Employee Depression: could you spot the signs?

It’s easy to guess that January is the month in which we’re all more likely to feel the most depressed. 

Not only is it cold and dark outside, but the streets are strewn with forlorn Christmas trees, reminding us that the pleasures of the festive season are long gone.

So, it’s perhaps no wonder that The Samaritans have reported January as “a peak time for calls from people on the edge of despair”.  It seems we tend to mask feelings of stress over Christmas, only for them to rise to the surface once life and work returns to ‘normal’.

Worse still, the beginning of a new year is also a peak time for suicides and suicide attempts, according to a recent study by the Morneau Shepell Research Group, which analyses health trends.  Worryingly, 2018 saw the sharpest rise in suicide rates in 16 years.

These are important facts to consider when thinking about employee wellbeing over the festive season.  Even if you believe that your workplace is generally happy and supportive, it is important to remember that we all have different stresses in life, and we all react differently to challenges.  In fact, according to the NHS, around 50% of long-term absences from work are the result of mental health issues.

With that said, do you think you could spot the signs if one of your employees was suffering from depression?

Here are some early warnings to look out for.

1. Absenteeism

It may seem obvious that an employee who takes more time off sick could be dealing with a problem, but during the festive season this can be easily translated into “he or she is just nursing a hangover, or going out Christmas shopping”. 

Ensuring that you ask the right questions, without judgement, can help your employee open up about a situation they are finding difficult to cope with.

2. Loss of motivation

The key here is to note any changes in behaviour.  If your employee is usually full of the joys of spring, yet all of a sudden they seem to have lost all interest in their work, something could be wrong.

3. Social withdrawal

Has your employee declined that invitation to the company’s festive get-together?  Have they stopped chatting to colleagues over their first coffee of the day?

Depression can be signalled by a change in social behaviour, so if colleagues voice concerns about an employee’s growing lack of participation, this could be something to note.

Additional symptoms include excessive tiredness and constant yawning, difficulty coping with their ‘usual’ workload, and increased irritability.

Wellbeing is an important subject to consider at any time of the year, but as we’ve seen, it can become even more critical as we head into the festive season and beyond. 

Confidence to Return works alongside HR and L&D professionals, and business owners, to support employee wellbeing in expert ways that promote a happy, healthy, and motivated workforce. 

If you have any concerns about an employee, no matter how big or small, I offer a free employee assessment to help you gain an objective view of the situation.  From there, I would be happy to provide any advice and support that may be needed, to help get them and you back on track.


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