Are Your Employees SAD? How to Help Employees Who Struggle with Seasonal Affective Disorder

It’s that time of year. The weather is changing, the leaves are falling, and you’re SAD. But you’re not alone. Nearly 10 million Americans suffer from Seasonal Affective Disorder. While SAD is most prevalent in those ages 18 to 30, it can affect anyone, and the effects are different for everyone. 

Symptoms of SAD include: 

  • Fatigue
  • Loss of concentration 
  • Insomnia/Inability to wake up
  • Mild to severe depression
  • Weight loss/gain

Employers may see these symptoms in the form of attendance issues, decreased productivity, mistakes in work completed, or a lack of concentration in meetings. Your initial reaction may be to consider disciplinary action, but before you do, consider the behaviors you’re seeing. Are these recent changes to an otherwise well-performing employee? If so, did these changes occur around the change of the season? While SAD affects most people in the cold weather seasons, some individuals do suffer SAD in the warmer season as well. 

So how can you help an employee who may be suffering from SAD? 

  • Utilize your EAP. If your organization provides employees with an Employee Assistance Plan, now might be a good time to remind employees of this benefit. Send out a communication to all staff reminding them of the EAP benefit and the services it can provide to them. 
  • Up the lighting. Take a look around your facility at the lighting. Are all areas well lit or does your office exude that dim ambiance? While dim lights might be preferred in the summer months, you might want to turn up the lights in the cooler months. 
  • Encourage employees to get outside. If your office is in a great location for walks, encourage your employees to take advantage of that and get moving outdoors. Consider forming a walking team that meets daily to get outside and walk for 15-20 minutes. Think about setting up a basketball hoop, volleyball net, cornhole, or other outdoor activity to encourage employees to get outside during their breaks or lunch. 
  • Talk more. Check-in with your employees more often, just stop by to say hi and see how they’re doing. And be an active listener. If you listen, you may read between the lines that they aren’t as okay as they say they are. 
  • Offer flexibility. If possible, consider a more flexible work schedule. That may include shifting your hours and letting employees arrive a little later or it may mean allowing affected employees to work from home on their bad days. 
  • Offer up FMLA and/or ADA. Understand that while most people who suffer from SAD are able to struggle through, some aren’t. In some cases, SAD can be debilitating and lead to severe depression. In these cases, employees may need and qualify for FMLA and/or ADA accommodations. 


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Lorrie Coffey