#HR Trends and Insights | LSA

The Best Ways to Support the Emotional Health of Employees

April 24, 2024

Depression at Work Is on the Rise—How Employers Can Help

Depression at work can have serious consequences on employees’ mental health and well-being. Major depressive disorder, also known as major depression, is a common mental health condition that can deeply affect an individual’s personal and professional life.

Employees experiencing workplace depression may exhibit depressive symptoms such as difficulty concentrating and poor mental health.

By taking steps to support employees’ mental health, organizations can create a healthier and more productive work environment for all.

The Fine Line Between Stress, Burnout, and Depression

Stress is defined as “a state of worry or mental tension caused by a difficult situation.” It is normal to experience stress in life and as a work-related stress. but this type is often short lived, and it’s typically related to a specific task or thing. When stress is prolonged, the problem can escalate rapidly.

Stress is a completely natural response pushing us to address any threats or challenges we come up against in life. Chronic stress, on the other hand, can cause long-term empathetic fatigue, which can often lead to depression and despair.

Burnout is defined as “a psychological syndrome emerging as a prolonged response to chronic interpersonal stressors on the job.” It is exhibited by feelings of overwhelming exhaustion, cynicism and detachment from a job, and a lack of accomplishment.

Having stressful work conditions is not uncommon. You can experience anxiety, irritability, muscle tension or headaches during high-pressure moments, but the tension is relieved after your stress level decreases.

Burnout causes long-term stress. It’s a stress that does not disappear after a problem is resolved.

Developingdepressionat work is common, and depression is sometimes caused by burnout. Depression causes severe sadness and affects sleep, energy, mental health decision-making, and relationships in a significant way.

Causes of Workplace Depression

Workplace depression can be triggered by a variety of factors, including a toxic work environment, high job demands, or a poor work-life balance.

  • High Workload: Having an excessive workload can lead to stress and burnout. A lack of work-life balance worsens the situation.
  • Poor Management: Ineffective leadership can result in feelings of inadequacy and frustration. Not receiving any form of recognition for hard work can also add to the problem.
  • Job Insecurity: The fear of losing one’s job can cause anxiety and depression. This, mixed with uncertain economic conditions can exacerbate the problem.
  • Lack of Support: An inadequate support system within the organization can leave employees feeling isolated. Limited access to mental health resources worsens the situation.
  • Existing Conditions: Underlying mental health conditions can also contribute to the development of workplace depression.
  • Remote Work: Feeling isolated can occur when working at home. Lack of contact with others could easily cause feelings of loneliness or anxiety. Whenever you work at home regularly, it’s important to stay connected to colleagues professionally and socially.
  • Toxic Work Environments: Toxic working environments can cause depression in the workplace. The issue has drawn international attention from the US Health Department and the World Health Organization (WHO). Contributing factors include workplace harassment, bullying, micromanagement, poor boundaries, unresolved conflicts, gossip, and negativity.

Signs of Depression in the Workplace

Recognizing work depression in yourself or within any member of your team can help you take proactive steps to address the situation. By knowing the symptoms of depression, individuals can more rapidly seek treatment and improve their mental health and well-being.

Be on the lookout for the following:

1. Changes in Behavior

  • Occasional bouts of increased irritability and mood swings
  • Withdrawal from social interactions
  • Avoiding team meetings and group activities
  • Loss of interest in work-related activities.
  • Difficulty completing tasks on time.
  • Procrastinating on assignments
  • Missed deadlines or missed meetings.
  • Poor self-hygiene

2. Physical Symptoms

  • Experience symptoms of fatigue and low energy levels
  • Insomnia or excessive sleeping
  • An increase in headaches and muscle aches
  • Changes in appetite and weight fluctuations

3. Emotional Distress

  • Feelings of sadness and hopelessness
  • Feeling overwhelmed and having trouble concentrating
  • Crying spells and uncontrollable emotions
  • Loss of self-esteem and self-worth
  • Thoughts of suicide or self-harm

4. Impact on Performance

  • Decreased productivity and efficiency
  • Increased absenteeism and tardiness
  • Decline in quality of work.
  • Strained relationships with coworkers

The individual may also have difficulty talking about these feelings at work because of a fear of being judged by their coworkers.

Ways to Support the Emotional Health of Employees

Employers can take proactive steps to address depression in the workplace by implementing mental health training for managers and staff and encouraging open communication about mental health issues.

Businesses should provide resources for employees to seek help and create a culture of empathy and understanding.

