Depression in the workplace

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By Clare Price, Head of Psychological Services at Onebright                          

Depression is a mood disorder, and it is estimated that 1 in 4 people experience a depressed mood at some time in their life.

The COVID pandemic has only laid bare the impact that loneliness, self-isolation, and a change in circumstance can have on our mood. It is likely that many more people have suffered from depression over the past 18 months, and people with pre-existing mood disorders have found it challenging to cope with the changes that have been thrust upon us and have seen their symptoms worsen.

Depression can manifest itself in many ways and can present itself in many places – the home, the workplace, at family gatherings, for example.

Work depression can be caused by many things, and whilst not an exhaustive list, the following situations may contribute to the condition:

  • Feeling like you have no control over work issues
  • Feeling like your job is in jeopardy
  • Working in a toxic work environment
  • Being overworked or underpaid
  • Experiencing workplace harassment or discrimination
  • Working irregular hours
  • Lacking balance between work and home
  • Working in a setting that doesn’t match your personal values
  • Doing work that doesn’t further your career goals
  • Experiencing poor or unsafe working conditions

You or a colleague may have depression if you/ they have feelings of being persistently unhappy, hopeless or have lost interest in things you/they used to enjoy. Depression impacts how we feel, think and act. It affects people in different ways and can cause a wide variety of symptoms. However low you or a team member are feeling now, remember that depression is treatable.

What are the common symptoms of Depression?

  • A persistent feeling of low mood or unhappiness
  • Reduced productivity, subpar performance in tasks, increased errors, or difficulty making decisions
  • Irritability, anger, feeling overwhelmed or getting very emotional during conversations
  • Seeming indifference, forgetfulness, detachment, and disinterest in things
  • A loss of interest and pleasure in day-to-day activities
  • Changes in appetite – either eating less or more
  • Sleep disturbance – difficulties getting off to sleep or early morning waking
  • Difficulty in concentrating, making decisions, and remembering things
  • Difficulty being around people leading to withdrawal and isolating self

How to help employees in the workplace

If left untreated, Depression may have a significant impact on work performance, and it contributes to presenteeism and absenteeism. It may also adversely impact multiple areas of employee performance, including focus and decision making, time management, completing physical tasks, social interactions, and communication. Like most other health conditions, early detection and effective treatment lessen the severity and impact of the condition.

Employers can play a key role in supporting the early identification of depression and other mental health conditions and improving access to care. It’s an investment well worth making.

Raising awareness and educating the workforce

Educate employees and managers about depression in the workplace and its effects on productivity, and encourage employees to seek help when needed. Reduce stigma surrounding mental health conditions and train managers and the workforce on how to start a conversation if they are concerned about an employee. Include content about depression in company newsletters, on the intranet and in other employee communications.

Self-care and having a balanced routine

Self-care is important to improving mood. Help employees and the workforce to understand how they can improve their own self-care and develop a balanced routine:

  • Eat and exercise well every day.
  • Try avoiding sugary foods and snacking often as this will crash your mood.
  • Be careful to limit the amount of alcohol intake as this can impact mood.
  • Develop a balanced daily routine with a variety of activities included achievements (work, household duties), creative (arts, online courses) or fun (watch a movie, play board games) and contact with others using digital devices where possible will also help.
  • Be mindful to try keep up good sleep hygiene– setting strict wake-up and bedtimes.

Daily mindfulness practice

Paying more attention to your own thoughts and feelings and to the world around you can improve your mental wellbeing. Engaging in mindfulness exercise’s not just when you are feeling low in mood but on a daily practice can help prevent depression symptoms from getting worse.             

Onebright offers mindfulness training for workplaces and encourages people to use a range of free online mindfulness resources.

Clare PriceAbout the author

As the Head of Onebright’s Psychological Services, Clare is an accredited Cognitive Behavioural Therapist and former lecturer on the Post Graduate Cognitive Behavioural Therapy course at the University of Hull.

With twenty years of experience as a mental health nurse as well as clinical, operational and strategic roles, Clare is responsible for Onebright’s internal clinical team and the delivery of excellence in clinical services and outcomes.

Within the corporate sector, she has designed, developed and implemented clinical services within the wellbeing sector, receiving accolades in innovation and training provision.

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