Identifying depression in the workplace

Mental health is becoming a more accepted topic of discussion in the working world, which is a significant step forward for society. Figures from the Mental Health Foundation suggest that nearly 15% of employees experience mental health issues of some kind, while HSE reports that stress, depression and anxiety account for the majority of working days lost due to ill health.

Depression in the workplace can have serious consequences for employees and employers alike. In this brief guide, we discuss how you can identify mental health issues at work and share some strategies to help you support the individuals suffering.

Signs of depression in the workplace

Spotting the symptoms of poor mental health in the workplace is easier said than done. Managers can all too often be wrapped up in their own work and concerns to worry about employees. However, paying more attention could allow you to help individuals who need it and to create a more productive work environment.

These are some of the most common signs for which to watch out:

  • Lack of energy and motivation, loss of interest in work tasks
  • Persistent sadness, low mood or irritability
  • Regular absenteeism and lateness
  • Detachment and isolation from teams and colleagues
  • Emotional outbursts and crying at work without apparent triggers
  • Lack of confidence in work tasks and the team environment

How to help employees suffering from poor mental health

As an employer, you have a legal and moral duty of care to support the mental well-being of your workforce. If you can recognise the symptoms of depression and anxiety, you’ll be better placed to offer a helping hand where it’s needed. Consider some of these steps to support an individual:

  • Reduce workplace stigma and encourage discussions of mental health: Creating a supportive environment within an organisation is significant in allowing employees to feel like they can open up and ask for help. The professional world has been criticised in the past for discouraging such discussions but more positive trends are certainly taking hold now. Foster open discussions among teams and with management to avoid people facing their issues alone.
  • Broach the subject with them at the right time and place: Employees often don’t feel comfortable enough to raise issues themselves. If you’ve spotted signs of depression, consider making the first move and starting a conversation when the time is right. It’s best to do it away from the eyes and ears of other employees to give them some privacy to express their feelings confidentially.
  • Work together to find possble solutions: Once matters have been shared, you can evaluate the situation and work with the individual to find possible solutions. It could be as simple as resolving a workplace dispute or offering staff benefits that can help employees to seek help from a qualified and insured therapist for a discounted price.
  • Monitor their workload and offer flexibility: Piling more pressure on an already stressed, anxious or depressed employee is probably going to make the situation worse. They might benefit from a lighter workload for the time being or a more flexible working pattern to help them get on top of their mental health.
  • Consider if time off is needed: In the most severe cases, providing a period of leave for mental health reasons may be the best solution to help your employee. This is particularly effective in high-pressured professions where employees need to be able to handle the strains of the job to perform their duties. When they’re ready to return to work, devise a plan to ease them back in and get them up to speed in an appropriate timeframe.