There’s a darker side to the sunnies time of year. No, it’s not viewing your lack of muscle definition in searing sunlight. It’s a little-known phenomenon termed reverse SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder). SAD is temporary depression that is heavily influenced by weather. Normally people associate its symptoms (depression, loss of appetite, low energy) with the winter months. Diminished sunlight and shorter days during these months means lower serotonin, known as a mood elevator, the chemical responsible for making us feel happy.
But some individuals experience SAD symptoms even during sunny summer. You may notice some employees’ mood worsening during these past few months. According to a study published in the prestigious science journal, Nature, a link has been found between increasing temperatures and suicide rates. For every one degree increase in average temperature, the suicide rate increases by 0.7 percent. Employee summer depression is serious correlation—one that employers and managers can be mindful of during the hottest time of year.
Reverse SAD may occur to only 10 percent of those suffering from SAD, but addressing employees needs during this time is vital. Anxiety and depression cost companies a significant loss in productivity. Reverse SAD sufferers frequently mention the little escape from heat, feeling pressure they should be outside enjoying the outdoors like their friends, or feeling anxious about heatstroke or dehydration.
With constant feed of friends showcasing their holidays on Instagram, everyone outside barbecuing at the park, or hanging out a music festival, reverse SAD can be an isolating experience—which is likely to further drive employees into depression or anxiety attacks.
What can companies do to keep productivity and morale high despite the heat?
Eliminate heat at the office
No one wants to work in a stifling workspace, reverse SAD or not. Employees will have difficulty focusing, thinking, and make good decisions. If your cooling unit is unit and it’s a hot day outside, think of allowing employees to work from home. 67 percent of employees agree they feel more productive when they’re able to work remotely.
Stock chilled essentials
Even if it’s not within your company policy to give employees free drinks or food, stocking chilled bottled water and fruit goes a long way. It boosts morale for employees knowing they won’t be dehydrated at the office. Nibbling on cooled fruit keeps employees from heatstroke and their energy—and mood—levels steady (during the summer months, our bodies lose more water as the body works to cool it down. This means the body needs to replace the lost water and energy).
Offer optional fans
Give employees the option to have fans in their workplace. It can be small fans that they’re able to put on their desk or a larger one that can accommodate a few employees. In a warm office, moving air can make a big difference on employee mood.
Create a budget and/or workshop
If you’re managing people, you know planning makes all the difference is smooth sailing. For the yearly budget, put aside a small budget for purchasing bottled water, cooling snacks, and fans for employees. Even though the phenomenon is still relatively new to research, arrange a small workshop with employees in how they can keep cool during the summer. They can teach strategies like keeping a room dark (to avoid insomnia and keep it cool) or who to contact when they are experiencing symptoms.
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