Clinical depression is a costly illness that can affect both your employees and your company. When left untreated, it can cost the US economy over $51 billion in absenteeism and lost productivity, according to Mental Health America .
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC ), approximately 9% of American adults are depressed. There's a good chance that one or more of your employees could be dealing with the condition. Common symptoms include but aren't limited to persistent anxious or sad mood, losing interest in favorite activities, fatigue, and changes in appetite or sleep patterns. At work, these symptoms can manifest in decreased productivity, increased absenteeism, and morale problems. The good news is that the majority of people with depression can be treated.
This is where it can get a little bit tricky for employers. It is not the employer's job to diagnose or treat an employee. Here are some ways supervisors can offer support and deal with depression in the workplace:
- Refer the employee to your company's Employee Assistance Program (EAP) as a starting point. Nextep's EAP, for example, offers an online library of knowledge articles, phone assistance, and resources to find counselors.
- Be aware of the opposite problem of absenteeism: presenteeism. Some employees feel guilty or less valuable to the company if they take time off, and some businesses even have a culture that supports this mentality. Gently remind the employee that the company's paid time off is meant to be taken. If your company has more than 50 employees in a 75-mile radius, the employee may also be eligible to take paid or unpaid time off for treatment under the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA).
- The Partnership for Workplace Health has created a program to promote awareness, increase workplace support and decrease the stigma surrounding mental health. Their online resources include flyers, educational information, and a short video that shows how supervisors and coworkers can support an employee who is dealing with mental health issues.
Remember, an employee's personal health information is just that: personal. Physical or mental health conditions can only be shared with those who have a valid need to know. Further, health conditions cannot be taken into account for employment-related decisions, such as hiring, firing, promotions, and more. Focus instead on the employee's overall work performance and ability to complete the job at hand.
For human resource guidance, contact Nextep's HR team to talk through specific actions and recordkeeping needed on a case-by-case basis.