How to Support Your Employees through Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD)

Supportive manager helping distressed employee


At the start of winter, and especially after the holiday rush, you may notice a shift in attitudes around the office. During this time of year, we can expect shorter days and dreary weather. At the beginning of the year, many employees come down with the “winter blues,” or more severely, Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD.)

According to the National Mental Health Association (NMHA), roughly 10 million Americans experience Seasonal Affective Disorder, a seasonal form of depression.

Today’s workers spend a lot of their time in the office, and companies have a vested interest in their employees’ wellness. After all, happy employees are productive employees.

Read on to learn what more you can do to support associates through this difficult time of year, so they can continue to make strides within your company.

Seasonal Depression in the Workplace

The first step in combatting Seasonal Affective Disorder is recognizing it. Some signs and symptoms of SAD include:

  • Irritability or sudden mood swings
  • Hopelessness or helplessness
  • Anxiety
  • Loss of energy
  • Social withdrawal
  • Difficulty concentrating or processing information
  • Difficulty concentrating or completing tasks

Employees struggling with seasonal depression may develop patterns of missing deadlines, procrastinating, coming in late, or withdrawing in social settings where they may not have before.

Here’s how you can help.

Open a Dialogue

Manager discussing with her team

As an executive, leader, or manager in your organization, you set standards for your team. You can make a difference by establishing practices that create an authentic environment where team members can express their thoughts and feelings openly.

Mental health is not always a comfortable topic to discuss, but it’s an important pillar of employee wellness. Don’t let seasonal depression be a taboo within your organization. Acknowledge any potential discomfort and encourage associates to speak openly about how SAD might affect them professionally and personally.

Good leaders talk, but great leaders listen. Establishing trust and building strong relationships with your team members fosters an environment where workers feel comfortable being authentic and vulnerable. When you express genuine interest and care, employees are more likely to open up about their struggles. Regularly check in with your team members and establish an open dialogue around mental wellness.

Talk the Talk, Walk the Walk

Support your team and lead by example. In an open forum, share how you’re feeling and encourage others to do the same. Be empathetic and knowledgeable about others’ struggles; people will be more comfortable discussing their challenges when others are doing the same.

It’s important to accept that seasonal depression may cause slumps in productivity. Showing extra gratitude during this time can keep workers motivated. As a leader, you can reshape how others think about and respond to challenges. If your employees are struggling this winter, then it’s a good time to focus on motivating those around you.

Reintroduce your team to your company’s goals and mission. Employees today want to find purpose in their work. According to a recent survey from Monster Jobs, 74% of Gen Z and 70% of Millennials ranked purpose as more important than their salaries. Push your vision to the forefront of your team members’ minds and motivate them with inspiration.

Now might also be a good opportunity to implement changes in your office. Don’t take your breaks for granted! Communicate with your team when you’re taking a walk around your business campus or treating yourself to an extended lunch break. Normalizing these actions can make a big difference in your team’s culture and motivate others to focus on their well-being.

Trading Spaces

Lack of exposure to sunlight may be a primary cause of SAD. The stationary nature of a corporate office can make it difficult for employees to get an ideal amount of sun exposure. Some solutions to this problem you can try in your offices include:

Coworkers meeting outside


                      • Sun Therapy Lamps: Allow workers to have sun therapy lamps at their desks. Sun lamps can create the illusion of sunlight, and light therapy is an effective way to combat seasonal depression.
                      • Explore the Great Outdoors: Remember the days when the “cool teacher” let you have class outside? Well, you can be the cool boss and host meetings outside! Consider taking your workers outdoors in the afternoon to discuss upcoming or ongoing projects. Encourage employees to take walks when they can to get a little more time in the sun.
                      • Switch Up Seating Arrangements: Employees who need more sunlight will benefit from a desk with more direct sun exposure. Where possible, switch desks around to accommodate these needs. You can also implement floating desks or workspaces to allow team members to sit where there’s more sunshine.
                      • Meet in a Communal Space: Having a communal space in your office can encourage employees to socialize and collaborate. Creating a community within your team can help to reduce the risk of employees feeling isolated.

Break It Up

It may seem counterintuitive, but allowing employees more time away from work and flexible work hours can actually boost productivity. If needed, and if your company policy permits, try to encourage workers to take days off to mentally refresh.

Alternatively, think about scheduling a team-wide day off for associates to focus on their mental health. If you can’t afford to offer a full day’s work, offer half days where possible.

Employees might need additional time away to seek mental health treatment which often includes doctor’s appointments and counseling sessions. Stay flexible and accommodate workers who may need more time away from the office. If your company allows employees to work remotely, cooperate with your associates to develop a plan for hybrid work that lends them more freedom to get the help they need while balancing their workloads.

Health is Wealth

Other common symptoms of Seasonal Affective Disorder include changes in appetite. People who experience seasonal depression may have an increased appetite. If your company’s offerings are limited to less nutritious options, your employees’ health might suffer.

Supplying healthy options in your breakroom and dining spaces during this time is especially important. Consider offering healthy alternatives to what you currently provide that allow your employees to make healthy choices in your offices.


Seasonal depression is far from rare. Five percent of American adults experience seasonal affective disorder, and even more struggle with milder cases of winter blues. You can show your support to employees who are struggling with this condition by properly equipping your team with the resources they need.

We want to help you make your workplace the best it can be. Canteen helps clients provide their workers with exceptional amenities to keep them happy and healthy, no matter the time of year. With custom breakroom design, nutritious food options, and craft coffee, we allow our clients to serve their employees with food service and interior spaces that accommodate their needs.

Get started with us today and provide your team with the best in the business!

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