Depression Among Employees is Real: Here’s How to Deal With It

4 minutes

Picture this.

You are a manager in a large MNC or a startup. You get a call from one of the employees who tells you that they can’t come in today. They give you no reason. When you ask for one, they evade the question, and when you press, they say they don’t feel like coming in today

Must leave you stumped right? After all, work is work, everybody complains, but we all get down to it. Work doesn’t just help us pay bills, it serves a sociological, social and psychological purpose. It provides us with identity, self-esteem, a sense of pride, respect and direction. Sure, there are days you rather avoid morning traffic, crawl out of bed late, eat a big breakfast, watch a matinee show, get a beer and take an afternoon nap no? Everybody has those feelings when you are not in the mood to go to work.

There are feelings and then there are feelings that go beyond a fleeting thought of skipping work.

For most people, these feelings are Monday blues, lack of sleep, a hangover, issue with the boss, a fight with a loved one, or something fleeting that usually goes away after a double espresso or after a reminder about the EMI payment for that new house or car. They snap out of it. Then there are those who can’t just snap out of this. This is depression. When the simple task of getting out of bed and going to office seems like a monumental task. If they dragged themselves to office, what follows is a listless mood, lack of concentration, drop in sociability, decreased energy levels and feelings of sadness.

Depression at the workplace
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According to a study done by industry association, Assocham, nearly 42 percent of employees in Indian corporates are depressed. This is a jump of 40-45 percent in the last 8 years. Depression is the single most important reason for lost productivity globally. An article published on the Harvard Medical School website talks about a study that looked at the financial impact of 25 chronic physical and mental health problems including obesity, depression, anxiety, arthritis, back and neck pain. Depression ranked as the most costly health conditions (including direct and indirect costs). In the US an estimated 200 million workdays are lost to depression each year. This is costing employers up to $44 billion annually.

Fortunately, the issue of depression and its ramifications, are slowing being addressed. In recent times, Prime Minister Narendra Modi has spoken about depression in his Mann Ki Baat, the WHO declared this year’s theme on World Health Day on April 7th as depression, the new Mental Healthcare Bill, 2016 and coming out of celebrities like Deepika Padukone has certainly helped in building awareness.

Shouldn’t the Indian workplace start reflecting this openness with discussion on mental health and learn to deal with employees who are depressed?

There are many ways to do this.

If a company does not have a formal mental health policy at work, it can incorporate mental health into the overall HR policy and ensure that there is ownership of this within the HR department. Managers need to be sensitized on how to deal with employees suffering from depression, they need to be able to identify signs, offer empathy, support and offer appropriate help.

Warning signs:

– Absenteeism
– Low productivity
– Social withdrawal
– Missed deadlines
– Low quality work
– Mood swings
– Fatigue and listlessness
– Errors at work
– Decreased motivation
– Substance abuse

Ways how corporates can help depressed employees:
– Offer empathy and concern
– Make it easy for them to call in depressed
– Make it easy for them to talk about depression
– Sensitise employees on how to deal with a depressed employee
– Make it part of the HR policy
– Offer in-house counselling
– Offer flexible work hours and work from home options
– Remind about past work and also offer reassurance
– Don’t brand them as lazy or not committed
– Work on a return to work plan

This article was originally published for YourDOST by Forbes India.

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