a very helpful step for keeping employees happy and healthy.
Refining your workplace policies to combat SAD
Developing clear policies and procedures for dealing with employee mental health concerns such as SAD makes it easier for employees to approach their supervisors about these concerns by creating a clear, consistent process. It can also make it much easier for you to address these concerns in a timely manner, by helping you locate resources and appropriate next steps.
A good mental health support policy should tell the employee:
- Who to talk to about their concerns
- What types of assistance are offered and how to request assistance
- What services may be provided or covered under an EAP or health plan
- General timelines and follow-up procedures
- Employee rights
The fall season doesn’t have to mean a fall in productivity. Do you need help creating a workplace mental health policy? At Fluent Motion, we are experts in workplace health and safety – and we understand that mental health is part of your employees’ overall health. Contact us today to get help developing and refining your workplace mental health policies.