Helping a Depressed Employee

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Depression is a serious mental illness that affects not only the individuals who experience it but also those around them, including their coworkers.

Absenteeism and decreased productivity due to mental illness cost businesses money, and a negative change in performance can cost an individual his or her job. Luckily, effective treatment options are available for those who suffer with depression.

Strategies for Helping a Depressed Employee

Know the signs of depression and how the illness can impact productivity. If an employee’s performance is declining, he or she may be experiencing depression. The following behaviors are indicators of the illness:

  • Extreme tiredness and fatigue
  • Trouble concentrating
  • Forgetfulness
  • Making errors
  • Mood swings
  • Irritability

Approach the employee in a nonjudgmental way. Express your concern about his or her well-being by concentrating on the changes you’ve noticed in his or her work performance and behavior. It is important to be empathetic but to limit the conversation to work-appropriate topics.

Suggest that the employee seek professional help. If the company you work for offers mental health services, provide the employee with contact information. If it does not, recommend seeking professional counseling offered through health care benefits, local clinics, or even churches.

Be flexible about the employee’s schedule and workload. He or she may need to go into work later or leave earlier than usual on certain days in order to meet with a counselor, or he or she may need to take some time off in order to recuperate. Adjusting the employee’s workload to accommodate this new schedule will help him or her recover by limiting stress and allowing him or her to focus on treatment.

Respect the employee by keeping the conversation confidential. Other employees do not need to know about his or her personal challenges.

Stay involved. Check in with the employee on a regular basis to find out how he or she is doing and whether any progress has been made. Help the employee recognize the positive side of situations, especially when he or she is dealing with work-related issues.

Be patient. If the employee decides to seek treatment, improvements may not be noticeable for quite some time. Encouragement and understanding can go a long way.

Sources: Psychology Today, Healthy Place, Law Practice Magazine


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