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Fighting Seasonal Affective Disorder in the Workplace

In the winter, we wake up in the dark and come home in the dark. Although this can be very uncomfortable and draining for the majority of us, there’s also the issue of Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) which takes a heavy toll. 

Around 20 percent of us feel the effects of the winter blues, however around three percent of Britons are estimated to suffer from SAD, preventing those afflicted from functioning normally.  But what exactly is it, what are the symptoms, and how can we combat it in our workplace?  

What SAD means 

So, what is SAD? SAD is a depression that is caused by a 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.  

The symptoms of SAD 

If you suspect that yourself, or someone you know is suffering from SAD, here are some of the most common symptoms you should be aware of:  

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

Can SAD affect me at work? 

SAD can be detrimental to our work performance. 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. 

Research by HR software firm CharlieHR, 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.   

Sick days aren’t the only negative impact SAD can have on the workplace. 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.  

How to combat SAD ion the workplace 

There’re steps we can take to combat SAD symptoms. 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”. 

Workforces can supply supplements for health and vitamins to their workers to boost their intake. 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.” 

Around one in five of us in the UK 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. 

Furthermore, flexible working patterns and remote working are two other great ways to help employees during the winter months. 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. 

If you’re worried that SAD is affecting your day to day life, don’t hesitate to seek medical advice! 

Sources 

https://www.newstatesman.com/politics/uk/2019/01/what-thing-called-sad-why-we-are-still-sceptical-about-winter-blues
https://www.mentalhealth.org.uk/a-to-z/s/seasonal-affective-disorder-sad
https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/seasonal-affective-disorder-sad/
https://www.startupdonut.co.uk/news/uk-workers-take-more-sick-days-january
https://lady.co.uk/productivity-slumps-winter-research-finds
http://www.projectbritain.com/weather/sunshine.htm