November 27, 2018 | Barb Carr

‘Tis the season . . . for Seasonal Affective Disorder

Seasonal Affective Disorder is a form of depression also known as “SAD” or the “winter blues.” When seasons change, workers may experience a shift in their circadian rhythms that can make them feel off balance and depressed. Symptoms of depression present in the fall and winter because there is less sunlight, and these symptoms typically decrease with the arrival of spring.

Depression, left unchecked, can be a dangerous and costly issue in occupational safety because depressed workers may be more likely to have workplace accidents. This is not a serious concern for administrative staff who are working on computers all day, but someone operating a heavy piece of equipment could lose a limb. A depressed worker may not care about wearing proper PPE or purposely not wear it.

Don’t wait for a depressed worker to come to you. Most people feel like they should be able to push through feelings of depression, and feel a sense of failure when they can’t. So, what can you do?

First, notice the signs of depression in the workplace. Several of these signs may appear in a worker’s behavior that typically are not present:

• Forgetfulness
• Increased errors
• Concentration problems
• Indecisiveness
• Irritability
• Loss of interest in socializing
• Fatigue
• Missing deadlines

Second, speak to the employee.

Remember, as a supervisor, you are not a trained psychologist, so keep your conversation on the business level. Start with a statement of concern, letting the employee know you are worried about him or her. Then, state what you’ve noticed from a business perspective (increased errors, missed deadlines, etc.). Assure the employee that you see this as a change in his/her behavior. Tell them you are not sure what’s going on in his/her personal life but you’d like to help them get back on track. Be sure to maintain the employee’s privacy and set boundaries on the conversation. For example, if the employee begins to share too much personal information, be empathetic but limit the conversation. Mention your employee assistance plan, or if you don’t have one, ask if you could work together to modify the work schedule or reassign tasks for a short time so he/she can get back on track. Finally, let them know you are supportive and invested in helping them, but they will be expected to maintain the performance goals you set together.

Seasonal Affective Disorder can hinder the focus and motivation of even your superstar performers. However, it can be managed in a caring way to help your employee cope and overcome the problem before an accident occurs.

Root causes of human performance issues can be identified using the TapRooT® System. It goes deeper than the employee “just doesn’t care” and needs to be disciplined. Register for a 2-Day course today and improve performance at your facility by finding and fixing the real root causes. Let’s set our employees up to be successful!

Patient Safety & Healthcare, Safety
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