Longer nights, shorter days, less sunshine and more frigid temperatures combine to cause problems for many people who suffer from seasonal affective disorder (SAD). This condition can take a serious toll on the mental health and well-being of employees to say nothing of how it affects their work performance. Therefore, it’s important for you as a business owner to be cognizant of your employees’ mental health as we enter the winter season in earnest. Keep the following tips in mind to be more mindful of your employees whose mental health might suffer this time of year.
Encourage PTO and Travel Time
Many times employees are hesitant to take time off. This can be because they feel a responsibility to keep things moving in the company or because they have asked previously and feel they are pressing their luck. However, in some cases, employees simply don’t ask off because they are berated when doing so or made to feel guilty.
You can make it easier for employees who need a break this time of year to ask for one by encouraging PTO and travel time. Let your employees know that you expect them to take advantage of any built-up vacation days for the year and that you want them to enjoy themselves, relax and come back rejuvenated. Don’t ever make employees feel like they cannot leave, that their job is in jeopardy or that an absence should alter their standing with the company. This will only serve to make them feel trapped and unable to ever take a break. This isn’t the type of environment you want to create within your office.
Create an HR Support System With Resources
Ideally, your HR department, and management in general, can serve as a help for your employees, giving them the resources they need to do their jobs, enabling them to speak up if they feel something is wrong, etc. In other words, they are the employee’s advocates within the company. This role should also include resources for mental health conditions like seasonal affective disorder. Make sure your HR and management team is educated on the matter and can help employees who are facing this condition get through the winter months as healthy and happy as possible.
Improve Office Conditions
Another way to be mindful of your employees’ mental health and maintain a healthy office life is to improve your office conditions. When possible, incorporate natural lighting or give employees access to desks near windows. Uncover windows that are in the building, allowing the natural light to shine in. If this is impossible, encourage time away from the office, allowing employees to be in the sunshine for some part of the day. If getting outdoors is impossible for whatever reason, consider investing in seasonal affective disorder lamps that are designed to duplicate the natural effects of the sunlight. Install these in the office and encourage employees to utilize them regularly. It’s important to remember that even a few minutes of sunlight can naturally raise the serotonin levels in the body, which is known as the “feel-good hormone.”
Encourage Social Activities to Beat Isolation
If possible, encourage your employees to spend time together doing fun, leisurely activities. This will help the feelings of isolation that employees who suffer from SAD tend to feel. If you are still working remotely, perhaps consider a fun activity for everyone to do together via Zoom or other platforms.
Consider Altering Your Employee Benefits Plan
Finally, to fully support your employees who suffer from the mental health condition known as SAD, consider adding to your benefits plan. Incorporating benefits like therapy and a gym membership can go a long way in helping your employees prioritize their mental health throughout the year.
Bottom Line: Awareness and Understanding is Key
Above all else, simply having an understanding of the problem that affects so many is key in creating a healthy work environment. Provide resources and be there for your employees during this time, and also encourage them to take active steps to overcome the winter blues in the workplace. After all, your employees are your most valuable asset, so it's vitally important that they stay healthy and safe.