Daylight Saving Time has officially ended and we're now deep into the fall equinox, which means we're going into daylight deficit daily. You're likely now driving to work at sunrise and leaving at sunset, meaning that when the sun is shining, you're indoors away from its benefit. This lack of sunlight and "shorter" days lead many to suffer what's commonly called the winter blues.

The "winter blues," or the more serious condition called seasonal affective disorder or SAD, can cause employees to have:

  • Feelings of sadness or a depressed mood
  • A marked loss of interest or pleasure in activities
  • Changes in appetite; usually eating more, craving carbohydrates
  • Change in sleep; usually sleeping too much
  • Loss of energy or increased fatigue despite increased sleep hours
  • Increase in restless activity (e.g., hand-wringing or pacing) or slowed movement and speech
  • Feeling worthless or guilty
  • Trouble concentrating or making decisions
  • Thoughts of death or suicide or attempts at suicide

SAD affects about 5% of Americans and is more common among women than men. This form of depression usually starts in the fall or winter and ends a couple of months later. While SAD is a serious condition that should be diagnosed and treated by a physician, there are things you can do in-office that will help everyone feel a little happier during the winter months.

4 Ways to Boost Employee Morale

1. Help Your Employees Stay Active

Exercise is the solution for both physical and mental ailments. Moving your body helps balance your mood. A study by Harvard researchers found running 15 minutes a day or walking an hour a day reduced the risk for major depression by 26%. You can help your employees stay active by encouraging mini walking breaks throughout the day and make it fun by holding step-counting competitions between employees and giving out small prizes.

2. Stock the Breakroom with Healthy Snacks

Along with exercise, eating a healthy diet is important to overall good health. Eating clean, whole foods have been shown to improve mood. A study published in the International Journal of Food Sciences and Nutrition, found adults who ate unhealthy food were more likely to have symptoms of moderate to severe psychological distress. And a Harvard Health Medical School blog reported, there is a direct link between your body's serotonin, the neurotransmitter that regulates sleep, appetite, moods and inhibits pain, and your diet. In fact, 95% of serotonin is produced in your gastrointestinal tract.

To encourage your employees to eat healthier, stock the break room with clean, non-processed food like fresh fruit and vegetables and even fermented foods like kimchi, miso, sauerkraut, pickles or kombucha to improve gut health. Offer healthy options when supplying lunch that are heavy on vegetables and protein.

3. Encourage Vacations

Taking a vacation is one of the best ways to recharge physically and emotionally. People who take vacations have lower rates of depression, yet we don't take vacations as often as we should. According to the U.S. Travel Association, more than half of Americans leave vacation time on the table, accumulating 768 million days in 2018. Here's what you can do to encourage your employees to take time off.

  • Remind them they have vacation hours to use
  • Don't expect them to check-in when out, allow them to completely unplug
  • Set up a vacation schedule so the entire team knows when people will be out
  • Make it easy for employees to come back to work

Plan an Employee-Volunteering Event

Volunteering not only helps to reduce stress and anxiety but it can also combat depression and make your employees feel happier, according to Volunteering is meaningful work that improves mood and keeps your employees in contact with others, which protects from depression. Plus, employees who believe their employees will give back are 13 times more likely to look forward to coming to work. This time of year volunteering opportunities are endless. Sign up your team up to work at a soup kitchen, ring bells for the Salvation Army or find a local organization that needs assistance. If the volunteering event is planned for after-hours, allow employees to bring their families along to help.

Managing your people's happiness isn't always easy, but it's critical to the health of your workforce. To better serve your employees and make your HR life easier, get a free demo of our smart HR system today.