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How The Workplace Can Help Combat SAD

How The Workplace Can Help Combat SAD

June 6, 2019

Meaghan Aikins

Spring is here and with it brings rainy days, flowers, and most importantly, sunshine!

With Toronto breaking records this past winter for cloudy days[1], people are eager to get out and enjoy the nicer weather. However, with almost 50% of the population of Ontario working full time[2] it might be a bit difficult to recover from the cloudy winter without access to daylight, and for many Canadians this can negatively impact mental health. Studies have shown that workers in windowless environments report poorer performance, overall sleep problems, as well as physical and vitality problems[3].

Nearly one in eight adults in Canada identify with symptoms that match mood disorders[4], and about 10% of those cases are a result of Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD)[5]. SAD is a type of recurring depression that usually occurs during the same season each year, typically in the fall and winter[6]. The symptoms typically include months long depressive mood, increased appetite and weight[7]. People living in northern climates are more susceptible, with women being four times more likely than men to experience Seasonal Affective Disorder[8]. As Seasonal Affective Disorder is a form of depression,  people who suffer from it can seek help through therapy, as well as use light therapy.

So how can workplaces help? Mainly, by providing workers with access to natural light. Many offices have been adopting open floor plans to maximize daylight. This is beneficial for employee mental wellness and is recommended by multiple certifications such as LEED and WELL. Workers with access to natural light are shown to outperform workers with access to only artificial light[9]. Unfortunately, not all layouts can provide access to natural light for everyone, but with advancing technologies workplaces can explore implementing a lighting system to simulate our natural circadian rhythm. This can help reduce the side effects such as weight gain, impulsivity, and slower thinking[10]. Workplaces can also outfit their wellness rooms, workstations, and common rooms with light therapy lamps. These lamps are designed to simulate daylight without harmful UV rays. 

With the seasons changing for the brighter, people suffering from Seasonal Affective Disorder may start to see relief from their symptoms. However, since SAD is a recurring form of depression workplaces and business owners can do their part to improve the mental health of their employees. By introducing architectural changes such as maximizing window access or changing lighting systems, or simple additions such as therapy lamps for employees, workplaces can transform from mentally stagnant environments to nurturing workplaces that show care for their mental and physical well-being.


Bartha, Christina, Carol   Parker, Cathy Thomson, and Kate Kitchen. 2013. Depression- An information   guide. Library and Archives Canada Cataloguing in Publication.

Boubekri, Mohamed, Ivy N.   Cheung, Kathryn J. Reid, Chia-Hui Wang, and Phyllis C. Zee. 2014 .   "Impact of Windows and Daylight Exposure on Overall Health and Sleep   Quality of Office Workers: A Case-Control Pilot Study." Journal of   Clinical Sleep Medicine. 

Canada, Government of. 2016.   What is Depression? 12 30. Accessed May 13, 2019.

CMHA. 2013. Seasonal   Affective Disorder. Accessed May 13, 2019.

2009. "Society for   Neuroscience." ScienceDaily. 10 09. Accessed May 13, 2019.

Soderholm, Brett. 2018. Major   city sets startling record for a sun-starved November. November 30.

Statistics Canada. 2017. Labour   in Canada: Key results from the 2016 Census. 11 29.

[1] (Soderholm 2018)

[2] (Statistics Canada 2017)

[3] (Boubekri, et al. 2014 )

[4] (Canada 2016)

[5] (CMHA 2013)

[6] (Bartha, et al. 2013)

[7] (Bartha, et al. 2013)

[8] (Bartha, et al. 2013)

[9](Boubekri, et al. 2014 )

[10] (Society for Neuroscience 2009)

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