A Closer Look at Employee Mental Health and How Employers Can Help
Winter is rapidly approaching, and in some parts of the country, it is already here! With the decrease in natural light and busier schedules, it’s important to pay extra attention to your workforce. It’s not uncommon to see additional sadness, added sensitivity and less energy in some of your employees as the seasons change. Some may be dealing with more than just a bad day; they may be experiencing some level of Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). SAD is a form of depression that comes and goes with the seasons, typically starting in late fall to early winter and lasting until the sun peeks out again in spring and summer.
Most employers understand the impact of disengaged employees. Similarly, SAD can result in more frequent absences, reduced concentration, lower productivity and in some cases, create a hostile and stressful work environment. In addition, employees experiencing SAD can cost employers $51 billion according to Mental Health America, due to absenteeism from work and lost productivity. Turning a blind eye to employees suffering from SAD can cost your company in more ways than one.
The good news: employers and managers have a great deal of influence over their employee’s happiness. When it comes to your staff’s health and wellbeing, it is important to be proactive and recognize the symptoms of SAD and become educated on how to help prevent or reduce the risk of employees developing SAD symptoms.
Here are 9 ways to help address Seasonal Affective Disorder in the workplace:
Break the Stigma Around Mental Health by Starting the Conversation:
Mental health can be a hard topic for many to discuss and has historically been viewed in a negative light. Encourage employees to be more open about their mental health if they are comfortable. When the employer encourages and supports communicating about mental health, it can have a powerful impact and help break the stigma. In turn, this will make it easier for those suffering to step forward, ask for help and take the steps necessary to improve their experience.
Remind Employees of Current Wellbeing Offerings:
If you offer an Employee Assistance Program, make sure employees are aware and know what the program entails. Too often, these services are underutilized. Hang flyers, send emails and keep handouts in high-traffic areas around the workplace to remind everyone of the services available.
Offer local gym discounts. Regularly exercising has multiple benefits, and can be especially helpful for those dealing with SAD. Some benefits include improving sleep, combating stress and boost mood overall.
Promote a Work-Life Balance:
Go further than simply talking about the importance of work-life balance. Offer workplace flexibility. Employees dealing with SAD may be experiencing some sleep issues. If feasible, offering the opportunity to work remotely, releasing everyone early on Fridays and allowing employees to make their own hours can help employees manage their personal and work lives more effectively.
Encourage Staff to Take Breaks:
It’s easy to get lost in your work and skip breaks. Doing so can result in feeling overworked and burned out. Taking a break is an essential part of de-stressing and recharging for the rest of the workday. Many employees think that if they take their breaks, it will look like they aren’t working hard. Try discussing with your employees the importance of taking breaks.
Stress the Importance of Unplugging:
This is a challenge for most. However, time apart from mobile devices, tablets and laptops is crucial. It can help people feel recharged and refreshed, which can do wonders for our mental health.
Schedule 1-1 Meetings Once a Week or Every Other Week:
Meeting with employees one-on-one can strengthen relationships and leave employees feeling supported. A weekly or bi-weekly check-in may give them a better sense of connectedness and increase their performance and engagement.
Promote a Healthy Work Environment Along With Personal Self-Care:
Reiterate that employees should take designated breaks. Go a step further and create a space where employees can go to relieve some stress. Include crossword puzzles, coloring books, essential oils, yoga mats, playdough–get creative! Spending a little time in this space can help employees feel refreshed and ready to tackle the rest of their day.
Promote desk stretching or desk exercises. Send out exercise examples, short desk exercise videos or even send an officewide invitation to do 5-minutes of stretching. Physical activity during the workday has been proven to boost mood, increase productivity and efficiency.
Natural light has the ability to improve moods, even in small doses. Encourage your staff to get outside for a quick walk or create a hangout space with more natural light.
Organize Employee Gatherings:
Whether you put together a birthday celebration, holiday party, awards ceremony or a fun night out to sing karaoke, your staff will appreciate the effort. Organized events are a great way to engage your employees and show your appreciation for them and the hard work they do for your organization. It gives employees the chance to know each other on a more personal level, which can improve teamwork and help build resilience during some of the more stressful periods.
Say “Thank You!”
These simple words can go a long way. Let your employees know they are appreciated and doing a good job. Recognition can provide a sense of comfort, letting your workforce know their hard work is not going unnoticed.
These strategies can help raise employees’ spirits and increase engagement making it possible to keep employees happy, healthy and engaged all winter long. Remind your employee’s that “the key to success is prioritizing what matters, and right now, that’s your health. Step into the role of being CEO of your mental and emotional wellbeing. After all, it’s the most valuable career asset you have.”