Promote Work-Life Balance and Self-Care

Encourage employees to take breaks and prioritize self-care. Self-care can involve simple things like eating healthy foods or letting yourself sleep in.

Alternatively, it could involve going to therapy or starting a new exercise routine or yoga class.

Offer a flexible work schedule can support a better balance of personal and work life.

Provide Training

Recognizing the signs of workplace depression and offering resources for employees to address their mental health concerns can help prevent more severe depression.

Educate managers on how to support their teams and recognize signs of distress. Implement mental health awareness programs to reduce stigma.

Create a Positive Work Culture

Foster a supportive and inclusive work environment. Recognize and reward employees for their contributions. Provide mental health resources and support programs.

Offer Employee Assistance Programs (EAP)

Employee assistance programs can provide counseling and therapy options. Provide access to counseling and mental health resources. Ensure confidentiality and accessibility of EAP services. Offer no-questions-asked mental health days.

Implement Wellness Benefits

Encourage employees to prioritize their health with employee built wellness programs like Edenred’s Lifestyle Benefits. From meals to fitness, entertainment to education, family to pets and more, Lifestyle Spending Accounts help stressors go down while productivity and wellbeing go up.

Employers customize the coverage and set limits.

Employees choose which wellness is right for them and pay with subsidies and exclusive discounts.

Meal perks is another way to promote a healthy workforce. There are even certain foods that can help battle depression.

Leafy greens, Blueberries, Salmon, Oysters, Dark Chocolate, Bananas, Walnuts, and Avocados have all been known to help.

Keep bananas in the break room and add establishments like Ticket Restaurant which can provide your team with healthier eats. You can give your employees the flexibility to choose where and what to eat with a prepaid card, and they have the added incentive not to skip meals.

How Do You Deal with a Depressed Employee?

Depression symptoms are easy to spot if you know what you are looking for. Recognizing a team member is suffering from mental health problems can help get them on the road to recovery faster.

1. Recognizing the Signs

Look for signs of withdrawal including isolation and a lack of participation in team activities. Notice changes in behavior such as increased irritability or decreased productivity. Pay attention to physical symptoms like fatigue, headaches, and changes in eating habits.

2. Approach with Empathy

It’s important to show compassion and understanding for people with mental health disorders. You can help them by actively listening and validating their feelings. Offer them support and turn them on to resources that could help like an Employee Assistance Program or therapy options.

3. Encourage Communication

Create a safe space for open dialogue to take place. Conduct regular check-ins to assess their well-being and provide opportunities for feedback. They should be encouraged to share their thoughts and concerns.

4. Accommodate Their Needs

Try to make life and work easier for them by offering flexible work arrangements in the form of telecommuting or adjusted work hours. Delegate tasks accordingly and lighten their workload, prioritizing their responsibilities.

5. Monitor Progress and Follow-Up

Set goals and check-in regularly with them, monitoring their performance and well-being. Provide ongoing support and encouragement, and make sure to offer praise for improvements and be patient with any setbacks.

6. Seek Professional Help if Necessary

At first, talking to a trusted colleague or supervisor could help. Refer them to a mental health professional if they are not managing symptoms. Offer to help them use an Employee Assistance Programs or find a therapist or counselor but always be respectful of their privacy and confidentiality.

Ensure they feel supported throughout and not judged.

Is Depression a Valid Reason to Miss Work?

Under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), it’s illegal to discriminate against an employee with a mental health issue, however, this issue needs to be diagnosed and documented by a doctor.

How Long Should You Stay Out of Work if You’re Depressed?

Taking time off work for depression is a personal decision. You should listen to your body and mind and prioritize self-care and well-being. The length of time you should stay off work with depression varies. It may range from a few days to several months.

Factors such as treatment effectiveness and personal resilience play a role. When returning to work, it is crucial to ease back into it gradually.

Consider part-time hours or reduced workload. Open communication with your employer is key, as is consulting with a healthcare professional.

Look to professionals to provide insight into your specific situation. They may recommend time off work to focus on healing.

Factors to Consider

  1. Your individual experience with depression
  2. Severity of symptoms
  3. Ability to cope with work demands.
  4. Support system available to you

Work with Edenred Today

Supporting employees with depression can have numerous benefits for both the individual and the organization. It increases employee morale and engagement, improves retention rates and overall productivity, and enhances a company’s reputation as a supportive and inclusive employer.

Employers play a crucial role in preventing and addressing this issue through proactive measures and a robust support system. Let’s prioritize mental health in the workplace for a healthier and happier workforce.

Contact Edenred today to see how we can help.

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