As Winter Nears, This Company Is Ramping Up Employee Mental-Health Support

by Kelly O'Halloran
November 20, 2020
mental health wfh

More than 10 million Americans experience Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) every year, according to Boston University. 

That’s without a pandemic.

SAD, also known as the “winter blues,” is a common form of depression that flares up with the changing of seasons and causes daytime fatigue, an increased appetite and feelings of sluggishness and sadness.

As winter approaches, people susceptible to SAD will also have to manage the ongoing uncertainty surrounding COVID-19. Feelings of isolation are bound to intensify as the need for social distancing makes the holidays even more difficult for some. 

However, there are ways to treat SAD. 

Michael Terman, a professor of clinical psychology in psychiatry at Columbia University, told Health Matters, a publication for NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital, that light therapy, getting a good night’s rest and eliminating screen time before bed can help combat SAD.

For those working remotely, Leanna Lee and Mike Veny, who host a podcast on mental health, recommend establishing morning and end-of-work routines to create boundaries between personal and work times. Lee and Veny also encourage employees to be candid with their managers about taking time off to preserve their mental wellness. 

At companies like Unity, leaders are quick to approve those time-off requests, as concerns for employee mental health remain front and center amid work-from-home sanctions. 

Shoua Draeger, Unity’s global benefits manager, said the 2D and 3D content creation platform will continue to offer flexible work hours and PTO as part of its holistic approach to supporting employee mental and physical health. 

In anticipation of what is likely to be a tough couple of months, Draeger shared with Built In Austin how else the company is upping its wellness support. 


Free Mental Health Support

If you are struggling with mental health and need immediate support, dial 1-800-273-TALK (8255) to reach a 24-hour crisis center, or text MHA to 741741. You can also reach Austin’s YWCA Warmline at 512-548-YWCA.


Shoua Draeger
Global Benefits Manager


As a socially distanced winter approaches, what perks or benefits will your company offer to support employee mental health? 

We are taking a holistic wellness approach, which includes improving our mental health resources and access to care, as well as enhancing our wellness perks so that employees have more creative options for physical wellness. 


On the management front, how are you preparing your managers to support the mental health of their direct reports and recognize if or when those employees are struggling?

Being flexible with work hours and encouraging employees to take time off to take care of themselves is key to helping employees find balance between work and home life. We ask managers to check in with their teams on a regular basis and work with their human resource business partners when they see an employee's performance start to slip. Making sure employees are aware of all the benefits and resources available to them is extremely important to us. 



When discussing mental health as a company, how do you create a sense of psychological safety and encourage people to speak up if they need support?

We constantly remind employees that we have an employee assistance program for them and their dependents, as well as other mental health benefits. We’ve also hosted several open talk sessions with all employees and had great participation. We have several Slack channels created by employees to support each other, and we have employee resource groups as another safe and open space for employees to join for community support. 


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