The mental health of employees is vitally important to the success of any company. Unfortunately, it can often be overlooked in the corporate world as employees are expected to perform to the best of their ability, and in many organisations, talking about depression is not actively encouraged among staff. A lot of managers are not trained on how to deal with team members who are suffering from depression, nor do people feel comfortable with bringing it to the attention of the people they spend most of their time within the professional environment. Globally, over 300 million people each year are affected by depression, with 80% of this number not having the courage to speak up and seek help.
According to a recent publication by Mind.org, a large percentage of employees decide not to talk about mental health in the workplace as they are afraid of losing their jobs, the confidentiality of the conversation with fellow staff and management, and the impact on their reputations within the company. A number of reports have shown that workplace depression is a large problem for economies worldwide, costing billions to organisations annually, and in Europe alone, it has an impact of €94 billion per year on the economy. Employees with depression often find it difficult to function properly and to the fullest of their abilities. A number of research studies have proved that early identification and treatment is vital to improvements in productivity and recovery to those affected by it. With that in mind, it is essential for managers to monitor the mental health of their employees to ensure that it’s not overlooked in the workplace. Here are some signs that manager should look out for.
Poor concentration: Is a team member struggling to complete simple tasks? Depression can negatively impact a person’s ability to complete everyday tasks such as reading, writing or listening properly. If you notice that a colleague is repeatedly struggling to compose emails, follow up on tasks, read a report and make phone calls, it may be that they’re going through a difficult period. If they can’t seem to follow simple instructions and execute the tasks appointed to them, a mood disorder may be the cause of it.
Lack of motivation: Everyone will experience a period of low motivation in the workplace as not everyone works to the same level of output five days a week. However, if notice a longer period whereby an employee is unenthusiastic about tasks, communicating with fellow team members in meetings, and contributing to the same extent as before, it may be the case that something is wrong and they’re in need of help.
Withdrawl: A sudden change in social behaviour whereby an employee no longer spends as much time with friends and colleagues in the workplace may be a sign that they’re suffering from a mood disorder. Stresses at work and work can often make someone more irritable than normal, but if there’s a continued period of withdrawal, snappy behaviour and the person being more irritable, this could be a signal that depression has taken hold. Depressed people will often find it difficult to accept help from someone else, so even if you offer help to sort out a particular issue they’re encouraging, you may not see any improvement in their mood.
Absenteeism: Have you noticed a team member taking more sick days than usual with increasing frequency? If it’s the first time it has happened, it may be the case that they’re just sick, but if there’s a continued pattern of behaviour with short notice about why they won’t be in, it may be due to a disinterest in work and deeper underlying issues that need to be addressed. People with depression will sometimes suffer from physical pain which can’t be attributed to any obvious outside cause – some of the common complaints are headaches, backache, some muscles, or other niggling pains. Once you have checked that the pains are not being caused by any medical condition they have, and external factors, such as an uncomfortable office chair or poorly aligned computer screen, it may be time to consider depression as the cause.
Tiredness: We all have days where we experience tiredness at work – particularly on a Friday after a week of early mornings, working on projects in the office, and balancing personal commitments at home. However, if an employee continues to look tired for a prolonged period of time, it may be the case that they’re not sleeping at night due to issues impacting their mental health. Are they arriving at the office later each day? Yawning excessively and complaining about tiredness following the completion of simple tasks? These are some of the obvious signs to indicate that they’re not sleeping properly at night.
Depression is not an illness that employees should be ashamed to speak openly about. Chances are that one in ten people you know are suffering from some degree of depression at the moment. The CDCP reports that in any given year, over 9.5% of adults will suffer from depression, which will have a significant impact on your company’s productivity, performance and culture if left unattended. Short term, employees who are absent will need to be covered by others on the team, and it can be difficult to predict how long this employee will be off from work and when they will be fit to return to the office.
If you believe any colleague is suffering from mental health issues, you should talk to them in private and provide assurance that both you and the company will be there to support them – they will not alone with this. Don’t wait until it’s too late.