Spotting and Addressing Depression at Work

If you’re noticing signs of workplace depression amongst your team, it’s important to act.

Escrito por Christopher Harley

Spotting and Addressing Depression at Work

01 When depression shows up in the workplace, it can be difficult to know how to appropriately respond.

02 Christopher shares common signs and symptoms, as well as steps employers can take to help individuals that are struggling.

03 By initiating these important conversations, employees feel more supported at work and are better equipped to manage their condition.

Depression is extremely common. According to Mental Health America, it “ranks among the top three workplace problems [...] following only family crisis and stress.” 

Why someone is depressed at work can vary. It may be due to anxiety, burnout, loss of motivation, uncontrollable emotions, lack of professional engagement, relationship difficulties, or unexplained sadness. 

No matter the root cause, it’s crucial we understand how to talk about it, spot it, and offer support.

What is Workplace Depression? 

According to Rashmi Parmar, a psychiatrist at Community Psychiatry, “Any workplace or job can be a potential cause or a contributing factor for depression depending on the level of stress and available support at the workplace.” 

Sadly, work environments can present high-risk factors for those suffering with mental health issues. Whether it’s a harsh managerial style, relationships between colleagues, the benefits available to employees, or a whole host of other factors, organizations must be aware of the prominence of depression in the workplace and introduce appropriate support strategies. 

Mental Health In The Workplace: HR Solutions And Being A Mental Health Ally

Signs of Workplace Depression 

There are many signs and symptoms of depression that may be exhibited in the workplace. Some of the most common include: 

  • Regular absences from work 
  • Lack of engagement and motivation
  • A change in a person’s character 
  • A reduction in productivity 
  • Isolation from colleagues 
  • A lack of socializing with team members 
  • Difficulty working well with others 
  • Lack of focus 
  • Emotional outbursts 

It’s important to note that depression affects everyone differently. Symptoms that show up for one person, can manifest very differently in someone else. 

“Many of these symptoms can occur in other issues, too. A reduced appetite, for example, could be due to a recent sickness or illness and have nothing to do with depression.” says David.

Symptoms that show up for one person, can manifest very differently in someone else.

Nesenoff from Tikvah Lake Recovery. “What’s important here is recognizing when these symptoms are directly related to depression, and what exactly to do about them.”

Depression must be analyzed and diagnosed on an individual basis. Not everyone demonstrating the symptoms above will be depressed, just as not everyone with depression will exhibit those symptoms. The best thing you can do is know your employees well enough that you can sense when their mood or behavior starts to change.

Depression at Work and How to Help 

If you’re noticing signs of workplace depression amongst your team, it’s important to act. Doing so will foster a supportive environment, and hopefully help the employees in need feel understood and valued. 

Here are some effective ways to do so:

1. Provide an Extended Leave of Absence 

Sometimes when people are suffering from depression, they need to take time away from work. This could be to rest and recuperate, or to receive the treatment necessary to get them back on track. In fact, according to research, “taking time off from work can improve your mental health whether you take time as sick leave, family leave, or vacation.” 

Making your employees aware that an extended leave of absence is an option can go a long way. It reassures those affected by depression that they can ask for time off and recover at their own pace.

2. Offer Online Therapy 

Employees often choose to work with organizations that have great benefits. As an employer, an excellent way to show you care is to provide therapy for those who need it. Nowadays, there are many options to consider. 

Digital-based therapy can be offered through all kinds of mental health providers. Keep in mind, there are downsides to purely online platforms. Sometimes employees want in-person options, or don’t love certain platform features. Make sure you gauge interest and feedback directly with your team, and make updates accordingly.  

As an employer, an excellent way to show you care is to provide therapy for those who need it.

3. Provide Reasonable Accommodations 

Mental health is increasingly being treated in similar fashion to physical disabilities. Employers are more willing to offer accommodations that create a more comfortable work environment. 

For example, certain aspects of a workplace can exacerbate depression. Instead of ignoring these triggers and leaving employees to struggle alone, it’s important employers address them head on by offering accommodations. This can look like providing flexible working hours, allowing extra sick days so they can attend therapy sessions, restructuring teams, or relocating their working space to a less triggering location. 

Granting reasonable accommodations that suit the needs of the individual is one of the most powerful ways employers can show up for their teams.

4. Always Listen First 

Far too often we react to mental health by seeing it as a problem that needs immediate fixing. However, this doesn’t always help. If you want to support your employees more effectively, you need to prioritize active listening.

This can go a long way for employees with depression. It provides them an outlet to vent, gives them space to share how they feel, and normally offers insight into future forms of support they may need. 

5. Enforce Mental Health Trainings

Mental health awareness in the workplace is increasing. However, we still have a long way to go before the topic is truly de-stigmatized and widespread literacy has increased. 

Enforced mental health trainings — whether they be in-person or online — can help improve workplace culture by making teams more aware of symptomology, condition criteria, treatment options, and other forms of support. 

In the long term, this reduces workplace stigma and makes managers more proactive about helping those who are struggling. 

Final Words 

Depression in the workplace is not something that should be swept under the rug. It affects individuals of every industry, role, age, gender and ethnicity. For some, its impact can be truly debilitating. 

When employers are aware of depression and appropriate support options, they make their teams happier, healthier and more collaborative long term. 

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