Pandemic + weather changes = more seasonal depression. How to help workers with SAD


Understanding and helping Colorado workers navigate seasonal affective disorder

Following an unusually hot Colorado summer, many are welcoming the cooler temperatures that come with fall. 

This year, the change in weather may be accompanied by increased levels of seasonal affective disorder, a form of depression more prevalent among women and young people

SAD symptoms, such as fatigue, hopelessness, oversleeping and changes in appetite, develop with the decrease in sunlight as days grow shorter

In 2020, more workers are witnessing fall’s change of scenery from a new location: their homes. 

COVID-19 has forced many people to telecommute, with nearly 9% of all Colorado employees now working remotely, including 14.9% in Boulder. 

Essential workers, who have experienced increasing mental and often physical stress amid the pandemic, and remote workers are especially vulnerable to SAD this season as they deal with greater isolation and other changes the past seven months have brought. 

You can make this time of year easier for your employees by instituting policies designed to monitor worker wellness and mental health. Use our tips to reach out proactively to your workers, even when you no longer see them in an office every day. 

Seven tips for helping workers navigate SAD

1. Check PTO balances and encourage employees to take a vacation if they need it. 

Workers are often reluctant to initiate a mental break without support from management. 

2. Start a “care for yourself” challenge where employees share examples of self-care. 

They can be as simple as exercising or eating healthy meals, two ways to treat SAD. 

3. Create a virtual “cheer board” where workers can leave positive messages for each other. 

Those with SAD benefit from giving and receiving compliments. 

4. Allow workers to take breaks outside during the daytime. 

Exposure to sunlight reduces SAD symptoms. 

5. Train your leaders to know the signs of SAD and keep your employee assistance plan number on hand to share. 

If you don’t have an EAP or want to refer your workers to other organizations, too, the Colorado Crisis Services and MentalHealth.gov are excellent resources. Make sure your check-ins include employees working virtually and in the office. 

6. Invite organizations that provide mental health services to speak with your employees.

Workers worry about superiors’ perceptions and the impact on their jobs when they ask for help. They may feel more comfortable approaching someone outside your company. 

7. Start every meeting with a check-in asking workers to address how they feel about home and work by using the green, yellow, red system. 

Red is overwhelmed, yellow is managing but stressed, and green is everything is good and the worker has bandwidth to help others. After hearing the results, follow up with a phone call or video meeting with those in yellow and red.

It can take time to break stigmas related to mental health and asking for support when people haven’t done it before. 

By making check-ins and encouragement part of regular team meetings and one-on-ones, you build trust with employees. 

Need more information about SAD and ways to help your employees? 

Contact Pinnacol’s Safety on Call at safetyoncall@pinnacol.com.

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