Depending on where your business is located, the long winter months can mean anything from shorter days to bleak grey skies to colder temperatures. And these can stretch out for months on end. Add to that the fact that the holidays are in the rearview, many people are carrying around a few extra pounds, the busy first quarter is underway… and you have the ingredients for seasonal depression.
Beyond the external factors that can cause people to be depressed in the wintertime, there is a perfectly good biological reason for why it occurs. Lower levels of light cause the human brain to produce less melatonin, a brain chemical that regulates the sleep and wake cycle. This can lead to disrupted sleep patterns, commonly associated with Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD).
Warning signs of seasonal depression
If your employees don’t quite seem the same during the winter months, it could be due to SAD. You might notice common signs in your workers, such as a decrease in productivity or difficulty completing tasks and meeting deadlines. Other signs can include:
- Acting hopeless or withdrawn
- Chatting less
- Appearing tired, apathetic or disinterested
- Complaining of difficulty concentrating, focusing or processing information
- Weight gain or weight loss
- Crankiness or moodiness
- A short temper
How you can help your team through seasonal depression
The good news is, winter is only a few months long and spring will soon be here. As an employer, there are steps you can take to help employees who are struggling. These include:
- A culture that supports mental health. Employees shouldn’t be afraid to talk about how they’re feeling—mental health is important and shouldn’t be brushed off or ignored. Encourage employees to speak up if they need support getting their work done, need inspiration, or simply an ear to bend.
- Offer health care assistance. Employee Assistance Programs and access to counselors for support are more important now than ever before. Increasing access points to help employees get the care that works best for them is also critical. This could include in-person visits, phone support, video or even text support. Many products exist—check with your benefits provider to learn what resources may be available.
- Offer hybrid work options. This can include the opportunity to work some days from home or in the office. Different employees appreciate different scenarios. Some may prefer a few days of solitude, while others may like to be in the office around other people.
- Maximize your layout. In the office, it’s important for workers to have access to natural light. Move work stations closer to windows, and encourage going outside for breaks.
Taking care of your business is all about assessing your risk
Supporting your employees is only one part of supporting your overall business. It also helps to understand and limit your risks. Odell Studner can help! To get started with a risk assessment, contact us today!