It’s that time of year again… We’re deep into the chilly winter months, which means less time outdoors, fewer bright and sunny days and (for many of us) more winter blues.
But the winter blues can mean more than just disliking the cold weather. In fact, many employees may suffer from Seasonal Affective Disorder or SAD during the winter, which can have profound effects on their physical and mental health during the winter.
Let’s take a look at what causes the winter blues, how it can lead to SAD and what you can do to help support your employees during the gloomier months.
What is SAD?
In winter’s passed, you may have heard friends or coworkers use the appropriately named term “SAD” to describe a general change of mood that takes place when you experience a long winter cooped up in the house. But in fact, it’s a much deeper physiological phenomenon that can impact your physical as well as mental health.
According to the Mayo Clinic, Seasonal Affective Disorder is “a type of depression that's related to changes in seasons.” For most people, SAD begins and ends at about the same times every year, particularly in the fall and lasting throughout the winter. SAD can drain your energy levels and leave you feeling moody or generally uninterested in completing tasks you would have completed with ease before the seasonal change.
The cold weather, lack of sunlight and less time outdoors have been shown to have a number of impacts including:
- Increased anxiety
- Carbohydrate cravings and weight gain
- Extreme fatigue and lack of energy
- Feelings of hopelessness or worthlessness
- Trouble concentrating
- Feeling irritated or agitated
- Limbs (arms and legs) that feel heavy
- Loss of interest in usually pleasurable activities, including withdrawing from social activities
- Sleeping problems (usually oversleeping)
How to Foster a Happy and Healthy Work Environment
As an employer, while it may not be possible for you to protect your employees from all of the effects of the winter blues and SAD, you can still make positive steps to support them all season long by championing a healthy work environment.
A healthy work environment is one where your employees are safe, happy and healthy and have the resources and tools they need to make their lives a little easier. A great first step in supporting a healthy work environment is to offer the right benefits at the right time. For example, a Health Savings Account or a Flexible Spending Account can help employees pay for a variety of cold and flu medications that can help them recover in the event they get sick this season.
Both of these solutions can also be used for doctor visits and copays for mental health treatment and even light therapy, a common treatment for those suffering from SAD.
Additionally, you should encourage employees to utilize their PTO and sick leave when they aren’t feeling the best. Giving employees ample time off to recover will show them you are committed to their total well-being while demonstrating that you are also looking out for the rest of the team to ensure illnesses aren’t spread as easily through offices.
You should also consider offering supplemental benefits like gym memberships, wellness programs or lifestyle perks that can help encourage employees to break through the rut of winter. You can also incorporate wellness challenges in the winter by offering competitive ways employees can complete healthy activities indoors that can boost physical and mental health both at work and at home.
Your Partner in Total Wellness
No matter the season, it’s important to support a healthy work environment for yourself and your employees. When employees feel well-taken care of at work and are equipped with comprehensive benefit solutions that can care for them outside of work, corporate culture and morale improve. Not to mention, your organization can garner a reputation as a leader in employee satisfaction, driving top talent to your workforce.
At Clarity Benefit Solutions, we administer plans that can help keep your employees happy and healthy during the winter blues and beyond! Contact your Clarity rep to see how you can foster a healthy environment for your employees.