Five tips for coping with Seasonal Affective Disorder in the workplace

September 19, 2019

Paris Stevens

If you’ve ever noticed your mood drop when the sunshine disappears and the evenings get darker, you’re not alone. Seasonal Affective Disorder, sometimes known as ‘winter depression’ affects up to 20% of the population. As well as low moods, some people experience sleepiness, irritability and cravings for stodgy foods.

Thankfully for most of us, symptoms are fairly mild and can be managed with simple steps at home. However, SAD can impact office morale and productivity, because that low mood can be infectious. There are a few simple steps you can take to ensure your employees stay motivated throughout autumn and winter. 

1. Let there be light

One of the things that SAD sufferers struggle with is the dark mornings and evenings. There’s not much you can do about this, but you can ensure that office spaces are airy, with plenty of natural light. For gloomy days where the sky is determined to stay overcast, you can invest in lighting that mimics the outdoors and keeps your rooms brighter. Think carefully about the decor in your office too, making sure it’s the kind of environment your employees will feel comfortable with. If you’re thinking about redecorating, it’s worth asking your employees what they’d like to see in their office space.

2. Team building 

Team building is a great way to get your staff motivated and boost the mood in the office. Whether it’s games that get people thinking or more adrenalin-based pursuits, autumn is a good time to plan something fun and engaging for your team. Studies show that motivated employees with a positive work balance are 21% more productive in the workplace. As well as keeping up morale, team building events are a great way for managers to engage their staff with new information and insight. For anyone in your team who is struggling with SAD, renewed focus will help them to take their mind off it. 

3. Healthy eating and exercise 

Those dark nights make it all the more tempting to curl up in bed with a pizza as soon as you get back from work. But this might not be the best strategy for dealing with a low mood. Exercise and a good diet are known to enhance serotonin levels, making people feel happier and healthier. Consider introducing healthy eating initiatives at work, as well as ways for your employees to stay active in busy desk jobs. Simple things like treadmill desks, regular breaks and a free fruit bowl are a great start. If you have some extra budget, you might also consider organising fun runs, office sporting events and cookery classes for your staff. 

4. Flexible working hours

Flexible working hours can make a world of difference for anyone with SAD. Getting up at 6am in the middle of winter can be a real challenge for many people, so it’s worth offering the option for a later start and finish time. Others may want to do some of their hours on a Saturday or Sunday during daylight hours, if that’s possible with client commitments. Some offices may consider offering work from home options, or allowing employees to work in different offices around the world if you’re a global company. 

5. Encourage going outdoors 

It might be cold and wet, but going outside in winter is just as important as it is in summer. Encourage your employees to take regular breaks and get lots of fresh air. If possible, it’s also worth investing in your outdoors office spaces. If you can fit heating outside, it will be easier for your staff to walk around in the winter and stay warm. It also means they can take quick breaks from their desk without having to go out of the building. 

If companies want to maximise the health and happiness of their employees, these small changes can make a huge difference to office morale, productivity and even long-term staff retention. By recognising and reacting to people’s personal challenges, you can develop as an organisation and build a better brand. 

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