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Depression and Its Impact on the Workplace

May 24, 2008
According to a recent study that surveyed human resource managers, eighty percent of human resource generalists recognize depression as a large problem at work. Over half of them say that productivity has been damaged at their worksite by depression. If an executive is struck by the illness, profits will suffer and employees will be affected negatively by the executive's mood disorder.

Even if depression doesn't strike the upper tiers of corporate management, it can still damage productivity and profits when it affects an ordinary employee. However, many people don't recognize how serious an illness depression is in the business world until it's too late.

Nearly twenty million people suffer from depression every year. Symptoms include suicidal thoughts, sleeping much more or less than usual, and appetite changes. Physical pains that are resistant to treatment are one symptom of depression. An overwhelming feeling of hopelessness is another. If any of these symptoms last for longer than two weeks, it is important to seek professional help for clinical depression.

Roughly one quarter of the population will experience depression during their lifetime, but over eighty percent of people will either misinterpret the symptoms or avoid getting treatment. Because clinical depression is so rampant and often left untreated, it is costing business owners dearly. Experts estimate that untreated mental illness costs Americans $150 billion in lost profits, with employers paying for $44 billion of the bill (Armour, 1996). Even worse than the fiscal costs is the human toll depression takes; almost fifteen percent of individuals with untreated clinical depression end up committing suicide.

What can employers and human resource managers do to try and minimize the catastrophic effects of clinical depression in the workplace? The key to overcoming the problem is knowledge. If an executive is suspected to have symptoms of clinical depression, immediate actions need to take place to minimize the destructive effects of the disease.

Outward signs include decreased productivity, changes in work habits, problems with memory or decision making and difficulty concentrating. Motivational training or changing work hours can sometimes be enough to help break a person out of the doldrums of depression, but every person is different. Executive coaching, leadership retreats, and wellness programs are other viable options to help executives suffering from mood disorders.

Employees that are not managers often need a supervisor's help to seek treatment. Symptoms include decreased reliability and productivity, as well as mood and behavior changes. It is estimated that one in every 20 employees is suffering from depression at any given time.

Their decreased motivation and lackluster performance should not incite a supervisor's disciplinary action; this will simply give the depression another reason to thrive. Instead, encourage and mentor such individuals. In extreme cases, directing the employee toward counseling programs is necessary.

While the impact of clinical depression and other mood disorders can have cascading negative repercussions in the business world, proper training and effective corporate responses to the situation will save a company untold amounts of money in lost profits. It is important to treat every individual case separately and to maintain a high level of adaptability. In all cases, maintain compassion and keep the best interests of the company in mind as you attempt to help your coworker resume his or her activities as a functional employee.
About the Author
T. Fox researches healthy smoothies ,a mix of blenders and health ingredients, and negative ions , all resulting in collaboration. People perform better when they are healthy.
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