How to Combat Seasonal Affective Disorder in the Workplace

How to Combat Seasonal Affective Disorder in the Workplace

As we fight through the dark cold mornings, many of us find that our moods are affected by the bleak mornings and nights. We wake up in the dark, go to work, and come home in the dark — this lack of sunshine and subsequently vitamin D, something we cannot get from food alone, takes it’s toll. Welcome, Seasonal Affective Disorder.Research has found that as many as one in three Brits display symptoms of it each year. But what exactly is it, what are the symptoms, and how can we combat it in our workplace?

What is SAD?

Also known as SAD, seasonal affective disorder is a type of depression from lack of light. It is associated with the late autumn and winter months. This occurs when your body’s internal clock and your brain and body’s chemicals all change. Some people class it as ‘the winter blues’ and it’s most common between 18–30-year-olds. Females are also most likely to be affected, but anyone of any gender or age can suffer from the disorder.

What Are the Symptoms of SAD?

Do you or someone you know suffer from SAD? Here are some of the most common symptoms you should be aware of:

  • Depression
  • Being lethargic
  • Sleep issues — normally oversleeping and struggling to stay awake
  • Loss of motivation
  • Increased anxiety
  • Weakened immune system
  • Overeating — particularly carbohydrates and sweet foods
  • Social issues, including withdrawal from social situations
  • Lack of interest in activities which were previously enjoyable
  • A persistent low mood

How Can It Affect Us at Work?

Us British folk do love to complain about work, no matter what time of year it is. Research has found that the public misses the idea of ‘having a job for life’ and four in 10 of us feel they have a poor work/life balance. Although we do complain all-year round, we tend to take more sickness leave in the winter months. Brits have claimed to feel under the weather in two out of every five days during the winter months.

A survey by HR software firm, CharlieHR, found that January has the most ‘sick days’ recorded in Britain. Staggeringly, the number of sick days recorded in the first month of the year is 53 per cent above the average of the other 11 months. The Office for National Statistics says that the main causes include coughs, colds, stress, depression, and anxiety. A lot of this could be assigned to the impact of seasonal affective disorder.

Yet, it’s not just sick days that can be associated with SAD. Research has found that more than half of British workers are significantly less productive during the winter months. Aspects such as darker and gloomy night making it harder to concentrate and the view from the office being less inspiring when it’s dark outside have been blamed for the lack of motivation.

Combatting SAD in the Workplace

SAD can be mitigated by your workplace. Laurence Olins, former Chairman of British Fruits, previously stated that companies should provide more fruit for their workers: He said: “More employers could encourage their staff to adopt a healthier diet, providing greater access to fruit in the office to prevent people reaching for sugary confectionery, particularly in these cold winter months. Eating healthily shouldn’t feel like a chore and snacking on fruits like berries can help with food cravings during the day due to their natural sweetness”.

Providing health supplements to employees can help boost their intake of vitamins, such as magnesium supplements. Pharma Nord’s Senior Nutritionist, Frankie Brogan, insists that supplements will improve productivity and morale. “Supplements are a great way to boost your team’s health and nutrition, which will in turn enhance their performance. By offering supplements to your colleagues, they will also benefit from the knowledge that you care for their well-being.”

In Britain, one in five of us suffer from a lack of vitamin D3 in our diet — a figure which increases when sunlight exposure drops. By upping vitamin intake, employees will benefit from the reduced risk of a faltering immune system during the winter months.  “Vitamin D does an excellent job of supporting our immune systems, making supplements an important consideration,” added Brogan.

Having a flexible working routine and being able to work from home are helpful for employees fighting SAD. With December and January in the UK average just eight hours of day light — the same time period as the usual working day — many find themselves commuting to and from work in darkness. By offering flexible shifts or remote working, people may benefit from being able to get out when it is still light.

SAD can affect anyone, so follow this guide to improve symptoms at work. If you feel like you need help, seek professional advice.

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