Dealing with depression at work for employers

One in five employees is likely to be affected by depression at some point in their lives so be prepared to support your staff

If you are an employer, especially for a large company, there will be depression amonst your staff. One in five employees is likely to be affected at some point in their lives. For an organisation of 1000 employees, 200-300 employees may experience depression or anxiety during a 30 year career. The same company could experience one suicide per decade.

Many employers now realise that clinical depression is not just feeling fed-up; it is an illness that can severely affect the person’s life.

As an employer, if you take time to put policies and procedures in place to tackle workplace discrimination and offer support to those affected by mental ill health, you will retain the services of talented individuals whom you have invested in.

How can I support my employees affected by depression or low mood

Here are some ideas that may help you if you’re not sure about how to support your employees

  • Ask the employee if the depression is caused by problems at work and try to find a resolution to their concerns.
  • Encourage employees to raise and discuss issues concerning their depression in supervision or other confidential settings. Stress that everything they tell you is confidential and make sure you keep it that way.
  • If your employee goes off sick with depression you may be concerned that you are wasting money, particularly when money is tight. However an employee who knows the job and has had training is an investment worth keeping, even if absent from work for a longer period rather than having to take on a new worker from scratch.
  • Keep in touch with employees who are off sick with depression. Don’t over-pressurise them but encourage them to keep you informed so you know where you stand. Tell them how much you value them.
  • Offer people returning to work from a period of depression or other mental ill health a gradual return to work. For example they could start by working two days a week and gradually build it up until they are full-time.
  • Encourage your employees to look after their mental health. Ensure people take lunch breaks, have a good work-life balance and exercise regularly (perhaps look into discounted gym memberships for your employees). Read our Mood Matters microsite to find out more about good mental health and wellbeing.
  • If, like many employers, your company or organisation is going through a time of financial uncertainty and/or redundancies, be sensitive that this is a difficult time for your employees and they are likely to be feeling anxious and stressed. Take time to listen to their concerns, to learn about what they are doing and how organisational changes have affected them.
  • Watch out for other things that can cause depression or stress in the workplace like bullying and harrassment, unsocial hours, too much responsibility or not enough responsibility, lack of job satisfaction.

Do you want to know more about supporting your employees with depression and stress?

Read more about depression and how it affects people on this website or visit the Royal College of Psychiatrists’ pages about work and mental health problems.