Workplace Dialogue: Beating the Winter Sadness

Workplace Dialogue: Beating the Winter Sadness

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How you can help your employees

As we saw last week, Blue Monday is now widely recognised and named as the one day in the year that we are supposedly at our saddest.  

I’m not sure that allocating one individual day in the year, as ‘the worst day’, is particularly helpful.  

In fact, influential organisations, such as The Mental health charity, Mind, do not believe we should have a ‘Blue Monday’’ and state on their websites: “Here at Mind, we think it’s dangerously misleading.  Those of us who live with depression know that those feelings aren’t dictated by the date. “

This time of the year is not only about Blue Monday or any other day of general ‘blues’, it can also be about being SAD or having SAD — Seasonal Affective Disorder.

Are you silently suffering?

Although the exact cause of SAD is still unclear, it is believed (and backed up by numerous studies) that this symptom gets triggered in many people due to the lack of sunlight.    

So, if you’re like many people who may suffer with SAD (and there is no formal diagnosis), you could find your energy sapped, and in a low mood. You may also feel lethargic and sleepy during the day, and could sleep for longer than normal at night and still find it hard to get up in the morning. 

Gaining weight is also normal for such people. 

So SAD has become known as the “winter depression” because the symptoms are more apparent and tend to be more severe during the winter.

This disorder, if not treated or dealt with, can potentially take a toll on your workplace wellbeing as well as your personal life. There is a lot to be said about SAD as a pre-curser to more general mental health issues;  and we know these have a tremendously high negative impact on employees and businesses alike.

To make matters worse, depression at this time of year is also linked with lack of Vitamin D.  You probably won’t be able to tell if you have a vitamin D deficiency, but according to world-renowned dermatologist Dr Howard Murad, general symptoms can include: ‘fatigue, muscle pain and weakness, weight gain, poor concentration, restless sleep, and headaches — very similar to the symptoms of SAD.

Absenteeism in the workplace through ill health and depression costs companies millions of pounds annually in the UK.  It makes sense to act on this and create preventative measures that are simple and cost effective.

Joy Reymond, head of rehabilitation services at Unum, commented: “If you intervene early, you can reduce the length of a mental health-related absence by 18 per cent” 

It is very much a common sense approach, which makes it even more reasonable to create a structure for helping employees in this area:

1. Begin the discussion. 

  • We might acknowledge that we are feeling down and even think it might have something to do with SAD, but do we openly admit it.  Most certainly we don’t do so in the workplace.
  • Offer discussions groups, open up a debate, or add it to the newsletter, and give good positive advice.

2. Create light and open spaces.  

  • Natural day light is always the best and should be provided as far as reasonably practical.  
  • Offer floating desks for good and badly lit areas.
  • Top up a lack of natural light by providing a Light Box.  Although reviews are mixed, many people believe it works well.

3. Offer flexible working, and although this is not always possible, where it is, the change in environment for many employees is beneficial and they may be able to get more day light in to their lives before the days starts and ends.

4. Encourage people to go out at lunchtime and not stay sitting at their desk.  A walk, change of scenery, fresh air an activity all help in mood changes.

  • If they do work through lunch hours, then provide them with a mini light box for up to 15 minutes of light treatment while having a bite of a sandwich at their desk, or in a rest/coffee room!

5. Healthy eating options are great and really do encourage a sense of belonging when provided for in the workplace. 

  • So, put out a bowl of vitamin C filled fruit for wellbeing.
  • Provide good nutritious Vitamin D filled food in your canteen or coffee shop.
  • Or have a specialist company to come in and provide healthy options at lunchtime – people would always be willing to buy a tasty food bowl than a sandwich from the canteen!

Let’s begin a dialogue and encourage people to think more pro-actively about our day-to-day health to combat the affects of our winter days, and stay healthy.

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