Winter is a time we often relate to roaring log fires, cosy knitted blankets, hot chocolates and family festivities. But for some of us, the winter months can be a daunting time where the thought of shorter days and extremely low temperatures can make you feel mentally drained and depressed.
Seasonal affective order (SAD), also known as winter depression is thought to affect 4-6% of people according to the AAFP and the symptoms include lethargy, low mood, irritability and a difficulty concentrating.
It comes as no surprise that an estimated two million people in the UK suffer with (SAD) when they only see an average of less than 10 hours a week of daylight. To obtain the recommended dose of vitamin D it is said you need to spend almost two hours outside a day, which is almost impossible for the office worker.
Wildgoose, a leading provider of employee engagement and team events worldwide, undertook a survey to examine the impact of mental health issues on the workforce and how employers handle them when they arise. The company surveyed employees at 250 businesses across the UK and found that 62% of UK employees have taken a day off work in the last year as a result of stress, depression or anxiety.
The survey revealed that there is still a substantial stigma surrounding mental health at work. Of those surveyed who have taken a day off work, just under half admitted to calling in sick with a different complaint to the one they were actually suffering with.
Upon the publication of the survey results, Mandy Chase, HR Manager at Wildgoose said:
“The results of the Mental Health at Work survey demonstrate just how damaging a lack of proper mental health support in the workplace can be for both employees and employers. Findings suggest that more needs to be done throughout all levels of an organisation to encourage an open culture and foster discussions around mental health. The steps towards creating a supportive, open culture should include regular team building activities that provide tangible learning outcomes as these have been shown to enhance employee engagement and improve colleague relations.”
It is clear that employers need to be more transparent with their employee’s during this time of the year by encouraging them to embrace the outdoors in their lunch breaks, so that they can take a break from their computer screens and absorb the limited light during the day.
NHS mental health nurse, psychotherapist and podcaster Aimee Leigh has over 17 years’ experience in the mental health field. She practices mindfulness techniques designed to manage stress and anxiety. Aimee suggests:
’To combat stress, one must learn to be present and grounded in their bodies, through the use of the senses. Developing a practice of mindfulness helps the mind become resilient. Managing stress by training the mind to focus on one point for sustained periods of time stops the mind fluctuating, racing and catastrophising. When a person isn’t caught up in their thoughts, they’re more able to be focused and productive. They’re also less emotionally reactive and more proactive, productive and efficient.
The findings of the survey highlight the need for employers to take an empathetic approach to mental health in the workplace especially during the Winter months, emphasising the need for implementation of appropriate support structures and schemes which help to beat SAD so that employees can maintain their concentration and productivity all year round.
If that means changing the light settings in your office so that the environment is brighter, providing a wider selection of foods people crave to replenish energy levels and to make more of a conscientious effort to engage more with the people around you, this will be sure to motivate you, increase your mood and make them feel more productive and engaged with too.