Depression is high among U.S. workers, but your actions can keep your team healthy, your company productive.
Depression ranks among the top workplace problems and costs the U.S. economy over $51 billion in absenteeism and lost productivity; yet there are still stigmas related to depression, and employees who suffer from it may hide it, deny it, or not even be aware of it. The more you know about depression, the better equipped you are to help your employees and promote a healthier, more productive workplace.
Start by recognizing the signs of depression, such as:
· Trouble concentrating.
· Increased errors or mistakes.
· Loss of interest in work, socializing with colleagues, and activities previously enjoyed.
· Fatigue, loss of energy.
· Weight loss or weight gain.
You may notice these signs or other behaviors that affects work performance. For instance, someone who is usually reliable and productive starts to miss deadlines, has unfinished projects or assignments, forgets meetings, etc. When someone shows signs of depression, don’t excuse or dismiss these. Be empathetic and share your concerns. While you should address work-related concerns, don’t forget to express empathy for the person holistically.
Encourage the employee to talk by creating a culture of acceptance and openness. Listen without judgment for problems that could have triggered depression, such as a substance abuse issue, marital problem, recent family death, financial problems, or other concerns. If your organization has an employee assistance program (EAP), this is a good starting place. Or a referral to a licensed therapist, rehab facility, or other resource may be necessary. To find help in your area, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) has a behavioral health treatment services locator and mental health facilities locator.
Often, employees with depression will deny their condition and avoid treatment because they fear it will jeopardize their job; or they worry about confidentiality. It is important that employees know that they won’t be stigmatized or penalized for their condition. Assure the employee that the issue will be handled with discretion and confidentiality.
Recognizing and addressing depression early is key to saving lives. Depression can lead to self-harm, and the suicide rate among the U.S. working age population increased 34% between 2000 and 2016. Getting a person help can enable them to continue working or return to work after a brief leave period. Sometimes, people with depression can benefit from small interventions such as a change of workspace, movement to a less stressful job or lighter workload, and/or provision of quiet rooms for breaks or time-outs.
If a worker needs time off to address his or her depression, have a return-to-work plan in place that enables someone to come back safely and with minimal stress and anxiety. Discuss the plan before the return so the employee knows what to expect and feels that he or she has the organization’s support.