Human Capital Management Blog

Strategies for HCM Professionals

4 ways to support SAD employees this winter

A healthy workforce is one that’s more engaged, more efficient and less likely to run up steep health insurance costs. But if you’re focusing solely on basic physical health, you’re missing the boat.

Ensuring your employees’ mental health is just as important. The problem is, it can get extremely challenging this time of year. You’ve probably heard a bit of buzz here and there over the years about seasonal affective disorder, or “SAD.” It might sound like just an overblown term for the winter blues, but unfortunately, it’s a very real problem.

According to the Society for Human Resource Management, it’s common for people to feel a little depressed around mid-January. The cheery feeling of the holidays is over, and it’s time to get back to work. New Year’s resolutions are figuring prominently in your mind, which adds a lot of pressure. Oh – and unless you live in a tropical paradise, it’s probably freezing cold as well. That doesn’t help matters.

SHRM revealed some alarming survey data from the National Alliance on Mental Illness, proving that SAD is a serious problem in the workforce today. NAMI found that SAD affects between 4 and 10 percent of the U.S. population, and if you include a milder form of the disorder, that figure might be as high as 20 percent. It’s most prevalent among individuals aged between 18 and 30.

So, chances are, if you’ve got a workforce with at least a couple of people, there is a chance that at least one is feeling the winter blues and could use some help. As HR leaders, it’s on us to support those individuals. So what can we do?

The following are four possible ways to support depressed employees this winter.

Have private, tactful conversations
Mental health is a very personal matter, and no one wants to discuss it in front of the entire office. If you’re worried that an employee may be having trouble, it’s best to bring it up tactfully and behind closed doors.

Use flexible work arrangements
Sometimes, all it takes is a minor tweak to someone’s workday to help them through a rough patch. For example, a new schedule might better fit their day, or an office with more light might change their mental state a little bit. Even small adjustments can make a big difference.

Find help when necessary
Even if you’re a manager or HR leader and you feel like mental health is your priority, you should remember – you’re not a doctor. It’s not your job to officially diagnose or treat anything. If you fear an employee might have a serious problem with mental health, it might be time to call in the experts who can offer real professional help.

Provide guidance through EAPs
If mental health is a persistent problem for anyone on your staff, then now’s the time to use an employee assistance program to ameliorate it. EAPs can offer one-on-one coaching to help your staff members overcome whatever they’re going through. Whether it’s mental health, physical wellness or anything else, it can be overcome. Follow @LifeWorks_News on twitter for resources to help your people lead healthier, happier lives.

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