Depression in the workplace

Depression in the workplace

By Barney Davis

Depression is usually symptomized as a long-term feeling of unhappiness or hopelessness. However, symptoms for depression can also include loss of interest in things previously enjoyed or being reclusive when you used to be social. There aren’t just psychological symptoms linked to depression, there are also physical symptoms such as constant tiredness, no appetite or even having various aches and pains. The magnitude of these symptoms can often help to define the severity of a person’s depression. When an individual is diagnosed with a mental health issue such as depression there is a chance that they are also struggling with one or more other mental health issues. A journal written in 2001 published by “The Primary Care Companion To The Journal of Clinical Psychiatry in America” found that half of the people who were in the survey with either anxiety and depression also had another condition[1].

            Although depression has some physical symptoms which someone may be able to notice, these symptoms are often more subtle. For example, if an employee is distancing themselves from a group task, one could just assume they are having an off day, or an employee calling in sick when in fact, mentally they are in a bad place. Depression in the workplace can be harder to spot unless one understands the signs. One main sign is absenteeism, where an employee may avoid work. In 2017/18, 15.4 million working days were lost due to work-related anxiety or depression in the UK according to the figure released by the Health and Safety Executive. This figure accounts to around 57% of all days lost to ill health in 2017/18, and this figure is steadily increasing. Another major identifiable symptom in the workplace is a loss of productivity, this is because depression affects cognitive function and so focus on tasks is reduced. There are of course other serious identifiable symptoms of depression such as self-harm. However, to assume an employee is self-harming could be incredibly embarrassing for the employee and asking such an up-front personal question could dramatically reduce the possibility of future face-to-face talking about an employee’s mental health issues.

            If an employee does have depression, or for that matter any mental health issue, there are clear ways in which to support them through this, many of which are discussed in our guide to managing and supporting mental health in the workplace. It is important when supporting employees who may be going through a mental health issue to not be too intrusive as this could prevent them from opening up again and actually exacerbate their illness. Instead, be patient and let them know you are there if they want to talk. Another good way to support employees which are going through a mental health issue is to provide them with support groups or mental health charities such as our local partner Mind in Mid Herts.

            When dealing with depression in the workplace, it is paramount that you help the employee(s) that need it. This is where GoVox can help. With our bespoke, non-intrusive questions GoVox is able to identify those employees which would benefit the most from a chat with their manager, who then can go on and assist them in the best way possible. Our questions also help to avoid the employee directly asking for help which can remove any feeling of intrusiveness and instead creates a healthier, more open culture.

            As difficult as it is to identify employees which are dealing with depression or any other mental health issue, it is even harder when employees are working from home, or remotely. This too is where GoVox questionnaires can help. By Checking In with your employees, you are letting them know that you are still looking out for their welfare and mental health even if it isn’t through face to face conversations.


[1] (Robert M. A. Hirschfeld, 2001)