10 Signs of Depression in the Workplace and 5 Easy Ways to Support Employees Who Have It

Identifying employee depression is not always easy. We identify initiatives employers can implement to prioritize workplace mental health.

By Elizabeth Weiss

Managers want the best out of every one of their employees. Sometimes, though, life gets in the way of productivity and efficiency – and, sometimes, it gets in the way of happiness. Just like the employees who have a death in the family, receive a cancer diagnosis or welcome a new baby need time off to manage life as it comes their way, people in your employ who suffer from depression deserve just as much support and understanding. It isn’t difficult to show all employees that you care about them and their mental health.

Know the Signs of Depression

When an employee is clinically depressed, it’s not always easy to tell. Some people are functionally depressed and able to manage their daily tasks without anyone being the wiser about their condition. Others may exhibit clear and obvious symptoms of their malaise, including:

  1. Exhaustion
  2. Lack of focus or concentration
  3. Sad mood
  4. Loss of motivation
  5. Difficulty managing the normal workload
  6. Irritability
  7. Withdrawal from social activities
  8. Loss of confidence
  9. Inability to work at all
  10. Missing multiple days of work

It would be easy to chalk any of these behaviors up to a lackluster, disinterested employee who doesn’t enjoy their tasks – or is seeking another job – but depression can masquerade as a lot of other health problems. Don’t hesitate to consider whether mental health is what’s really at stake.

When to Say Something (or Not)

There’s a good chance the employee you suspect is depressed doesn’t want to talk to you about their condition. They may not have acknowledged it themselves or don’t want their personal problems highlighted in the workplace.

Then there are employees who only need a small invitation to open up – “You seem to be struggling lately with work. Is there anything I can do to help?” – and are eager to make you aware of what they have going on. Knowing their employer is aware of and understands their circumstances can be an incredible relief amid the burden of depression.

Keep in mind, of course, that only a qualified mental health professional can make a depression diagnosis, but you have the power to make an assessment about job performance. Stick to what you know and send a message that makes it clear you are supportive of anyone within your organization who needs help managing their mental health.

You also have the power to de-stigmatize conversations about mental health disorders through department-wide or company-wide mental health initiatives. As a leader, you can bring in workplace mental health experts who can speak to the signs of depression and other mental health conditions, and provide resources about how to get therapy and psychiatric care. You can create a caring culture that normalizes depression and highlights the importance of good mental health.

Initiatives That Prioritize Mental Health for All Employees

Here are several ways to help an employee with depression without crossing a line, legally or personally:

  1. Explain health benefits: Have a human resources representative remind employees of the benefits of the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA), as well as disability and sick day benefits and what they can be used for – including a stay at a mental health rehabilitation center. Provide employees with a list of local mental health providers who are covered under your company insurance.
  2. Offer mental health days: Give employees one mental health day a quarter or even every six weeks, if needed. Encourage them to come to you or another trusted leader of your team if they need additional support or time off.
  3. Send out mental health assessments: It isn’t unusual for a depression diagnosis to surprise even the employees themselves. Send monthly workplace mental health assessments or surveys to manage every employee’s stress levels and mental health triggers. The data gleaned from honest answers can arm you with information that can be especially helpful for supporting employees who are depressed.
  4. Adjust work delegation: If an employee typically interacts one-on-one with clients, customers or colleagues, they may not want to endure this kind of face time when experiencing depression. Other employees may want more engagement to try and boost their mood because they currently have too much time to themselves. Consider ways to readjust work responsibilities after a discussion with your employee so no one feels overwhelmed by once-manageable but now-heavy obligations.
  5. Be flexible: If possible, allow employees to have flexible working hours or opportunities to work from home so they can attend therapy sessions, doctor appointments and take time for self-care when it is needed most.

Learn more about how to manage employee depression, create a mental health-positive work environment and expand and honor the conversation about mental health in the workplace.

Contact Mentavi Health today.