Bye Bye Winter Blues: Tips For Taking Seasonal Affective Disorder Out of the Office
The Fall season’s change in colours is a welcome sight to some, but not for the two to three per cent of Canadians who are affected by Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), a type of depression that is triggered as daylight hours become shorter. People with SAD may report a reduced ability to function given low energy levels, chronic sadness, irritability, withdrawal from work or social activities and an inability to focus throughout the dark, short days of winter months.
“Many of us may have at some point felt the winter blues; it’s a part of our Canadian experience,” said Sue Philchuk, Vice President and Partner at Banyan Work Health Solutions, a national disability management firm.
“However, we need to be careful not to let those blues turn into SAD. Studies show that people who experience SAD often still go to work yet produce less; a costly corporate phenomenon called presenteeism,” Philchick said. “Left untreated, this presenteeism may further evolve into short-term or long-term disability claims for those employees unable to cope in the workplace. It’s important that employers develop strategies to address mental health issues such as SAD, while they are still manageable.”
There are a number of stay at work strategies that can assist those employees impacted by SAD, to decrease their symptoms and positively impact their function in the workplace and at home. Employers and employees can learn how to identify and control the impact of SAD in the workplace with these tips:
Take it outside: On sunny days, encourage employees to take time to go outside during their lunch and breaks. Even a few minutes of sunlight help improve mood and energy levels.
Bring in the light: Provide exposure to natural daylight in the workplace. When this is not possible, ensure adequate provision of bright, fluorescent lighting (cool white, warm white) with ultraviolet screens as it produces light similar in colour composition to outdoor daylight.
Allow flexible scheduling: Starting work early in the morning while its dark and leaving work when it’s dark can contribute to SAD. A shift in start time or end time, increasing an employee’s exposure to daylight can assist in reducing symptoms of SAD.
Advocate for education: Provide opportunities for lunch and learns to share with employees what SAD is, the symptoms of SAD and that SAD can be controlled using a variety of interventions.
Access the professionals: Trained and experienced professionals such as psychologists, psychiatrists and therapists that may be able to aid in diagnosing SAD as well providing treatment (medication, cognitive behavioural therapy) aimed at reducing symptoms of SAD.
For more information on SAD, please refer to www.bchealthguide.org.