Things to be aware of when your employee has depression
According to the Mental Health Foundation, 1 in 4 of us will experience a mental health problem. Furthermore, 2.6 per cent of the population will experience depression, and 9.7 per cent a mix of depression and anxiety.
Depression can have a particularly negative effect on a sufferer’s work life. In fact, Mind, the mental health charity, states that 1 in 5 people take a sick day due to stress, while 19 per cent of staff report feeling as though they can’t speak to managers about their condition.
With stigma leading many employees to keep quiet about their illness, what should you be aware of when an employee has depression? Here are some things to bear in mind...
Maintain a healthy workplace
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).
Know the signs
Not everyone feels like they can confide in their manager, through no fault of your own. This is where being able to spot potential signs and symptoms can be helpful.
- 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
- Appearing pale or tense
- Easily startled by everyday sounds
- Loss of concentration
- 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 are approachable can help give an employee the confidence to seek your advice. You never know when someone might want to sit down and talk something through, so make it clear that your door is always open.
It may seem like making adjustments 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.
Don’t be too intense
Checking in with a sick employee is only natural, but overdoing it could do more bad than good. Sometimes, sufferers of depression may want a quiet moment alone, while others may not be in the mood to talk. Many sufferers may even see work as good for them: something that gets them out of bed in the morning and 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.
Obey the law
It’s important to remember the key terms of the Equality Act 2010: it’s illegal to treat employees with mental health conditions less favourably than others. Reasonable adjustments must be made for them.
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.
Take part in Mental Health Awareness campaigns
Being aware of days such as World Mental Health Day can show employees suffering from depression that you care. You could take part in the Mental Health Foundation’s ‘Tea and Talk’ event, sitting down for a break at some point during the day to enjoy a brew and a slice of cake with your team.
By being aware of these simple points, you could go a long way towards making your workplace a much healthier and happier place.
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