Ask SGO: How to Support Colleagues Struggling With Seasonal Depression at Work?

Home Resources Ask SGO: How to Support Colleagues Struggling With Seasonal Depression at Work?

It’s natural to hit a slump during the fall and winter months. As daylight shifts and we experience more darkness, it affects our mood and productivity. However, some feel it a lot worse because they’re battling seasonal depression. So, how can we support our coworkers through these times? In our latest AskSGO, we discuss what seasonal depression (Seasonal Affective Disorder) is and ways to foster a healthy and inclusive work culture that accommodates those with SAD.

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Rachel Sadler (she/her): So as the days get shorter and darkness awaits us at the start and end of most of our work days, most people tend to experience a natural slowing down of sorts during the fall and winter months, but those of us, with Seasonal Affective Disorder, otherwise known as seasonal depression, are hit a lot harder by the change in daylight.

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Rachel Sadler (she/her): Knowing this has an effect on your staff is one thing, but what can you do to support your colleagues who suffer from seasonal depression?

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Rachel Sadler (she/her): First, let’s define seasonal depression.

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Rachel Sadler (she/her): It’s estimated that about 10 million people in the United States experience Seasonal Affective Disorder.

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Rachel Sadler (she/her): It’s a type of depression that typically begins with the onset of fall or winter, and continues until spring.

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Rachel Sadler (she/her): For me personally, the literal day we spring forward with daylight savings time is when I start to feel myself getting back to normal.

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Rachel Sadler (she/her): Folks with seasonal depression can also experience symptoms during the spring and summer months, particularly on days when it’s gloomy or heavily overcast.

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Rachel Sadler (she/her): So it’s more than just the winter blues for us. Folks with seasonal depression experience a number of symptoms.

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Rachel Sadler (she/her): There tends to be an overall feeling of listlessness or sadness that occurs most, if not all, days. You lose interest in the things that you once enjoyed, and your energy levels are almost nonexistent.

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Rachel Sadler (she/her): Some of us want to sleep more and often end up oversleeping and sometimes arriving late to work.

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Rachel Sadler (she/her): We can struggle with concentration and focus, and sometimes come off as uninterested in work that we were once excited about.

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Rachel Sadler (she/her): So what do you do when you know your colleagues suffer from seasonal depression?

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Rachel Sadler (she/her): Well, the first thing is to foster a workplace culture that promotes open communication and support, encourage managers to check in with their team members regularly and create a supportive atmosphere where employees feel comfortable discussing their mental health.

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Rachel Sadler (she/her): This can include providing education and raising awareness, so that we are reducing the stigma associated with mental health issues and encouraging open communication.

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You might want to think about offering flexible scheduling, consider offering flexible work hours, or even remote work options. As this can help employees manage their workload while accommodating their energy levels during the seasonal changes.

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Rachel Sadler (she/her): Remind folks about any employee assistance programs that may offer counseling services or connect employees with mental health professionals.

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Rachel Sadler (she/her): And the biggest one is natural lighting. If possible, provide access to natural light in the workplace. Exposure to natural sunlight can positively impact mood and alleviate symptoms of Seasonal Affective Disorder. If this is impossible, consider providing folks with light therapy boxes like my beloved Happy Light here to provide more light.

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Rachel Sadler (she/her): Think about designating spaces where employees can maybe take short breaks to relax and recharge.

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Rachel Sadler (she/her): This can be really helpful during the darker winter months. But also encourage physical activity, physical activities known to improve mood and reduce symptoms of depression. So, maybe you allow folks to build in some sun exposure by taking group walks during the day.

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Rachel Sadler (she/her): Then you might want to think about offering extended paid time off, because sometimes our brains and bodies just can’t. Literally.

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Rachel Sadler (she/her): And it can be extremely difficult to engage in work when you genuinely need a day to yourself.

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Rachel Sadler (she/her): So, think about your company’s policies and make sure they support employees taking time off when needed for mental health reasons this and include personal days or flexibility and using approval, or even designating days as mental health days that anybody could take.

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Rachel Sadler (she/her): So by implementing a combination of these strategies, you can contribute to a workplace that not only acknowledges seasonal depression, but actively supports employees in managing their mental health, and folks like me will not only feel supported, but will be able to show up more meaningfully as a result.