Depression is something we all go through at some point of time in our lives to some degree. Even the happiest people can experience an occasional low and this can lead to a bad day in office. Since the mind is receptive to feelings and perceptions, it is not possible for anyone to remain the same at all times.
A small low patch is understandable and acceptable, but in many, that feeling lasts very long. Moreover, in such people, there is no immediate trigger for generating that low feeling. A number of factors are attributed to this, such as the unique chemical combination in the brain, the weather, the upbringing, and so on. Yet, like so many other aspects of the complex machine called the human mind, depression is not something one can deal with in a simple and straight manner.
Most people with depression bring that state of mind to work. This is not their mistake because they have to work like everybody else for a livelihood. But their feeling is inseparable from their work life, which means that the low feeling and every other symptom of a depressed person gets carried over to the workplace. It now becomes important for the organization to deal with workplace depression.
How to deal with workplace depression is a challenge for many organizations. This is quite natural because a depressed employee is different from most others. Not only is the person prone to being less productive; such an employee has to also be constantly nudged and motivated and persuaded to make changes into her thinking and behavior.
The costs of not knowing how to deal with workplace depression
From a macro perspective too, how to deal with workplace depression is important for many reasons:
Close to 20 million Americans in the workplace suffer from depression of varying degrees
Work lost due to depression faced by employees results in loss of $12 billion to companies
Some $11 billion is lost due to a decrease in productivity that accompanies depression
Seventy percent of the people diagnosed with depression are employed in the US workplace
A mental illness such as depression, anxiety or stress affects one in every six employees in the UK.
So, even though many organizations like to shrug off the issue of depression at the workplace, it is in their own interests to understand how to deal with workplace depression. Why? Because helping employees deal with depression leads to a better and more productive workplace, the direct result of which is an improved ROI and enhanced business bottom line.
Organizations can take many steps concerning how to deal with workplace depression. These are some of them:
Create a conducive environment that facilitates discussion
This is the first step for how to deal with workplace depression. It is known that like in the case of all other mental illnesses, the biggest stumbling block for employees suffering from depression is the reluctance and shyness associated with discussing it with the organization. If the employee has to give up her inhibition and approach the management with issues relating to depression, she should feel free to do so. It is only when management becomes accessible to such moves that the employee will feel free to do so. The first step for dealing with workplace depression is to create a policy regarding this aspect.
Sensitize the other employees
One of the major steps an organization’s management can take when it comes to how to deal with workplace depression is to educate other employees about the nature of workplace depression. Unless employees are made to realize the causes and enormity of the illness and the difficulties people with it face; it is most likely that they will sneer and ridicule such employees. This will further alienate and isolate depressed employees from seeking help within the organization.
Understand the ways of identifying people with depression
Another of the core steps of how to deal with workplace depression lies in identifying the signs that an employee could be depressed. Some of the telltale signs of a depressed employee are low productivity, taking off work frequently, lack of attention at work, low levels of motivation and such other related ones. Not all of these may be exactly due to depression but could be due to other mental illnesses. The organization should employ the services of mental health professionals to clearly diagnose the problem.
Register with helplines and make them easy to access
Another method of how to deal with workplace depression is to keep the organization registered and connected with helplines. These come in very handy when it comes to dealing with depressed employees. Having help at one’s arm’s length is a source of mental assurance as well as a means to call it up for immediate intervention whenever it becomes necessary.
Monitor the employees
This is another means of how to deal with workplace depression. When it becomes clear that a particular employee is suffering from depression, the management should, in addition to taking all the steps mentioned here, also ensure that the employee gets work she is interested in so that the element of boredom doesn’t creep in. Many employers also keep such employees constantly engaged and see to it that they get very little free time at work. Isn’t it said that an idle mind is a devil’s workshop? And yes, such employees should be constantly monitored, in a positive way, for progress they are making in their treatment.