Feeling SAD?


As winter draws near, and the days get shorter, the days of gin and tonics on the terrace have faded away, and instead we face battling through the wind in our coats and scarves to get into work.

It is not uncommon for us to struggle to wake up in the morning, causing our energy levels and concentration to lower and our positive outlooks to momentarily fade after the summer ends. But, for around 1 in 15 people, it can be a condition warranting a diagnosis – Seasonal Affective Disorder or SAD.

SAD is a recognised mental health disorder, which is more common in the UK where there is a variation in weather and daylight hours across the seasons – the closer you are to the equator, the less common SAD is (so maybe we should all relocate to the Caribbean for the winter..?) SAD is most common between September and November.

More than just “winter blues”, SAD is caused by lower light levels, which can decrease serotonin levels and increase melatonin levels. Essentially, those with SAD are more susceptible to depression and more fatigued. SAD can cause severe depression, anxiety, lack of energy and concentration and panic attacks. In severe cases, employees with SAD may require significant time off work to adjust to.

In terms of whether SAD would constitute a disability (and therefore give rise to possible discrimination issues or reasonable adjustment requirements, there is no precedent where SAD has been found to be a disability. The main reason which we would argue it would not be a disability would be that to be legally disabled under the Act you must have a mental or physical impairment that has a “substantial” and “long-term” negative effect on your ability to do normal day to day activities. SAD would probably fail at the “long-term” limb of this test.

Regardless of whether it is a disability, though, employers should still consider workplace adjustments which may either assist an employee with SAD, or just generally assist employees to settle into winter. These include:

  • Installing light boxes or seasonal lamps in the office, which are designed to simulate sunshine and increase production of serotonin;
  • Encourage employees to talk about their mental health generally, but especially ask them to talk about how they are finding the adjustment to winter;
  • Try and make the office as light and bright as possible; avoid dark colours or patterns on the walls, where possible;
  • Encourage employees to spend time outside in the fresh air, or at least sitting near to the windows with access to natural light;
  • Provide fresh fruit and encourage exercise;
  • Encourage employees to take regular breaks; and
  • Consider adjusting office hours, so that employees are able to leave the office before it gets dark at night.

Written by Alicia Collinson

Related Articles

Political Discourse and Voting at Work: What are Employees’ Rights?

What Is YOUR Workplace Doing for Ramadan?

Neurodiversity in the Workplace

Coronavirus – FAQ’s

In the News: Coronavirus Employer obligations

UK in Lockdown – What You Need to Know

The F Word – Furlough

Short Time and Layoffs

School Closures

The Impact of Coronavirus on Employment – The Home Working Revolution

How to Prepare for a Remote Workforce

Coronavirus is contagious, but panic is too

What are the different types of Whistleblowing?

The Coronavirus and Flexible Working – What Your Organisation Can Do

Key Employment Law Changes in 2020

IR35 Changes – What do you need to know?

In the Media: Fairhall v University Hospital of North Tees & Hartlepool Foundation Trust

There’s a Storm Coming: Do You Have an Adverse Weather Policy for Employees?

May Bank Holiday Change Blog- All Change for 2020!

LGBT+ History Month

Can you sack someone who works in a supermarket and refuses to handle money?

In The News: Bereavement Leave

The Thrive Tribe’s Christmas Holiday

In The News: Discrimination and Equal Pay

Keep Informed: Its Beginning to Look A Lot Like Brexit – What will the Withdrawal Bill Mean for Employment Rights?

Bring Your Dog to Work – For More Than Just a Day?

In the News: Hangover Days

Vegetarianism & Veganism – Are they protected as Philosophical Beliefs?

Diversity: More than just Box-Ticking and Policies

Drugs and Alcohol Policy: Support or Discipline?

Bullying and Harassment in the Workplace

Yorkshire Legal Awards: Diversity and Inclusion Award

Yorkshire Post Excellence in Business: Social Mobility Award

Topic UK Magazine October 2019

Calling Time on the Booze Culture

Mental health discrimination is limiting the opportunities in the workplace for those who have served in the armed forces

How to Thrive – Top tips to reduce stress in your organisation

Asda’s Employment Contract Changes: Fair or Foolish?

Keep Informed: MacDonald’s CEO dismissed for relationship at work

How to Handle Allergies in the Workplace

Menopause in the Workplace

The 4 Day Week Report

Feeling SAD?

Keep Informed: New case criticises workplace “banter” and awards £54,000 for race and sexual orientation discrimination

Surviving or Thriving?

Keep Informed: Women and Equalities Committee proposes changes to enforcement of discrimination rights

The Good Work Plan

Working 9 to 5, 4 Days a Week…?

Is your organisation ready for Generation Z?

Thriving In The Workplace and the #OneMind Petition

Dyslexia in the Workplace

Overpayments and Deductions from wages

The UK’s increasingly diabetic workforce

TheBusinessDesk: Further expansion for law firm; Promotions at engineering specialist; and more

LGBTQIA+ in the Workplace

Eid in the Workplace

Leeds & Yorkshire Lawyer Magazine – 11th April 2019

Recruiting Times – 12th February 2019 Employment contracts: What to check for before accepting the job

HR News – 6th February 2019 Over half of working Brits have accepted a job offer without checking the contract first.

Yorkshire Legal News – Thrive Law continues rapid growth – 12th November 2018

BR Online: Employee wellbeing and human capital – November 2018

MMB Magazine – 5 November 2018

The Telegraph- Business 24 October 2018

H & N Magazine 3 October 2018

South Leeds Life 3 October 2018

The Yorkshire Post 10 October 2018

Article in People Management- “Employers must do more to tackle male ‘stigma’ around shared parental leave” – 30th July

The Business Desk- “Independent law firm launches in Yorkshire”– July 16th

Interview with Ascension Club Leeds- July 11th

Law Society Gazette – 3rd May 2018

Stylist Magazine – 21st May

Yorkshire Post – 2 May 2018 – Greg Wright The Case for introducing mental health first aiders at work

April Updates in Employment Law

Thoughts On “Gagging Orders”

Time to Talk Day 2019

The Loneliness Epidemic

Thrive’s round up of 2018!

To talk or not to talk?

Why employers should exercise caution when using NDAs

Being your true self at work boosts mental wellbeing and performance

How to spot and eliminate risks of office workplace accidents

Why The Best Investment Is In Your Mental Health

Supporting LGBT+ Mental Health in the Workplace

What your employer needs to know when your child has a mental health illness – guest blog

The Do’s And Don’t For A Happy Employee – Guest Blog

HR leading the way into GDPR compliance for businesses

Dealing with stress in the workplace

Welcome to our new website and blog!