Depression in the workplace is more prevalent than you might think. In fact, nearly 10 percent of U.S. adults face a depressive illness every year, and the condition affects about one in five adults over 55, according to the CDC. Furthermore, the World Health Organization states that depression is the leading worldwide cause of disability.
The well-being of each of your employees is obviously a priority when depressive issues come into play, but you still have to be pragmatic and address the condition’s impact on your company’s bottom line — and that impact can be just as stark. The CDC estimates that depression costs businesses 200 million lost workdays per year, leading to significant financial losses: anywhere from $17 to $44 billion. This includes both absenteeism and the inability of affected employees to accomplish work-related tasks even when they’re in the office.
Employers cannot always identify or remedy depressive illnesses in their employees, but you can still be on the lookout for behavioral changes, including noticeably decreased productivity and altered mood. But a big piece of the puzzle, as with many conditions, is preventive measures, so it pays to understand the common workplace stressors that impact employee mental health and could lead to — or exacerbate — depression.
Job strain is the predominant emotion employees feel when they have little to no control over the type of work required, pace of work and generally high job demands. A constant struggle to meet excessive expectations can certainly add to depressive issues. It’s therefore important to keep abreast of employees who are fighting to stay above water with their duties. Is it a case of some employees bogging themselves down on their own, or are the expectations simply too high? Addressing these situations early on can help limit job stress and the snowball effect that may arise from it.
Lack of Work-Life Balance
Poor work-life balance is a common trigger for depression in the workplace if employees’ workloads and expectations are often following them home. When employees are unable to enjoy their leisure and recreational time because they feel that they must always be available, there is no time left for them to relax and recharge. If you know of an employee that’s constantly working late or on the weekends, it’s time to address their workload in a similar fashion to facing job strain: How can you make changes to lighten their load?
Workplace Discrimination and/or Harassment
It’s not hard to figure out: No matter the reason, if an employee isn’t comfortable coming to work, stress levels will constantly be high, leading to increased risk of depressive conditions. There are numerous types of workplace discrimination and harassment, and while all employers want their business to be free of such negative interactions, that doesn’t mean they don’t happen. Training will help raise awareness of these issues, but it’s also imperative to foster an atmosphere where employees are comfortable raising issues to respectful, authoritative listeners.
Fear of Job Security
When employees feel that their job isn’t secure regardless of their effort or performance level, it will lead to constant stress and potential depressive issues. Everybody fears unemployment, being unable to provide for their families, and a general uncertainty of what the future holds. While employers can’t diminish these feelings, they certainly can establish consistent protocols for addressing job security. For example, all employees should know that they would go on a performance plan long before the company would consider letting them go for performance reasons.
As an employer, educating employees and practicing preventive measures are the key weapons, both in terms of recognizing potential issues and creating a healthy, comfortable atmosphere where your employees can overcome potential depressive issues and thrive.
Allison Hutton is an experienced writer, editor, communications professional, researcher and social media consultant. During her more than 15 years of communications and writing experience, Allison has worked with a variety of clients, from small-business owners to Fortune 500 companies. She has an M.S. in entertainment business, a B.A. in communication and lives in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, with her husband and four children.