What to Know About Depression and Work?

Depression can make it hard to deal with certain aspects of your life. On a global scale, it’s the leading cause of disability. It’s estimated that at least $44 Billion are lost each year due to unproductivity resulting from depression in the workplace.

At least half of employees with depression aren’t treated. However, with treatment and the proper care, depression can get better and become manageable.

What is Depression?

Depression is a mental health disease that affects about 16 million Americans, or 7% of the country’s population. This disease can affect anyone, but women tend to be more at risk than men. Signs and symptoms of depression usually appear in your late teens or early twenties. However, it’s important to note that these symptoms can happen at any time in your life.

Diagnoses of depression are on the rise when compared to past generations. Depression isn’t just feeling sad for a few days. Typically, a person shows signs for two weeks or longer, and these symptoms can vary in severity.

Some signs and symptoms to look out for include:

  • Insomnia or oversleeping
  • Changes in appetite, such as weight loss or weight gain
  • Constant feelings of anxiety, sadness, or emptiness
  • Fatigue or low levels of energy
  • Difficulty remembering things, concentrating, or making decisions
  • Loss of interest in activities that you usually enjoy
  • Feelings of guilt, worthlessness, or hopelessness
  • Irritability and restlessness
  • Physical symptoms that don’t go away, like headaches, digestive problems, and muscle pain
  • Thoughts of self-harm or suicide

Depression affects everyone differently. People may experience a combination of these symptoms to different degrees.

Depression and Work

Without treatment, your depression can affect your work performance. For example, employees may be present at work but aren’t focused or engaged and may miss several days of work due to their symptoms.

You may need to take some time off if your symptoms get severe. However, studies show that taking too much time and breaking with structure and routine can worsen your depression symptoms. In both cases, the best way to deal with depression while you’re at work is to avoid unnecessary stress.

To make working with depression easier, you should consider letting your employer or HR Director know what you are going through. This way, they can offer support and work with you to find the best plan of action.

Here are few ways to can help to manage your depression on the job.

  • Flexible schedule.Ask your employer about creating a more flexible schedule. As depression often interferes with sleep, maybe starting a little later might help relieve some of your stress when it comes to working. Research suggests that flexible schedules increase productivity in the workplace. Ask your employer how you can make a plan that works for both of you so that you can put in your best effort each day.
  • Break up big tasks.To improve your concentration and focus, break up your tasks into smaller parts. For example, after completing a part of a task, take a five-minute break to refresh and relax before tackling the next item on your list. You’ll also feel more accomplished when completing all these smaller tasks, giving you more motivation to keep going.
  • Communicate. Many employees don’t talk about what’s going on with them. However, it could help to explain to your close co-workers and supervisor what you’re going through. Your co-workers can be more understanding and supportive. In addition, your employer can help you find the resources you need to continue working with depression.
  • Create a comfortable workspace.Personalize your work area in a way that puts you in a good mood. Your mood affects your symptoms of depression, so make your work area a comfortable, calming space. For example, try putting some photos on your desk, adding a plant or two, or decorate using soothing colors.

Getting Help

Workplace depression is one of the top problems that make employees seek help. However, many employees with depression don’t because they’re afraid of the effect it could have on their job or that their privacy is at risk.

Ask your employer if there are any mental health resources available to you in addition to making the minor adjustments already mentioned. Your insurance plan may also cover mental health services, giving you access to help from a medical professional. The earlier you seek out help, the better.

Remember, self-care is always important. Eat a healthy diet with a variety of nutrients. Make time to exercise and be physically active. Studies show that regular exercise can be just as effective as antidepressants when dealing with symptoms of depression. Avoid alcohol, smoking, and marijuana as these can make your symptoms worse, and aim to get at least seven hours of sleep each night.