Employee Mental Health: How to keep things light as the nights get darker

Now that we are officially in autumn, the darker evenings are definitely becoming more noticeable. The period of waking up for work before it gets light and leaving the office once it is already dark is just around the corner.

It comes as no surprise that the darker nights can really take their toll on our mental health, and whilst only about 3% of people will get an official Seasonal Affective Disorder diagnosis, a huge number of us struggle with the shorter days. It’s difficult to find anyone amongst your employees who doesn’t bump into some of the symptoms.

Feeling anxious, irritable, craving comfort carbs, losing concentration and no amount of sleep being enough? They’re all common. And they’re probably familiar to you too. So let’s prepare as well as we can.


Put mental health first


Make no mistake: the ideal situation for your team’s wellbeing is to provide access to counselling and mental health services through your company. We’re offering you tips, but even the best intentions in the world can’t compete with trained professionals.

In addition, be prepared for your team members to need short-notice appointments for their own counselling support. After all, pushing a day’s work back is infinitely preferable to making someone wait for important care.

When your team comes to work in the dark and leaves in the dark, life can feel a restrictive box. You have the opportunity to be the flexibility they need so much by inviting open communication about mental wellbeing —without judgement.


WFH has problems too


There may be no twilight commute, but your remote employees will be stuck in their own tough spots. That home office can become a real problem when you don’t get to see any daylight. Consider making mental health check-ins a part of your weekly process, and don’t be afraid to bring the topic up during video calls. It can be much easier to spot a colleague in your office who’s struggling than someone on the other side of a webcam.

If practical, think about ways to bring remote workers together to support each other during work hours. Social situations can help to snap the feeling of isolation the short days bring.


Exercising those winter demons


When experiencing the winter blues, you can often feel sluggish and tired, making it hard to stay active during your free time. It’s not going to be easy, but getting yourself moving is more than an anecdotal way to feel better — scientific studies support it.

If your company doesn’t provide gym membership or facilities access, this is an incredibly timely opportunity to introduce it. You could make the most of the fleeting daylight by inviting lunchtime exercise programmes to your office, and making allowances for employees who need to fit their work schedules around quiet gym times or childcare.

It’s not just your flexibility that can be beneficial to your team either. There are plenty of great resources for stretches and exercises that you can do at your desks. Just be prepared for a couple of strange looks until everyone else gets envious of your good moods and joins in.


Watch out for presenteeism


Once upon a time, presenteeism was rife. Employees turning up in all kinds of conditions just to keep the cogs turning. People would turn up to work ill, because they’re so determined, and put everyone at risk — themselves included. 

Some companies even rewarded them for doing so. Which is mind blowing. Everyone knows that only healthy habits should be rewarded (with Asda for Business gift cards, naturally).

So where your team members may be showing up just to get out of the house, or to soldier on, you’ll need to be more vigilant than ever. Ensure that nobody feels obliged to sacrifice their mental (or physical) health just to clock in.

Again, the same applies to your remote workers. And yourself. 


Brighten everyone’s day


Light therapy is one of the most effective ways to combat SAD and general lethargy during winter. If you’ve got the budget, why not provide therapy lamps for everyone’s desk? But, if you’re working a little more modestly, providing lights in common areas — especially during the very beginning and end of the day — can be incredibly useful.


Looking after your own and your employees mental well-being is always important, but particularly during these more difficult, winter months. A little effort to keep things light during this period can really go a long way. And, it never hurts to brighten a colleague’s day with recognition, gratitude, or a random act of kindness. 

Accepted in over 600 stores, including Asda Living and George online, for everything from groceries to clothing and electronics, an Asda for Business egift card can bring a little sunshine into the time of the year that needs it most. Whatever you want to say to your amazing team, say it better with Asda for Business gift cards.