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    Private GP Services & Occupational Healthcare in Edinburgh, UK.

    Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) in the workplace

    Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) in the workplace

    Posted on September 23rd, 2023

    It might seem like we’ve only just said goodbye to summer, but now is the time to start preparing your workplace for the winter. Because whilst it can be an exciting time of year for a team – planning the office Christmas party, organising Secret Santa gifts and counting down the weeks and days until a hard-earned holiday – winter can also be a difficult time for many workers. That’s because 1 in 15 people in the UK are affected by Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). Read on as the Occupational Health specialists at YourGP explain exactly what SAD is, what impact it could have on your business, and what you can do to help any affected employees.

    What is Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD)?

    SAD is a type of depression that comes and goes with the seasons, and symptoms are usually at their worst during the autumn and winter. Of course, we can all be affected by a grey and gloomy day – it’s natural to feel a little tired and unmotivated when the weather is miserable. However, SAD is much more serious than just having the odd ‘down day’.

    Whilst the exact cause of SAD is still not yet fully understood, it is believed to be connected to the lower levels of sunlight in autumn and winter which can affect the body’s production of melatonin and serotonin. This can have a detrimental effect on an individual’s sleep, mood and energy levels.

    What are the signs of SAD in the workplace?

    SAD usually manifests itself as a persistent low mood, irritability and fatigue. Here are some tell-take signs to look out for at work during the autumn and winter months:

    • Increased absence: Colds, flu and winter bugs are at their height at this time of year, but be aware if an employee’s absence rate is unusually high.
    • Trouble concentrating: They may seem distracted in meetings or make a series of mistakes, for example.
    • Low energy: They may not have the same enthusiasm for their role or they may find it hard to complete tasks to their usual standard.
    • Becoming withdrawn: They may make less effort with colleagues, contribute less to team discussions or avoid social situations such as after-work drinks.
    • Changing moods: They may be easily irritated, overreact or have unpredictable mood swings.

    How can workplaces help minimise the effects of SAD?

    Whilst there’s nothing you can do about the weather or the seasons, there is a lot you can do to help minimise the negative effects on your team:

    • Make the most of the daylight: Commuting to the office in winter can often mean employees leave home in the dark and return in the dark, so it is essential that they get an opportunity to enjoy as much daylight at work. Encourage all staff to step away from their desks during break times to enjoy some time outside, for example.
    • Be flexible: If your organisation is able to offer remote or hybrid working, this can help those who would otherwise have to commute in the dark. Flexible start or finish times can also help employees make the most of the daylight hours.
    • Rearrange the office: The key is to maximise natural light in the office, so start by fully opening all blinds and, if possible, rearrange your desk configuration so that your employees are taking full advantage of the light from the windows.
    • Invest in SAD lamps: SAD lamps can provide therapeutic light to lift the mood and help regulate circadian rhythms.
    • Educate your team: Ensure your whole team is aware of SAD, encourage colleagues to look out for each other, and be sure to check in with everyone regularly.

    Get extra help and support for your team

    YourGP’s Occupational Health specialists can work with your business and provide advice and practical help to improve the mental health and wellbeing of your team. Our medical professionals can support you in minimising the effects of SAD in your workplace which in turn can help to reduce sickness absence and improve staff performance.

    YourGP can also provide an onsite GP clinic, allowing your staff to be seen quickly and conveniently for any health concerns they may have – including issues relating to SAD and mental health.

    To find out more about our bespoke healthcare packages, call 0131 381 0322 or email to arrange a consultation with one of our team.


    I just want to thank you for listening to me. When you are visiting the UK it can be worrying when you are unwell. You put me at ease and gave me the medical attention I needed.


    YourGP is regulated by Healthcare Improvement Scotland – the regulator for independent healthcare services across Scotland. Healthcare Improvement Scotland accepts complaints at any time. Contact them at:

    Independent Healthcare Team
    Gyle Square | 1 South Gyle Crescent | Edinburgh | EH12 9EB
    0131 623 4342 |

    YourGP is registered with the Joint Council of Cosmetic Practitioners (JCCP) Registered Office: Station Road, North Street, Havant PO9 1QU.