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How to Manage Depression in the Workplace

By July 23, 2015HR Solutions
Wall mural showing sad face used to illustrate article on managing depression in the workplace | HR Solutions

An Employee Assistance Programme (EAP) provider has reported a 40% rise in the number of calls it took from employees suffering with depression over the first quarter of 2015.

Depression can have a destabilising effect on the workplace, impacting both the affected employee and their colleagues. With that in mind we’ve produced a guide to help you understand how best to manage a depressed employee in your organisation.

Identifying Depression in the Workplace

Mental health is not a permanently set state; it can fluctuate daily and for a wide variety of reasons. Depression is one of the most common mental health problems, affecting as many as one in ten people at any time, and can range from a period of feeling low to experiencing life-threatening moods that make normal day-to-day life impossible.

The causes of depression vary wildly but possible factors can include:

  • Life events
  • Physical conditions
  • Medication
  • Stress
  • Lack of sleep

It’s important to retain a sense of empathy when managing an employee with depression as what might seem like a small concern to you may be of far greater importance to them. Do not trivialise any problems that your employee may be facing.

Whilst it might be difficult to identify an employee’s precise emotional state in a work environment, there are other signs that you can look for:

  • Decreased productivity
  • Morale problems
  • Uncooperative or disruptive behaviour
  • Increased or frequent absenteeism
  • Frequent complaints of feeling tired
  • Suspected alcohol or drug abuse

What may first appear as laziness or a lack of professionalism could in fact be the warning signs that your employee is suffering with a mental health problem.

Managing Depression in the Workplace

You may have heard many times before that the performance of your organisation is dependent upon the well-being of your employees. On a business level it is in your best interests to make sure that your staff have the support that they need.

There are several steps that you should take when you suspect that an employee may have depression:

  • Do not make any assumptions. You could be sure that your employee is suffering from depression but this may not be the case.
  • Talk. Maintaining open communication is the most important part of managing an employee with mental health problems.
  • Do not attempt to diagnose the problem yourself. Suggest that the employee seeks a consultation with either their GP or an EAP counsellor.
  • Discuss the employee’s work performance. Do not try to get to the root of their personal problems and maintain professional boundaries.
  • Discuss practical solutions, such as what you can do to facilitate their recovery. This can include the possibility of a flexible working schedule during their treatment.
  • Confidentiality is essential. Do not tell anyone else explicit details about the employee’s condition or treatment.

If an employee does take time off from work with a mental health problem, it is important to keep in regular contact with them to keep track of how they are and when they will be able to come back. A return to work plan will help you to identify any adjustments or arrangements that you can make to help the employee back into their role.

Get Professional Support with HR Solutions

Every employee, business and circumstance is unique. If you would like to discuss a particular issue in your organisation, how to set up an EAP or any other form of employee support, HR Solutions can help.

Give us a call on 0844 324 5840 or contact us online to find out more.

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