SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder) or the winter blues, affects around 2 million people in the United Kingdom (UK) each year
Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) is a condition that occurs during the winter period between September and February as sunlight/daylight hours reduce. This can result in feelings of depression as the body’s internal clocks is disrupted.
Serotonin, a brain chemical that affects mood is thought to play a key role. As serotonin levels decrease, melatonin (sleep hormone) increases, making is more difficult to get up in the morning and making us feel tired earlier, as the dark evenings draw in.
It is estimated that 1 in 4 employees in the UK suffer with SAD. Although more common in women, it can affect anyone. It can have a negative impact on work quality and engagement and is one of the main factors why absenteeism increases in the workplace during the winter.
Happiness and engagement are important building blocks when growing a successful company, so good employers spend a lot of time, energy, and money on keeping their workforce happy, motivated and productive. Unfortunately, around this time of the year, seasonal change can cause issues.
Do you suffer from SAD? Symptoms include:
- Lack of interest in normal activities
- Social withdrawal
- Weight gain
- High carb cravings (comfort eating)
- Over sleeping
- Poor concentration
- Low levels of motivation and energy
Workplaces are where employees spend most of their day, so promoting awareness and offering help in tackling SAD is of high importance for employers. Supporting employee’s awareness of SAD should be part of a company’s wellbeing charter and simple promotion techniques such as an article in the monthly newsletter can raise awareness and offer advice on ways to beat SAD.
Top tips for employers:
Encouraging regular breaks is key. In winter months, we’re often travelling to and from work in the dark, so lunchtime is our best opportunity to take in some daylight.
Exercise really helps. Exercise releases the feel-good hormone dopamine and endorphins, making you feel more positive
Having a light, spacious office can alleviate symptoms. Avoid dark wall colours or patterns so that as much light as possible is reflected to help lower melatonin levels and stimulate brain function.
Expectations of staff need to be realistic. Piling on copious amounts of work could lead to a downturn in productivity.
Provide healthy eating options. Weight gain and an increased appetite are symptoms often associated with SAD, so a great way to counteract this is by providing healthy alternatives such as fruit, nuts, herbal teas and decaffeinated tea/coffee. You don’t need to ban sugar and sweets but offering free alternatives gives your employees the opportunity to make healthy choices.
Social events are great. Organise some social events in the workplace to boost morale.
Up the dialogue. Raise awareness and educate your teams. Establish a Winter Blues champion who leads the effort in encouraging outdoor walks. Give employees the chance to talk about wellbeing and stress both confidentially and as a team. It further promotes an open dialogue and embodies positive attitudes within the work environment, resulting in improved internal relationships. Provide access to wellbeing resources (physical and digital). Choose something that works for your team and get the word out.
If you’d like help with raising awareness of health and wellbeing in your organisation, contact us via our website, call us on 0800 170 1777 or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org