How Seasonal Affective Disorder Impacts Employees

by Chris Rhatigan on Dec 21, 2016 8:00:00 AM

SAD at workWith winter in full swing, you may see a drop in energy and enthusiasm among some employees. This isn’t abnormal, but some of your employees may be suffering from seasonal affective disorder (SAD). This condition goes beyond the winter blues and is actually a form of depression.

 

The Causes of, Symptoms of, and Treatments for SAD

The American Academy of Family Physicians reports that as much as 6% of the population suffers from SAD. It’s unclear what causes this. Medical experts speculate that it could be drops in serotonin and melatonin levels, according to The Mayo Clinic. This is because of fewer hours of sunlight during the winter months.

Whatever the cause, SAD results in the following symptoms often starting sometime in the fall and not clearing up until the spring:

  • Lower energy
  • Fatigue
  • Moodiness
  • Depression
  • Trouble sleeping
  • Lack of interest in activities and social events

The following groups of individuals have a higher likelihood of dealing with SAD: women, young people, those with a family history of the condition, those who live in other northern climates, and those diagnosed with clinical depression or bipolar disorder. According to the Society for Human Resource Management, 10 million Americans suffer from this condition, mostly women in their twenties.

The Mayo Clinic reports that the following treatments have had a positive effect on some patients:

  • Light therapy
  • Psychotherapy
  • Medications to boost serotonin and melatonin levels

 

Tips for Accommodating Workers With SAD

As this is a recognized mental health condition, employers may be required to make concessions in line with the Family and Medical Leave Act and state laws. This may include providing concessions to allow these employees to do their jobs.

An Employee Assistance Program (EAP) is helpful for workers to set up therapy and medical appointments. An employee wellness program is a good investment as well. Exercise and maintaining physical health can be helpful for employees with SAD. According to Workplace Strategies for Mental Health, a survey found that 85% of employees with mental health issues said they could maintain productivity as long as their employer provides adequate support.

Employers should allow these employees to take a break outside in the sun during the workday. The employee may want to move to an area of the workplace that receives sunlight. Employers should also be sensitive if the employee needs to leave work during the day for treatment.

Offering support to employees with SAD and other mental health issues isn’t just the right thing to do. Wellness programs and flexibility are associated with better retention rates and stronger workplace culture.

 

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This post was written by Chris Rhatigan

Chris Rhatigan is a freelance writer and editor. He is a former newspaper reporter for The New Haven Register and The Iowa City Press-Citizen. He enjoys playing old video games, studying (and trying to speak) Hindi, and walking his dog on the local trails. He lives in India.