As employers consider which topics are top of mind for them in the new year, depression and its effects on the workplace should be a priority. This is because depression is the leading cause of disability worldwide, according to the World Health Organization, and can greatly impact a workforce.
Employees who experience depression have the potential to contribute to lost productivity due to presenteeism, which is the practice of an employee coming to work while experiencing a medical condition. And, if the depression is more severe, it could require an employee to take a disability leave.
Employers may want to look for advice on how to navigate these situations. The good news is employers can partner with a disability carrier to help ensure their most pressing questions about managing depression at the workplace are answered.
An employee with depression is often difficult to recognize, given the general lack of physical or visual symptoms. In fact, these types of mental health conditions generally are first noticed only when an employee has a problem focusing and productivity is suffering.
An employer who spots signs of depression — particularly early on — may be able to help an employee avert a disability leave. This approach can help an affected employee seek the needed treatment and may also help minimize a decrease in workplace productivity.
An employer can work with a consultant from their disability carrier to discuss these common signs:
- A lack of focus or concentration
- Procrastination or missed deadlines
- A decline in hygiene and attention to personal appearance
- Difficulties with memory or learning
- An uptick in late arrivals or early departures
How can employers approach and provide support to an employee in need?
While an employer wants to help an employee who is struggling with depression at work, the sensitive nature of a mental health condition can make it hard for them to understand the best way to provide support. With sensitive matters, it can be best for employers to work with their disability carrier’s consultant to help determine how to approach the employee and get them in touch with treatment resources.
When contacting an employee to address work-related challenges, remember to approach these discussions with empathy. It’s important to focus on what behaviors the employee is exhibiting at work, rather than overreaching theories.
Also see: “The 15 biggest HR challenges in 2018”
From there, the conversation can move to the types of accommodations the employee may need to treat his or her condition. For an employee returning to work or hoping to stay at work, this could include providing them with a flexible schedule to attend doctors’ appointments and/or adjusting their workload.
As simple as it sounds, being open and accepting about mental health issues can go a long way toward a healthier workplace. An employee with depression can benefit from knowing his or her employer is genuinely concerned with improving their health and wellness in the workplace.
How can employers leverage additional resources?
Another way to address depression (and other mental health issues) is by highlighting the partnership between a disability carrier and your employee assistance program. EAPs are one of the most effective ways to support an employee who is dealing with a mental health issue, such as depression.
One benefit of an EAP which is often under-communicated is that three to six visits for treatment are often covered for assistance with job stress, family issues and alcohol and substance abuse. The consultant from your disability carrier can help by reaching out to an employee to recommend he or she connect with the EAP for treatment and support. This connection can help make clients make better use of your organization's employee benefits offering.
Employers can play an important role in helping mitigate the impact of depression in their workplace. Connecting with the resources from their disability carrier can help ensure an employee gets the right support he or she needs to stay at work or return to work. This concentrated effort can have a visible impact on the overall health and productivity of their workplace.
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