Health and safety

Let the Sunshine In: Managing Seasonal Affective Disorder

March 04, 2021

While days are getting longer, we aren’t quite out of the woods yet, which means employees may be experiencing a type of depression known as seasonal affective disorder (SAD). Ongoing and changing restrictions have already caused a major shift in our mental health, which may be affecting workplaces more than we realize. Symptoms will likely be amplified by anxiety and isolation arising from “stay home” recommendations and may last beyond the winter months.

Employers may notice that employees are less ambitious or productive this time of year and may shrug it off as them adjusting to getting back into the swing of things. However, employers should be aware that their employees may be experiencing deeper mental health issues.

Being kept from the activities that would normally keep us busy and happy, like time with friends or going to fun events, makes for the perfect winter storm that could snowball into significant harm to our mental health and well-being. According to the Canadian Mental Health Association, at least 15% of Canadians experience the winter blues in one form or another; however, some people are vulnerable to more serious depression when winter hits.

Some signs employees may be experiencing
mental health issues could include:

  • They’ve been missing more and more time from work;

  • They suddenly no longer have interest in hobbies and other interests they used to love;

  • They seem to feel angry or sad for little or no reason, or they don’t seem to enjoy anything anymore;

  • They used to be healthy, but now they’re always saying they feel a bit sick; or

  • They seem to be anxious or terrified about situations or objects in life that seem normal to you and to others.

    March 2021 Let the Sunshine In [ICON A]

SAD specifically can have a significant effect on daily activities in the workplace and prevent employees from functioning normally while doing their job. Because SAD may be more difficult to recognize in employees who work remotely, employers should look for changes in behaviour, performance, and attendance. Employees may struggle with managing their duties, hitting deadlines, or show “presenteeism” by still showing up but not really being attentive, responsive, or productive.

Because we spend so much time at work, employers have a responsibility to ensure the workplace does not negatively contribute to poor mental health. When employees feel supported, they are more likely to feel valued and that their purpose is important, and be more engaged in their jobs. If an employee is not supported enough, it can worsen mental health issues, leading to feelings of failure or discomfort in the workplace. Once you are aware an employee has a mental health issue, you may not be able to resolve their problems entirely. Still, you can take steps to provide them with a supportive work environment and the resources they need to help them improve their mental health.


Top 3 tips to share with all your employees for
improving their mood at any time:

  1. Let the light in! Get outside or open windows when you are indoors.

  2. Get physical exercise with activities like lunchtime walks.

  3. Try to keep a healthy sleep schedule

We’ve also created a valuable guide with even more helpful tips and resources to support your employees who may be experiencing SAD. Download our FREE Supporting Employees with Seasonal Affective Disorder Guide today.

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