A Helpful Guide to Managing Employees with Work Depression - Shegerian Law

Depression is a debilitating condition that affects your body, mood, and thoughts. It can greatly impact eating habits, sleep patterns, and overall functions. If left untreated, these symptoms can last for weeks, months, or even years.

Unfortunately, depression in the workplace is also a pressing matter. Employees subjected to highly demanding work, difficult clients, and poor work-life balance may experience depression. As a result, they become overwhelmed and deliver poor work performance.

Managing employees suffering from depression can be challenging, so it’s crucial to be knowledgeable about this mental health condition. This infographic will help guide you in properly managing employees suffering from depression at work.

A Helpful Guide to Managing Employees with Work Depression Infographic

What is work depression? 

Work depression refers to employees who are present at work but are mentally neither engaged nor focused. Healthline adds, “Any workplace or job can be a potential cause or a contributing factor for depression depending on the level of stress and available support at the workplace.” 

There are many causes of work depression, such as being overworked, unsafe work conditions, toxic environments, and the like. Depression in the workplace can lead to employees taking several days off due to various symptoms, but it can also affect how well you function at home.

Depression is a challenging condition to deal with. Since each individual exhibits different symptoms in varying severity, how you approach this will depend on what the person’s current struggles are. What is important is to acknowledge depression as a serious and looming problem.

People tackle depression differently. Some are comfortable with openly discussing it, while others may conceal it, making it difficult to pinpoint. Often, employees with depression opt not to receive treatment because they fear it will affect their job and violate their privacy. 

Signs of Employees with Depression in the Workplace

Given its complexity and how well it can be hidden, depression is tricky to spot but not impossible. To help determine if your employees are experiencing depression at work, here are signs you should watch out for:  

1. Absenteeism  

Absenteeism is the habit of frequently being away from work. There are legitimate reasons for being absent such as family emergencies and illnesses. However, this can be concerning if your employees are away longer or more frequent than usual. 

Possible causes of absenteeism include job dissatisfaction, burnout, and mental conditions like depression.

2. Increased anxiety levels  

Occasional bouts of anxiety at work are normal, but an anxiety disorder poses serious consequences on your employees, as it involves crippling and long-lasting fear.

Some red flags that indicate an anxiety disorder are: 

  • Constant worrying
  • Trouble concentrating 
  • Losing interest in work 

3. Lost productivity  

Productivity is vital to getting work done. Your company’s performance depends on how productive your employees are. If their productivity levels dip, delays occur, hindering your company’s progress. Lost productivity can be attributed to poor management, workplace stress, and a toxic workplace. 

4. Sleep problems  

Better sleep equates to better focus for your employees at work. If their sleep quality declines, maintaining productivity becomes a problem. Sleep problems can lead to errors, irritability, anxiety, and depression.

5. Loss of appetite 

Food is fuel for the body and mind. Eating right is key to your employees sustaining themselves, but health-related issues can reduce their appetite. Factors that cause appetite loss are gastroenteritis, medication, and age. 

6. Self-harm 

Self-harm is the act of hurting yourself intentionally. Employees who experience mental health conditions are prone to harming themselves, which is done through actions such as alcohol abuse, cutting or burning, and starvation. 

7. Suicidal thoughts 

Suicidal thoughts involve thinking about or planning suicide. These thoughts arise during stressful moments or when faced with mental health challenges, which manifest through: 

  • Mood shifts 
  • Agitation 
  • Intolerable emotional pain

8. Feelings of guilt 

A guilt complex is a belief that you have done something wrong, followed by feelings of shame. This is rooted in imagined or perceived guilt. Some characteristics of a guilt complex are crying, muscle tension, and regret. 

9. Difficulty concentrating  

Accomplishing work is difficult when your employees cannot concentrate well. Their mental state determines how efficient or inefficient they are when assigned tasks. Poor concentration results from stress, multitasking, and lack of sleep. 

10. Exhaustion

All of us require rest. When your employees are tired, they lack sufficient energy to carry out their responsibilities, compromising the quality of their work outputs. 

11. Loss of self-confidence 

A workplace that doesn’t foster employee confidence hampers them from reaching their full potential. This is a result of:

  • Micromanaging
  • Perfectionism 
  • Fear of failure

12. Persistent sadness

Experiencing sadness is normal, but if your employees are prone to persistent sadness, this should be addressed right away. This shows through low energy and performance.

Effective Ways to Manage Employees with Work Depression 

When your employees are weighed down by work depression, it affects how the company grows. If not properly addressed, they can crumble from the immense mental and emotional strain. Here are ways that can help you manage employees with work depression:

  • Educate yourself about the condition

Learning about how work depression affects your employees provides a better understanding of why they cannot perform well. This starts by observing symptoms of depression. Knowing what affects your employees can help you properly discuss these with them and develop solutions.

  • Simplify their tasks  

The thought of work can be daunting. Work depression can overwhelm employees, making it worse if their workload is too much to handle or complicated. 

As a manager, you should check on them and see how they’re handling their responsibilities. If your employees find the current workload too difficult to manage, consider assigning smaller tasks and projects to lessen the pressure until they’re ready to take on more challenging tasks.

The most important thing here is to see your employees succeed in what they do. 

  • Allow flexible work schedules

A 9-to-5 shift is the usual work hours for a company, but this may not bode well with employees suffering from work depression. Your employees may request a flexible work schedule that can help them manage sleep problems caused by depression. 

Flexible working hours boost your employee’s productivity levels and dedication to the organization. This can be done by setting core hours or days that require team members to be at the office if necessary. 

  • Encourage work-life balance 

Too much of anything is bad; the same idea applies to work. Overworking your employees may reduce performance and lead to burnout, which is why rest is critical to maintaining their happiness and productivity levels. Having a work-life balance also prevents depression from developing. 

  • Be an empathetic leader 

Depression is a burdensome condition for your employees to carry at work. Not only does it affect their self-esteem and mental state, but also how you, as a manager, engage with them. 

Empathy is a must. Your employees need mental and emotional support, and this is an excellent opportunity to demonstrate good emphatic leadership by reaching out and assisting them in the best way possible. 

Taking the initiative is the first step in practicing empathy. This is done by assuring your staff members that they will be provided with all the necessary tools and moral support to help boost their confidence, productivity, and mental well-being. 

  • Start the conversation 

Creating a safe space for employees makes it easy for them to speak with you about their mental health struggles. Expressing concern through conversations helps eliminate the discomfort of keeping these struggles to themselves. 

Your staff’s well-being is the priority here, so asking about issues that have been bothering them is a good way to start the conversation. Also, do not reveal any sensitive information regarding your employee’s mental health to others that are not involved.

There is Strength in Seeking Help 

Depression in the workplace should not be neglected. More than how your company’s progress could decline, the mental state of your employees means all the difference not just in their level of productivity but also in how they function as human beings.

Depression is not a moral failure. Employees struggling with work depression should feel safe and comfortable seeking help for their mental health struggles. 

If there are injustices or legal issues that need to be addressed to curb workplace depression, you can reach out to our employment lawyers at Shegerian & Associates for assistance and consultation. 


Manuela Varela

Relations Manager

Manuela Varela has been with Shegerian & Associates since August 2022. She is responsible for outreach and marketing on behalf of the firm and manages relationships between firms and referring attorneys. She is also responsible for developing business opportunities and affiliations. Manuela graduated from Loyola Marymount University with a degree in Economics and Political Science.