The winter months signal a time when a high percentage of employees are coping with seasonal depression, otherwise called seasonal affective disorder (or SAD). This can have a dramatic effect on your staff’s engagement levels, which can reduce productivity, focus and even retention of otherwise great employees. The statistics on SAD should be compelling enough that your employees seek out help early on, yet many don’t until they’ve hit their lowest point.
What is SAD?
Psychology Today estimates that about 10 million people or more will deal with at least a mild form of seasonal depression at some point in their lives. This disorder typically afflicts more women than men and is more common amongst younger adults, according to the Mayo Clinic. Symptoms of SAD can include:
- Irritability and snapping at others over small matters
- Craving carbohydrates and sweets
- Trouble getting out of bed in the morning
- Body aches and pains for no reason
- Overall feelings of sadness or struggling to enjoy things
The good news is that these feelings can be avoided with proper attention and medical treatment. To support your employee’s mental health and overall well-being, familiarize them with their benefits so they know what to do if they’re experiencing symptoms of SAD.
Steps Employers Can Take
Educating your employees on all that their benefit package entails is your first step as an employer when combating this issue. Even smaller features that you offer, such as gym reimbursements, can have a big impact on your affected employees when the weather turns cold.
- Provide information about employee benefits: Review group health insurance with all employees to make sure they understand mental health support is covered and where to find a provider. This is a good time to update your employee information pages so they’re current and easy to understand.
- Give employees access to the employee assistance program (EAP): In most cases, this is either free or low cost. Post the phone number for the EAP in employee break areas so they have this information in case they’re embarrassed to ask about it.
- Encourage employees to use their benefits: Remind employees that they have valuable benefits that can help them maintain good oral and physical health year-round. When the calendar strikes December 21, schedule a refresher meeting to go over your packages and possibly organize a company-wide lunchtime walk or yoga class. This is also the chance to remind employees to take their expiring time-off days.
- Offer physical activity: Make sure your employees know about the gym reimbursements their benefits cover. If there currently aren’t any options, consider coordinating with local gyms to offer free trials or include popular workout spots and discounts in your company email updates.
- Think beyond the usual: See if your benefits package includes unexpected perks, like discounts on massages or weight-loss programs. Also consider offering fun (and cheap) social events with your staff, such as a monthly book club or potluck lunch.
Your employee’s benefits contain the keys to dealing with seasonal affective disorder. When your staff knows all the perks of your benefits program, the more equipped they will be.