Weekly Editorial

Employee Health and Wellness: Overcoming the Winter Office Blahs

Written By Rob Kirkbride, Write Office • February 6, 2023

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The National Weather Service office in my hometown of Grand Rapids has an active (and often funny) social media presence. In early January, they put out this depressing little gem: “In the first 6 days of January, we have recorded 5 minutes of sunshine in Grand Rapids. Our last half-sunny day was December 28. Our last mostly sunny day? A month ago, December 4.”

To say Grand Rapids is a dreary place during winter months is a gross understatement. It is downright depressing how little sunshine we see during a typical West Michigan winter. You’ve probably heard of (or experienced first-hand) the lake effect snow we are famous for, but that translates to lake effect cloud cover as well.

For some of us, that lack of sunlight can lead to seasonal affective disorder (SAD). According to the Mayo Clinic, SAD is a type of depression that’s related to changes in seasons. Most people experience SAD starting in the fall and through the winter months. SAD saps your energy and makes you feel moody. These symptoms often resolve during the spring and summer months.

SAD is a workplace issue as it contributes to presenteeism, or employees at work but not engaged, and absenteeism, or employees missing days of work. It may also adversely impact multiple areas of employee performance, including focus and decision making, time management, completing physical tasks, social interactions and communication.

I’ve suffered from SAD for years, in fact long before it was a diagnosed problem. I combat it with a “happy” light, a full spectrum desk lamp that mimics natural sunlight and automatically shifts the light throughout the day from a bright, white light in the morning to a softer hue as I move into the afternoon. Every little bit helps.

I mention this because winter is an excellent time to think about employee health and wellness. Whether you are in West Michigan, another cloudy Midwest locale or even if you are in a sunny climate, this tends to be a time when all our healthful New Year’s resolutions are forgotten and we fall back into bad habits.

Creating a comprehensive health and wellness program can be difficult, especially for small business owners. Luckily, our industry has INDEAL Cares. INDEAL Cares was established in 2020 with a vision to revolutionize the health and well-being of employees in North America – and globally – through a commitment to workplace wellness. Visit INDEAL Cares Resources page to access free information that will get your program off the ground or reach out directly to Executive Director Stefanie Ince to learn more about how INDEAL Cares can help with employee wellness or to donate to this worthy cause.

There is help available, whether you need to help some of your employees through SAD or if you’d like to create a complete employee wellness program.

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