Written by J. Sundberg

Have you noticed an employee acting out of character? Everyone gets in a funk once in a while, but if it’s lasted for 2 weeks or more, your employee may have a more substantial problem that needs to be addressed—depression.

While you’re in no position to diagnose anyone if you’re not a mental health professional, there are several ways you can be supportive of your employee if they show signs of depression.

Signs of Depression in the Workplace

In a given year, 9.5% of the adult population will suffer from a depressive illness. But depression doesn’t just affect the individual—it can disrupt the productivity and morale of the business as a whole. In fact, a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report estimated that depression causes 200 million lost workdays in the U.S. each year at a cost of $17 to $44 billion.

While none of these signs are telltale, you should be on the lookout for:

  • More sick days
  • Less motivation
  • Withdrawn social behavior
  • Irritability
  • Incomplete work
  • Noticeable daily fatigue
  • Disregard for safety protocol
  • Loss of confidence
  • Changes in eating habits
  • Drug or alcohol abuse
  • Frequent tardiness
  • Persistent sad or anxious mood

How to Help Employees Dealing with Depression

Check in with them

Avoid being intrusive, but keep an eye out for worsening symptoms. Let your employee know that you’re there for them and that you’re available to talk. Some employees are understandably weary about discussing mental health with their boss, but simply making yourself available can be a huge help.

Create a culture of support

Simply encouraging employees to be open about their stresses and anxieties can be helpful. The point is to show them that they’re not alone and that they shouldn’t be afraid to reach out for help.

Keep it private

If your employee opens up to you about depression or another mental health issue, it’s important to keep it private unless you’re given permission to share. These are sensitive topics and they should be handled with great care.

Be respectful

It can be difficult for people to open up about their mental health. After learning of an employee’s struggles, be respectful by continuing to treat them as a capable worker. If they tell you they can manage their symptoms, believe them.

Encourage them to take part in work-related social activities

While you shouldn’t push too hard, encouraging employees to join in on workplace fun is a no-brainer. Not everyone will accept, and that’s ok. Just knowing they’re invited can provide a sense of inclusion and a boost in confidence.

If things get worse…

While being supportive and considerate of the employee is always constructive, it can only go so far. A mental health provider will have the proper tools to help your employee in the long-term. If symptoms worsen, you can politely offer to refer them to someone. If they decline help, it’s important to respect their decision.