Depression at work. One in four of us will experience mental ill health at some point in our lives so it’s not surprising this will transpire into our working lives, be it through a colleague, employee or ourselves. What is surprising is that such a prevalent issue remains rarely spoken about within the workplace. Research suggests nearly every company in England will have employees who have or have had depression, so surely it is in an employer’s best interest to discuss the issue with their staff, help remove the stigma and work to implement mechanisms for support?
But really, why should employers care?
Other than our fundamental ‘love thy neighbour’ moral obligations, business is people; people with all their flaws, shortcomings, advantages and disadvantages. Employers will invest in the business by investing in the people. A recent study by the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development found that mental ill health (including depression) had the following impacts on business:
- 37% of sufferers are more likely to get into conflict with colleagues
- 57% find it harder to juggle multiple tasks
- 80% find it difficult to concentrate
- 62% take longer to do tasks
- 50% are potentially less patient with customers/clients
In the developed world, anxiety and depression are the leading cause of long-term sickness absence. For an employer, addressing these issues can increase employee engagement and productivity. The Black Dog Institute, an organisation dedicated to the understanding, prevention and treatment of mental illness, identify a number of practical strategies to increase workplace wellbeing:
- Increasing employee control through the implementation of multi-level working committees and greater employee input into work hours and location
- Consider workplace health promotion strategies that include both physical activity incentives and mental health awareness and education
- Implement resilience training for high risk occupations such as those exposed to significant levels of trauma or stress
- The implementation of in-house workplace counselling
- Provision of peer support schemes or other ways to ensure staff are able to seek help early if needed.
Depression and wider mental ill health is costing businesses big money each year. Investing in managers to encourage performance and support employee wellbeing is another area employers can work to reduce these costs. The Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service (Acas) – www.acas.org.uk– provides an excellent resource for employers and managers wishing to better support their employees through mental ill health at work.
If you or someone you know is experiencing depression or other mental ill health, you can contact the Samaritans (116 123 – www.samaritans.org.uk), a free 24-hour helpline that provides confidential support for anybody feeling distress or despair.
By Tara Henderson