Business Guidance / Other

Tips to Help Employees Beat the Winter Blues

For many, the arrival of fall brings on mental and physical changes as the temperature drops and the hours of daylight get shorter. Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) is a type of depression caused by the change in seasons, typically affecting people from fall through the winter months. An estimated 10 million Americans are thought to suffer from this disorder. SAD manifests itself in many ways with symptoms that can differ from year to year, but are consistently associated with seasonal mood changes. Symptoms may include but not limited to:

  • Difficult waking up in the morning
  • Mood changes
  • Sleepiness during the daylight hours
  • Low energy or fatigue
  • Trouble concentrating
  • Low to no motivation to exercise
  • Carbohydrate cravings
  • Weight gain
  • Withdrawal from social situations
  • A down, depressed mood during specific months

Many of the symptoms can cause performance issues at work. While it is the employee’s responsibility to get a diagnosis from a doctor and seek treatment, a good employer should be sensitive to this disorder and assist those employees suffering with SAD with certain accommodations. Here’s a few suggestions that can help employee(s) going through this seasonal change:

  • Offer flexible hours
  • Increase light at the employee’s desk
  • Relocate the employee’s desk to an area with increased exposure to light
  • Introduce a wellness plan during the winter months
    • Promote daily walks outside even if its chilly – some natural light is better than none
    • Encourage exercise and yoga which have been shown to help
    • Challenge employees to make healthy diet choices over the winter months

If an employee communicates to an employer that he or she is suffering from Seasonal Affective Disorder and needs a reasonable accommodation and/or an FMLA leave, the employer should take the employee’s request seriously. Employers cannot discriminate or retaliate against an employee who requires FMLA leave due to this disorder. Plus, if an employee is not happy then most likely their productivity will be decreased, so it is wise for an employer to be proactive in helping these employees.

As an employer there are countless issues with which you are faced. Seasonal Affective Disorder is just one to consider. That is why Univest Insurance has a dedicated HR Consulting practice to help employers navigate these complex issues. Contact me at (267) 646-4467 or KrawitzJ@univest.net to have a conversation about how our services can help you address ongoing HR topics.