Now that the parties are over and the bills are coming due, your employees may be returning to work with a heavy load of stress, a case of post-holiday letdown, or a more serious case of depression linked to Seasonal Affective Disorder. Post-holiday malaise is as predictable as the swallows returning to Capistrano and while it will not affect all your employees, it will effect enough to make a serious dent in productivity. A recent study of employee disability claims by The Hartford offers further testimony to this matter. The study, which analyzed more than one million short-term disability claims filed from 2004 to 2008, revealed a seasonal pattern:
“Excluding pregnancy-related claims, the review found that short-term disability claims dropped to their lowest level in November and December. But the dip was followed by a surge in disability claims in January and February linked to depression, respiratory illnesses and injuries. The average time a worker took off work for a disability was about 60 days, not counting pregnancy-related claims.”
“Glenn Shapiro, vice president for claims at the company’s group benefits division, said the pattern was not entirely surprising given that dreary and cold winter days had long been linked to depression, a higher risk of colds and flu and slipping and falling accidents.”
Forward-looking managers should anticipate the increased risks for disability over the post-holiday season and plan accordingly. Here are some resources and tips that might help:
- In Relax, You Can Beat That Stress, Kirsten Gerencher of the Wall Street Journal offers 5 tips for relaxation. Note that our own vice president of counseling services Kathleen Jahnke is cited in tip #5.
- Supervisors should be on the lookout for Seasonal Affective Disorder or SAD, a type of serious depression linked to sunlight. Last year, we compiled a list of tips to help your employees get through whatever seasonal downturn they may be experiencing.
- Employers’ injury prevention program should include winter slip and fall prevention. In addition, as part of your health & safety program or general employee communications efforts, consider disseminating helpful safety information such as AAA’s winter driving tips and Edmunds’ 10 safety tips for driving on snow and ice
- If you haven’t done so already, consider a workplace hygiene communication campaign to minimize transmission of colds and flus. The CDC offers printable fact sheets and posters for Stopping the Spread of Germs at Home, Work & School, as well as a detailed Guide for Businesses and Employers for the 2009-2010 Influenza Season.