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How to Recognize Depression Among Your Employees

Get tips to help you recognize the early warning signs of depression in the workplace.

Mental health is an integral aspect of our overall well-being, yet it is often overlooked and stigmatized. Depression, in particular, affects millions of people worldwide, and its impact extends beyond just feelings of sadness. In the workplace, depression can significantly impact employee productivity and engagement, resulting in a decline in organizational performance and increased turnover rates. 

When your employees experience depression, the symptoms can affect your organization. Issues like workplace burnout can lead employees to become depressed, anxious, and distracted. By learning more about the signs of depression and how you can offer increased support to those affected, you can offer assistance and improve your business operations. 

Continue reading to learn how you can spot depression in the workplace so you can develop a plan to better support employees, and mitigate business risk.

8 Signs an Employee Is Depressed, Facing Anxiety, or Under Increased Stress

The signs of depression at work are similar to the general symptoms of depression. These symptoms are both behavioral, psychological, and physical and can often co-occur with symptoms of depression.

Some estimates show that 60% of those with anxiety will also have symptoms of depression. Since symptoms don't always present in the same way, they can be easily overlooked and may be different than expected. 

These are some of the most common signs of depression in the workplace.

1. Lack of Energy

Sleep difficulties are common symptoms of depression. This may include having trouble falling or staying asleep, waking up too early or sleeping too much, and feeling tired even after sleeping well. While these symptoms aren't seen directly in the workplace, the related lack of energy will likely be noticeable.

2. Tardiness

It's common for people with depression to feel overwhelmed by daily activities like getting out of bed or going to work. Participating in fun or necessary activities feels more like a chore. Along with oversleeping related to depression, these symptoms can cause frequent tardiness at work. 

3. Problems Focusing

Difficulty concentrating, remembering details, or making decisions is also a common symptom of depression. These focus problems may look more like disengagement or disinterest in the workplace. Focus problems are likely to result in slowed production and decreased performance.

4. Lack of Motivation

Employee engagement is a vital feature of company success. Yet, employees with depression aren't likely to want to participate in activities, including those they usually enjoy. As a result, they're less likely to be motivated to participate in company meetings or work toward company goals.

5. Changes in Behavior

Employees aren't likely to talk about depression symptoms like feeling sad or anxious or sensations of irritability, frustration, or restlessness. However, these symptoms may present in the workplace as cynicism toward work responsibilities or limited communication in meetings and other gatherings.These are more likely to be notable symptoms if they're inconsistent with the employee's typical behavior.

6. Missed Deadlines

Employees with depression will likely have difficulty concentrating and facing decisions. These challenges and low energy levels can lead to late or missed deadlines. 

7. Increased Absences

Depression is more than just feeling down or having a bad day. Symptoms often interfere with everyday functioning. Along with general fatigue and lack of motivation, employees with depression will likely experience physical symptoms like aches, pains, headaches, and stomach problems. These issues can lead to increased absences.

8. Substance Use

While depression is widely treatable, it often goes untreated due to roadblocks to care, stigma surrounding mental health, and concerns about job stability (only 51% of employees feel safe in their role if their mental health status were revealed). As a result, people with depression may attempt to relieve symptoms with alcohol or other substances. Nearly one-third of individuals with clinical levels of depression also experience substance use problems.

How to Identify Depression in Remote Employees

While remote work has many advantages, there can also be drawbacks,  including a lack of differentiation between work and home life, long work hours, home responsibilities, isolation from not being around coworkers, etc. It’s not an ideal situation for everyone, as 64% of employees said remote work negatively affected their mental health.

Common signs of depression include:

  • Loss of interest or energy
  • Inability to focus
  • Increased indecisiveness

The Importance of Addressing Workplace Depression and How It Benefits the Workplace

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), 12 billion working days are missed every year to depression and anxiety alone, costing the global economy $1 trillion each year, predominantly from reduced productivity. Although there are known, effective treatments for mental health concerns, more than 75% of people in low- and middle-income countries receive no treatment. Barriers to care include a lack of resources, trained healthcare providers, and social stigma.

Employers are in a position to eliminate many barriers to mental health care by providing mental health benefits and other workplace improvements. By supporting employees with depression, employers can avoid performance and production declines related to workplace depression. 

Furthermore, mental health benefits can improve employee retention. In fact, 73% of employees and 81% of managers indicated they would be more likely to stay at a company that offered high-quality resources to care for their mental health. 

How to Support Employees With Depression

To effectively support employees experiencing depression, organizations must adopt a comprehensive approach that includes understanding the condition, providing appropriate resources, and implementing best practices tailored to the needs of the employees.

Provide Mental Health Support

Mental health benefits offer no support if they go unused. While 98% of U.S. employers offer employee assistance programs (EAPs), only 4% of employees use them yearly. 

Reasons for low adoption rates range from the limited availability of skilled providers and lack of mental health literacy among employees to limited resources for multiple modalities of care. One-to-one care with a provider is the dominant model of care, but only 44% of employees prefer this modality. One-fourth of employees prefer self-guided care, and over 8% prefer group options.

To provide mental health care that supports a diverse workforce, employers must seek mental health benefits and workplace wellness programs that offer multiple modalities of care, culturally centered care, and benefits that support mental wellness. 

Ensure HR Is Educated About How to Help Employees With Depression and Related Conditions

Burnout is classified as a condition arising from job demands exceeding job resources. Given that burnout can be associated with depression, it’s important to provide employees with the necessary resources to avoid burnout. HR teams and employers must understand the conditions that increase stress and the nuances that affect various employee populations differently. Knowing employment laws surrounding mental health concerns for local and global employee populations is also critical. 

In the U.S., the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) makes it illegal to discriminate against an employee with a mental health concern. Depression is covered under the ADA, meaning employees have the right to reasonable accommodations that help them do their job. This could include flexible schedules, changes in environment, or specific shift assignments.

Adequate access to care is also a significant issue and disproportionately affects marginalized communities. 

Barriers to care may include:

  • Systemic racism and discrimination
  • Insufficient insurance or financial means
  • A lack of culturally centered care
  • Cultural differences in understanding mental health
  • A preference for different modalities of care
  • Health care provider bias and resulting mistrust

By learning about how depression and barriers to care affect the various employee populations, employers can better provide improved workplace conditions for all employees with depression. 

Allow a Flexible Work Schedule

In recent years, the term flexible work schedule has been closely related to remote work. However, flexible scheduling in the workplace can be achieved in a variety of ways. 

For example, sleep problems are common in depression and can involve oversleeping. Flexible scheduling may allow some employees to start the day later but still be available for the core workday hours. Sometimes, a flexible work schedule provides employees with more control. 

Helping Employees Helps Your Business

With approximately 280 million people worldwide experiencing depression, it is vital for organizations to recognize the significance of mental health support in the workplace. How you support your employees can determine whether workplace conditions contribute to their symptoms or improve their wellness. 

Providing essential mental health benefits and supportive workplace conditions is crucial in aiding employees with depression. Schedule a demo to learn more about how Modern Health can help employers help their employees.

Modern Health

Modern Health is the comprehensive mental wellness platform that combines the WHO well-being assessment, self-service wellness kits, an international network of certified coaches, and licensed therapists available in 35 languages all in a single app. Modern Health empowers employers to lead the charge in acknowledging that mental health is just as important as physical health, de-stigmatizing the conversation, and increasing accessibility of mental health services for all.