Persistent sadness, excessive fatigue and a lack of energy are just a few symptoms of seasonal affective disorder, or S.A.D., which affects an estimated five percent of the United States’ population each year. Symptoms can often last through March and into April, and many are feeling the effects even deeper this year as coronavirus continues to upend daily life. Experts from Yale explain that, together, these two negative influences on mental health can increase anxiety, emotional withdrawal and irritability. With reduced support, social and family contact and outlets for physical and emotional wellbeing, more people are looking to their job for community, connection and support. This opens up new possibilities for companies to make a difference in employees’ lives, put better resources in place, create deep and meaningful bonds and support their teams during this challenging time.
As teams continue to work remotely, here are five ways to provide assistance and boost morale.
1. Emphasize Self-Care. Employees should know that taking care of themselves is a priority at your organization, especially since many are facing additional demands such as childcare or financial strain. Sharing resources for self-care, including reminders to spend time outside when possible, eating nutritious meals, monitoring Vitamin D levels or sticking to a daily routine, helps educate people on the impact of S.A.D. and create a plan for working through it. For example, AccessElite offers virtual nutrition classes, like Food & Mood and Nutrition & Mindfulness for Stress, that teach participants how diet and mental health are related.
2. Offer Professional Resources. While milder cases of S.A.D. or pandemic-related anxiety are self-manageable, it is critical to educate employees on the virtual mental health benefits your company offers. Virtual therapy through video call or text are now commonplace and offer flexibility for people with busy schedules. If your insurance provider does not cover virtual therapy or psychiatry, consider renegotiating your contract or compiling a list of low-cost options to share with employees. It is also important to make sure virtual therapy services are easy to schedule, fully accessible and user-friendly.
3. Provide Community. Social isolation is one of the largest factors negatively affecting mental health and increasing the effects of S.A.D. Creating opportunities for virtual social interaction is a great way for employers to bring their team together and help anyone struggling feel less alone. Gathering as a community on a regular basis deepens the bonds between employees and provides an outlet for ideas and creativity. The opportunities for virtual activities are limitless – AccessElite has hosted company-wide game shows, Bob Ross painting nights and black-tie galas!
4. Make Wellness a Team Effort. Self-care means different things to different people, so it is important to have a holistic well-being program that is as unique as your team. This ensures that many of your staff are interested in the activities that your company offers and frequently participate. For some, Kickboxing classes or Dance Cardio are the perfect way to unwind, while others may enjoy Kids’ Ballet or Multi-Cultural Cooking as a way to get some alone time after work. Wellness programs in addition to traditional benefits provide an opportunity for employers to understand their employees’ holistic needs and create an environment where their whole team is supported – mind, body and soul.
5. Commit to Well-Being. As temperatures rise and days get longer, symptoms of S.A.D. may clear but the need for company leadership to support their staff exists year-round. Working from home during the pandemic increased an already-existing desire for wellness programs tailored to employees’ needs. Connecting with your staff on a deeper level through daily communication, consistent check-ins and regular events will create a nurturing environment where teams can thrive. When talent is supported and working together as an interconnected unit, they will be empowered to achieve their goals on a personal, professional and organizational level.
Looking for ways to support your employees during this challenging time? Reach out at firstname.lastname@example.org.