If you’re like many, the beginning of the year is often the beginning of a dreary time for people. The Winter blues, as they’re known, are estimated to affect as many as 1 in 3 people living in the Northern Hemisphere. Whether it’s simply feeling down or Seasonal Affective Disorder, a type of depression that causes depressive episodes, carbohydrate cravings, issues with oversleeping and other symptoms, the increased darkness and decreased time spent outside can affect your employees.

In most years, employees face this with networks of coworkers and friends to help them get by. But 2021 will be a bit different. With work from home still a major part of the company, many are facing not only the winter blues, but a feeling of isolation they may not have noticed in years past.

Knowing this, leaders need to focus on wellbeing and mental health even more in the coming months, working to address the isolation that many feel and demonstrate their commitment to employees. Recently discussed in Accounting WEB, companies need to be proactive in promoting mental health, encourage coworkers to contribute to a culture of wellbeing, and help those suffering as best they can.

Here are just some tips promoted by Accounting WEB author Wendy Burch, Executive Director at NAMI-New York State.

Know the Signs

The first step to helping your workers and coworkers improve mental health is to be proactive. If you haven’t experienced this before, it’s important to know what you’re looking for.

Some of the signs that an employee may be struggling with mental health issues can include changes in mood, difficulty concentrating, fatigue, missed work, anxiety, depression and decreased performance. Like many physical health complaints, without treatment and support, an individual’s mental health condition will continue to deteriorate.

Listen, Appreciate, and Encourage Betterment: Leading a Mental Health Initiative

Establishing and reinforcing a culture of mental and emotional wellbeing in the workplace should be a top priority for leaders. Some of the steps an employer can take to encourage the office environment to be more mentally healthy are:

  • Show your subordinates you appreciate their work. Each employee makes a contribution to the company’s success, and acknowledgement of that contributes to their feeling of value.
  • Listen to them-show them that you care about their overall wellbeing.
  • Be aware of the environment you are promoting: are employees receiving unreasonable demands? Is Management being transparent? Do employees have discretion around their work?
  • Learn from other companies how they are addressing the mental health needs of their employees.
  • Ensure employees have access to mental health services through their healthcare plans and other resources, both within and outside the company.
  • Understand that mental health issues impact the whole family-be sympathetic if an employee needs to address a loved one’s mental health issue, just as you would for any other medical issue.

Driving Connection in COVID Lockdowns: How The Entire Staff Can Help

It goes beyond leadership commitment. A true commitment requires buy-in throughout the team. In this, coworkers play a vital role in facilitating conversations and driving the cultural focus. Here’s how everyone—leadership or not—can put mental health on the radar and help a struggling employee:

  • If you see a change in a colleague’s mood, don’t be afraid to ask if everything is ok.
  • Don’t be afraid to be honest-it is ok to say if you are having a bad day.
  • Really listen when someone opens up to you (and reserve judgement).
  • Don’t be afraid to express concerns and offer to help when you perceive someone struggling.
  • Don’t allow mental health issues to become contagious-if anyone reacts to you in an uncharacteristically negative way, stop and ask why this it is happening before reacting.

Connect with Peers in Dark Times

Focusing on your own health and the health of your team during the dark days of winter is important to not only your people, but the organization. Staying connected can help. In today’s isolated and high-stress world, it’s important to reach out and stay connected with your peers. Whether in an office setting or working from home, be sure to practice selfcare. Make time for you and take assessment of your own needs. 

Additional COVID-19 Resources

Year-End in the COVID Era: Understanding the Challenges

Five Tips for a Safe Return to Work

Six Key Metrics to Track as You Pivot from Lockdown to Recovery (Part 1)