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How to support employees with depression

It’s important for employers to support employees suffering from depression and anxiety

10% of the UK population report to have depression, which can have a major impact on their working life.

In fact, Mind, the mental health charity, states that 1 in 5 people take a sick day due to stress. While 19 percent of staff report feeling as though they can’t speak to managers about their condition.

You can find out more about how to manage a multigenerational workforce and their wellbeing needs by downloading our free employer’s guide today.

With stigma leading many employees to keep quiet about their condition how can you support employees with depression? Here are some things to keep in mind...

Is depression a disability?

It’s important to remember the key terms of the Equality Act 2010. It states that a mental health condition is considered a disability if it has a long-term effect on normal day-to-day activity.

The Equality Act 2010 says it’s illegal to treat employees with mental health conditions less favourably than others. Reasonable adjustments must be made for them. If their mental health condition causes them to have time off work, their job must be kept open for them when they return.
Data protection regulations also state that information about an employee’s mental health should be treated as ‘sensitive and personal data’. Access to this data should be restricted.

How to help an employee with depression and anxiety

The most important thing you can do is take time to understand the signs of depression and anxiety. Not everyone feels like they can confide in their manager, through no fault of their own. This is where being able to spot potential symptoms can be helpful.

Symptoms of depression:

• Tearfulness, nervousness and irritability
• Low confidence
• Loss of concentration and motivation
• Tiredness and excessive yawning
• Loss of or increase in appetite
• Difficulty coping with workload
• Withdrawal from social activities

Symptoms of anxiety:

• Appearing pale or tense
• Easily startled by everyday sounds
• Loss of concentration
• Irritability
• Tendency to avoid certain situations

If you spot a combination of these signs, it could be time to arrange an informal chat with your employee.

Making sure you’re approachable will also give employees with depression the confidence to seek your advice. You never know when someone might want to sit down and talk something through, so make it clear your door is always open.

What to do when an employee says they are struggling

When an employee says they are depressed or over-stressed, there are several ways you can make life easier for them at work.

Make adjustments

It may seem like adjusting for one person could alienate other staff, but sometimes it’s necessary. Instead of potentially leaving an employee’s condition to worsen, address the workplace triggers that could be responsible. For example: tweak their working hours to allow them to attend a therapy session, or make sure that work is delegated in a way that won’t prove overwhelming.

Offer them to the right support

If your workplace offers mental health support, make sure it’s well publicised. If you don’t currently offer any extra support, consider introducing measures to help. External mental health and Employee Assistance Programme helplines are affordable ways to support employees with depression. You could also consider training mental health first aiders within your workplace.

A mental health helpline comes as standard with Benenden Healthcare for Business. It’s straight away and is accessible 24/7 so employees can speak to a qualified counsellor whenever they need some support.

Don’t be too intense

Checking in with a sick employee is only natural but overdoing it could do more harm than good. Sometimes, people with depression may want a quiet moment alone, while others may not be in the mood to talk. Many individuals with depression may see work as something that gets them out of bed and is a distraction from intrusive thoughts.
You never know how someone may really be feeling, so be mindful that too much special attention may not be the answer.

Take part in Mental Health Awareness campaigns

Being aware of days such as World Mental Health Day can show employees suffering from depression you care. You could organise an office ‘Tea and Talk’ event with support from the Mental Health Foundation, sitting down for a break at some point during the day to enjoy a brew and a slice of cake with your team.

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Benenden Health’s Mental Wellbeing Report

Understand why stigma is still preventing employees from telling their boss the truth about their mental wellbeing in the workplace

Download now

What can employers do to support everyone's mental health?

One of the simplest ways to be mindful of mental health is to maintain a healthy workplace. Ensure that working hours are sociable and workloads manageable, and actively work to boost morale. You could launch an early finish one Friday per month, or secure discounted gym memberships for employees (exercise is proven to improve mental health).

Whilst this doesn’t directly tackle an employee’s depression, it sets a basis for a healthier workplace.


Our business healthcare

Benenden Healthcare for Business provides an affordable, high quality, private healthcare solution to support all your employees. With easy setup and no exclusions on pre-existing medical conditions, we want to help make healthcare a standard of employment for everyone, rather than just a perk for the few. See how we can help you develop a healthcare solution that works for your whole business.

Got a question and want to know more? Call us FREE on 0800 414 8179.