Depression is like an Instagram filter. Your reality looks the same, but it’s different. This difference can not only negatively affect an individual, but can also negatively impact your business.
Now, depression may seem like an insignificant factor for your company’s success. But, depression can have a huge influence on your success.
Depression (and mental illness as a whole) can cause stress, mental distractions, and ruin employee engagement.
One in twenty workers is experiencing depression at any given time. Depression alone costs employers up to $44 billion annually, and an estimated 200 million lost work days each year.
Additionally, The World Health Organization predicts that by 2020, depression alone will cause more days of work loss and impairment than any other illness.
When you expand depression into all mental illness, this impact becomes greater. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has reported this information.
According to the CDC, the annual direct and indirect costs of treating mental health issues is $317.5 billion. Depression and mental illness can cost your firm copious amounts of money.
So how do you help those employees who deal with these illnesses every day? How do you support employees with depression at work? Let’s find out.
Educate Yourself and Your Team
Education is the key. One of the most difficult attributes of mental illness is that it can be next to impossible for other people to see the symptoms.
Unlike a physical malady, such as a cold or broken bone, the symptoms of mental illness aren’t as familiar to most people. Similarly, because mental illness is occurring mostly in your brain, there aren’t as clear-cut signals that are easy to pick up on.
Train your staff to recognize the many potential manifestations of the symptoms of mental illness. Make sure your employees know how to seek help for both themselves and their coworkers.
One of the biggest problems regarding mental illness is that many of those people who are suffering never seek the treatment they need. Depression is especially undertreated.
According to BenefitsPro, only a little more than half (57 percent) of employees with major depression receive professional help. Education is the first step towards affected individuals getting the help they need.
Have Open Communication
Another key to treating depression at work is the same as a relationship; communication. Not only does your communication have to be informative, but it also has to be empathetic towards a sensitive subject.
Your communications have to be carefully worded to avoid offense, or further increase the stigma surrounding mental illness. Mental health is an emotional issue for many people and should be broached in a sensitive manner.
Also, your company should ensure that there is always a way for employees to communicate any struggles they may be having, safely and confidentially.
Remove the Stigma
In the United States there continues to be a stigma surrounding mental health issues. This stigma contributes to the overall struggle of recognizing, diagnosing, and treating mental health.
Education and open communication will both help to break this stigma down. Still, removing the stigma surrounding mental illness will ultimately come down to your company’s leadership.
Not only do your business leaders have to be able to engage in discussions about mental illness with their coworkers. But, they have to actively encourage and support these types of talks.
Provide Employee Benefits
One of the best tools your company can use to combat depression in the workplace is your employee benefits package. Employee benefits can provide your staff with the resources necessary to seek treatment.
There are four main employee benefits that can aid workers struggling with depression or mental illness. They are PTO, flexibility, employee assistance programs (EAP), and health insurance.
Paid time off, or PTO, is a paid leave plan that combines sick leave and vacation time. So, PTO gives employees a set bank of time off at the beginning of each year.
The difference between PTO and standard, separated, leave is that employees have a greater ability to choose when and why they are going to take their time off. This increased flexibility can aid those who have a mental illness.
If an employee knows that they are more vulnerable or emotional during a particular time, they can take time off without having to give advanced notice to their employer, as they would with vacation time.
With PTO, your employees can take this leave, and not have to worry about the stress of using unpaid leave.
Flexible Work Options
There are three main flexible work options: flexible location, schedule, and hours. These options allow your employees to choose when, where, or the number of hours they work.
Like PTO, flexible work options let your team members work around any needs they may have, regarding their depression or mental illness.
Similarly, these benefits can help your employees reduce the overall amount of work-related stress, which negatively impacts mental health. Flexible work options allow your staff to work around their mental illness.
Note: There is another option to increase employee-flexibility that isn’t technically a flexible work option. That option is to alter an employee’s role as necessary.
Collaborate with your staff to adjust an employee’s position, when necessary. If a team member feels their work is affecting their battle with depression, a change in the role may similarly reduce an employee’s work-related stress, similar to using flexible work.
Employee Assistance Programs
Employee Assistance Programs, or EAPs, are work-based intervention programs designed to identify and assist employees in resolving personal issues. These issues can range from marital, to financial, to substance abuse and mental health concerns.
Organizations usually offer EAPs at no cost to team members. Most employers operate their EAP through a third-party administrator.
Using a third-party administrator is crucial to the success of your EAP because employees have to feel comfortable discussing professional and personal problems.
Your staff needs to be able to talk about these issues, such as depression and mental illness, with confidence. They cannot fear they are putting their jobs or lives in jeopardy.
If you administer your EAP, it could prevent employees from coming forward and asking for the help they require. Still, EAPs are a terrific way to point employees struggling with mental illness, in the right direction, so they can receive the treatment they need.
Health insurance is critical for helping staff members who have any mental illness. As an employer, it is essential to select a health plan that includes mental health coverage.
There is an extensive list of mental health services your health plan should provide your staff. These services include outpatient and inpatient treatment, medication, and counseling. Each of these is essential for dealing with mental illness.
A 2017 survey showed that 88 percent of U.S. employers want to make behavioral health a top priority. This emphasis has to continue.
Depression at work is a serious issue that necessitates a dedication of time and resources. Take these steps to aid your employees in their secession from depression.