Work can be a good thing for people with depression but it can also be a source of stress.
Work can help your depression depending on the severity of your symptoms and the nature of your working environment. However, work can also be a source of stress for people and bad working environments can be a cause of depression.
The benefits of working with depression
While most people work because they need the money, there are other benefits to working when you have depression:
- It gives your day structure and something to focus on. Basically, it gets you out of bed in the morning.
- It is social and creates opportunities for talking with other people.
- It gives you a sense of achievement.
But full-time paid work might not be the best option for you, especially if you’re going back to work. Think about different ways of working – part-time, job-sharing, voluntary work, temping, working from home for some of the time or being self-employed.
Five reasons why having experience of depression can make you a better employee
- You’ll be more aware of your strengths and weaknesses.
- You’ve learned coping strategies for dealing with stress.
- You’ll be more empathetic towards your colleagues when they are stressed and feeling pressured.
- You’ll know why a good work / life balance is so important.
- You’ve learned not to let things get out of hand before you take action.
What can cause depression or stress at work?
Your depression might not be caused by your job. There is usually more than one thing that causes depression. But work can be a contributing factor for some people. The following problems in the workplace are often a cause of stress and worry.
- Excessive workload and too much pressure with deadlines and overtime
- Unsociable hours
- Unsupportive working environment
- Bullying and harassment
- Problems with colleagues
- Having too much responsibility beyond your job level. Or not having enough responsibility!
- Lack of job security, redundancies, cut backs in pay or hours
- Lack of job satisfaction, either from repetitive work or not getting positive feedback
- Personal crisis or problems, such as bereavement, financial problems, relationship difficulties, health concerns or illness, or problems with housing
Should I tell my employer I’ve got depression?
You may worry about what your boss and colleagues will think if you admit to having depression especially if there is a lot of job insecurity in your workplace. It is up to you whether you decide to tell them about your depression. There are reasons why it may be helpful to disclose your depression and reasons why not to. It is a matter of choice and a few of the pros and cons are listed below:
- Employment is covered under the Equalities Act. Your employer has to make adjustments for your depression if it is a long term condition.
- It may be less stressful for you if you have to take time off sick, if your employer already knows about your depression. They can then support you to come back to work.
- You can tell them about your depression positively. It may seem like there’s nothing positive about depression but look at the five reasons why depression can make you a better employee above.
- You may worry that your employer or colleagues will see you in a different light due to stigma around depression
- You may feel your depression has no effect on how you do your job.
Dealing with depression at work
- Don’t be afraid to take time off sick if you need it. Sometimes it can be better to take time off when you first get sick and allow yourself time to improve, rather than make yourself feel worse by struggling on when you really are too ill to go to work. Ask yourself would you feel bad taking time off for the flu? Depression is an illness too.
- If any issues at work are causing you stress or making you feel ill at work, try to talk to your line manager about them. If the problems concern your line manager, can their line manager help resolve them?
Where to get help and support
- Citizens Advice offers advice and information on a variety of matters including benefits, debt, employment and the NHS. Call Citizens Advice Direct on 0844 848 9600 for advice or visit your local Citizens Advice Bureau.
- Scottish Independent Advocacy Alliance can put you in touch with your local independent advocacy project.
- The Equality and Human Rights Commission – Advice on discrimination.
- Royal College of Psychiatrists – Work and mental health section on their website.
- ‘see me‘ – Scotland’s anti-stigma campaign.
- ACAS – Information on employment issues and dispute resolution.
- Directgov – Government information on employment.
- WorkSMART – Information about your rights at work from the TUC.