#HR Trends and Insights

Do you have a case of the Winter blues?

January 13, 2023

The gray and dreary days of winter are upon us and depending on where you live in the United States you’ve lost 4 to 9 daylight hours (4 being Florida and 9 being upstate New York and Maine).

The less sunlight you have access to, the more likely you might suffer from what is called “Seasonal Affective Disorder,” or as it’s commonly known, S.A.D.

But what is S.A.D? It’s a bit more than the winter blues. It’s a form of seasonal clinical depression that occurs during the winter months that then alleviates when the warmer, sunnier months return.

According to the National Institute of Mental , those with S.A.D may experience almost daily feelings of depression, lethargy, loss of interest in activities you used to enjoy, changes to your appetite and weight, low energy, difficulty sleeping, and more.

As you can imagine, S.A.D isn’t going to help your (or yourself, if you’re affected) maintain your productivity at the office. There are a bucket-full of helpful practices and habits you and your employees can engage in to help you beat back the S.A.D during these long winter months.

Beating back the S.A.D

Whether your employees work from the office or from home, there are simple steps you can take to improve your mental health during the winter. You will notice that most of these suggestions take the form of exposure to light and the addition of bodily movement. This is because numerous scientific studies have shown that light absorbed through the retina, and perhaps even the skin, helps the body produce serotonin (one of the body’s mood stabilizers) while physical movement releases endorphins (a chemical in the brain that promotes a sense of well-being).

  • Open your windows. Make sure your at-home or in-office work environment is as bright as possible. Use daylight bulbs, open your shades, and cut back branches that block the light. If possible, face your desk toward the window. If you work in a cubicle farther from the light, ask if you can be moved.
  • Spend time outside every day. Winter sun is tepid at best, but you still need it. Be sure to spend 15 to 20 minutes outside every day, whether it’s first thing in the morning or during your lunch break. Do what you can.
  • Look into bright light therapy. If getting outside everyday isn’t possible for you. Look into buying a light therapy lamp that is full-spectrum and advertises 10,000 lux brightness (which is the equivalent of a bright summer morning). According to Dr. Paul Desan, a psychiatrist at the Yale School of Medicine, “Bright light treatment first thing in the morning dramatically improves the vast majority of people with seasonal affective disorder.” How do you do it? It’s simple– just sit in front of the light therapy lamp for 30 minutes. This exposure to light should help your body start producing the right “we are awake and ready for day” hormones.
  • Say no to long naps and oversleeping. If your sleeping patterns are greatly affected during this time, try to avoid naps over 20 minutes. You want to keep your sleep schedule as regular as you can and taking a 2-to-3-hour snooze can disrupt your ability to rest at the appointed time. You’ll also want to avoid lazing in bed into the afternoon on weekends. Getting up, moving your body, and soaking up the available light will help keep you on track.
  • Leave your house as much as possible. If you live by yourself or have few people at your home to spend quality time with, leave your house. out to the gym, a coffee shop, a movie, art shows, craft shows, take a class, go bowling. When’s the last time you did that? The point is, keeping busy and spending time around others (even if you don’t know them) can help improve your mood.
  • Move your body on daily basis. This can take any form you want it to take. Whether it’s a walk outside, yoga, spinning, weightlifting, Pilates, swimming, or just throwing on some music and dancing around your apartment. It’s hard to feel sad when your body is moving and throwing “feel good” endorphins at you left and right.
  • Remember to eat well and care for yourself. Having seasonal depression doesn’t make you “less than” and dealing with it can be exceptionally annoying. Especially when you know the next time the sun comes out, you’ll feel exceptionally better. Be kind to yourself and remember to eat nutritious foods, and care for your body and your mind by trying out the suggestions above.

What can you, the employer, do to help?

As the employer, you have an extraordinary opportunity to help your employees by offering something called Spending Accounts. These are benefits offered beyond your employees’ 401k, medical, dental, vision, and commuter benefits; and can be customized to meet your company’s specific needs.

  • During the winter months, these benefits could take the form of gym memberships, fitness class passes, spa vouchers, or even reimbursements for athletic, exercise, and camping equipment.
  • You could help them spend their 15-20 minutes in the sun by offering bikeshare or other micromobility benefits.
  • You could help them socialize by offering tickets to local plays, shows, events, or even the movies. This could even extend into “furthered education” stipends to attend workshops and college classes.
  • You could help them eat better by offering monthly or quarterly stipends covering trips to the grocery store or for eating out at a local restaurant.

With more and more potential employees looking for companies that value them as people, understand the dangers of burn-out culture, and respect work-life balance, adding benefits like these seems like a no-brainer.

Create your own program to beat back the S.A.D this winter

At Edenred, we have the knowledge, experience, and tools to help you build, customize, and run a program for your employees. Schedule a meeting with us today to learn everything you need to know to get started.

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