Beat seasonal employee depression

Un groupe de collègues discutent ensemble à une pause-café

When fall rolls around, our days start to get shorter. You’ve probably already noticed how less daylight impacts your employees. Even Ahmed and Chloe, usually fun-loving people, seem like they’re out of it. It appears that seasonal depression can really cast a chill over the work environment. So how can you fight back? Let’s dig into this together.

What is seasonal depression?

The causes of this affective disorder are largely a mystery. However, some mental health experts think it can be linked to the lack of daylight in the fall. It is believed that this period disrupts the secretion of certain hormones, namely melatonin and serotoninm, which regulate sleep and mood, respectively.

Unsurprisingly, this disorder peaks in January, since we only get about 3 hours of sunlight per day. The third Monday of January is called Blue Monday. It’s supposedly the most depressing day of the year. However, none of that is based on scientific facts.

One thing is for sure though: seasonal depression is much more than having the blues in the winter. In fact, many Canadians experience light symptoms of seasonal depression. And it’s been trending upward since the pandemic. But it’s not the end of the world!

How to recognize seasonal depression

Since everyone, (yes, even you) can be susceptible to seasonal depression, it’s important to recognize the signs:

  • Sadness, boredom or weariness
  • Lack or loss of interest in something that usually brings you pleasure
  • Mood swings or irritability
  • Fatigue and lack of energy
  • Decrease in concentration and motivation at work
  • Loss of appetite or hunger, particularly for fatty, sweet and salty foods
  • Insomnia or drowsiness

What else can you do?

Take action to prevent and beat seasonal depression.

  • Encourage your employees to take active breaks.
  • Rearrange your work environment to let in as much natural light as possible.
  • Hold meetings or videoconferences at the end of the morning or after lunch. Your employees can step outside when it’s brightest.
  • Propose flexible schedules, based on the season and time change. Staff members can start later or finish their days earlier. This way, you’ll reduce stress while you increase productivity.
  • Organize outdoor activities. You’ll unite your teams and give them the urge to recharge both body and mind.
  • Give them half a day off when group morale seems to be at its lowest. This small gesture, which is more than welcome in the middle of winter, will revitalize them.
  • Send motivation emails to your team members. Or be there to support employees who are most affected by seasonal depression.
  • Keep an eye on employees who may be showing signs of distress. Encourage them to use psychological support measures offered in the workplace (Employee Assistance Program, telemedicine, etc.).

How to promote physical and mental health in the workplace

As employers, you can improve your employees’ well-being. Help them keep their heads above water, especially in the fall. By monitoring their health, you can act on a lack of motivation, the quality of interpersonal relations and absenteeism rates. Closely linked, the mental and physical health of your employees have an impact on organizational performance. It’s worth your time and effort.

Keys to mental health

Good mental health depends on proper balance. It’s important to have proper balance in all aspects of life (emotional, social, physical, mental, economic and spiritual). How? By:

In short, physical and mental health go hand in hand. Taking care of one helps strengthen the other. It’s a balancing act.

What if seasonal depression still hits hard, despite all your efforts?

Help the impacted employee cope with depression by turning to an assistance program at work. For example, people with anxiety can get support from psychologists or social workers.

To implement actions that meet the needs and concerns of your employees, ask them what they think so they can offer their feedback. Their creativity may surprise you.