Recognizing Depression in the Workplace

Published on March 10, 2020

stressed black man at work

Depression affects approximately 16 million Americans. Depression commonly goes untreated, as many are not aware of the signs and symptoms. As an employer, recognizing depression and providing resources is important in creating a work environment that supports employees; ultimately improving engagement and work performance.

Recognizing Depression in the Workplace

Kathleen Crowley, EAP Clinical Supervisor with Adventist HealthCare LifeWork Strategies, explains, “depression affects how an employee acts, and also impacts their work performance.” She adds, “by not only recognizing when people’s behaviors change, but offering services that support their mental well-being (like an Employee Assistance Program (EAP), employees receive the help they need early on.”

Signs of Depression at Home and Work

Be aware of how employees interact with their colleagues. Take note if a behavior or exchange seems off. Everyone has a bad day every now and then, but if it continues for an extended period, it might be a sign of something more serious. Depression is professionally diagnosed when a person experiences the symptoms listed below for more than two weeks:

  • Feeling sad
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Changes in appetite
  • Trouble sleeping
  • Difficulty making decisions
  • Sleeping too much
  • Fatigue
  • Feelings of worthlessness or guilt
  • Thoughts of suicide or self-harm

Depression and its Impact in the Office

Depression left untreated, not only affects the individual, but also those around them. “Employees who are depressed, might be absent more often and take off for extended periods of time. They might also have less interest in completing their work, causing other team members to add to their own workload,” says Crowley. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), depression is estimated to cause a loss of 200 million workdays per year, averaging employers a cost of $17 to $44 billion each year.

Educate Employees

Educating employees and managers about depression, and other mental health conditions, can lead to early diagnosis and intervention. Reducing the stigma of mental health in the workplace is crucial. Start dialogue to let employees know that if they are struggling, they shouldn’t be afraid to talk with someone and that they know there are confidential resources available. Many times, people think they will be looked down upon if it is known that they struggle with a mental illness, but it’s important that employees know they are supported.

What to Look for

Depression can look different for each person and some might be good at hiding how they feel, but overall, you may notice signs such as:

  • Isolating themselves
  • Procrastination or slowed productivity
  • Minimal motivation
  • Late to meetings or work
  • Limited Confidence
  • Withdrawal from others

Provide Assistance

“Providing employees with an EAP that offers resources for depression and other mental illnesses can be extremely beneficial,” explains Crowley. This allows employees easy access to information and resources. In addition, for those who want help, but don’t want others to know, EAP allows them to maintain their confidentiality. The Center for Workplace Mental Health states, when people are provided options for depression treatment, the total amount of absenteeism decreases by 40 – 60%.

Additional Support

An EAP program does not only have to provide resources for depression, it can also provide other education opportunities that may be contributing to frustration or decreased work performance.

If an employee is struggling with finances, offering a personalized consultation with a financial planner could help them find a way to plan and budget and ease their frustrations. Perhaps an employee is struggling with or wants to improve upon aspects of their health, wellness coaching can help them make positive and lasting changes. Referrals for children, dependent adults, seniors and pet care are also available if an employee has family members who need to be cared for while they are working. In addition, legal resources are available to support employees who are going through a divorce or other legal situation.

EAP programs allow employees to have confidential support at any point, but especially when they’re experiencing difficulties in their lives.

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