COVID-19 has presented a myriad of challenges in 2020. From socially distant — and even fully remote — work to unexpected employee illness, and even waning job security, the pandemic has played a major impact in people’s daily mood since the outbreak spread worldwide.
As Fall is in full swing, an additional challenge presents itself: Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). Although the disorder is not as commonly diagnosed as other forms of depression, when the seasons change and days get shorter, it is very common for people to feel down. Managers across the country need to be aware of SAD and what they can do to positively impact their employees not only during a tough season, but also during a tough year.
Check In Frequently
The first thing every manager should do to curb SAD’s effects on employees is to check in regularly to see how they are doing. This is particularly important if COVID has not increased the amount of communication between you and employees. Be willing to hear out concerns, whether professional or personal, in order to identify areas where you may be able to help. SAD, like other forms of depression, likely has several contributing factors, so do what you can to help your employee feel more supported during this particularly stressful time.
SAD tends to be especially strong when people begin work before the sun rises and end after it sets. A lack of sunlight can be linked to a lower mood, while missing out on the daylight can make a person feel as though they have no time for themselves outside of work. If possible, consider asking employees whether they would like to adjust their schedules to either earlier or later in the day, in order to have some extra sunlight hours. Additionally, you could offer a longer lunch, or suggest more frequent breaks throughout the day. Not all positions allow for flexibility, but if your team has that option, utilize it to its fullest now.
Provide Healthy Socialization
Depression of any form can be worse when isolating. SAD is not an exception. During COVID, depression may be at its peak, due to prolonged isolation. To help reduce the effects of remote work on SAD, try to find ways to safely socialize with members of your team. You may consider virtual happy hours or game nights, or if your team is not high-risk, you could schedule an in-person gathering that still utilizes masks and social distancing protocol.
Set Explicit Expectations
Finally, setting expectations for your team is crucial to helping SAD remain at-bay. This is because SAD can make people feel like they do not have enough time to complete their work each day. Additionally, SAD may make people work more slowly, creating a self-fulfilling prophecy. When employees have vague deadlines or are working primarily on project-based tasks, these negative emotions can build up and create burnout. To prevent this, be as explicit as possible with your expectations for each employee on a daily or weekly basis.
Seasonal Affective Disorder cannot be cured with these steps, but your employees can be positively impacted. If your team feels down during the Fall and Winter months, even if they do not have SAD, consider how you can implement these tips to help them through this tough time.