How to Help Employees Cope with Depression at Work


Mental health has become an increasingly important piece of the ever-evolving benefits puzzle. According to Forbes, one in ten American adults suffer from depression, which can cost companies more than $51 billion in absenteeism and lost productivity. Mental wellness is about more than just having a bad day—if you see signs of employee depression you should be prepared to offer support.


There are many proactive and reactive steps you can take to help employees cope with depression during work hours. Consider these five tips to make your office a safe and supportive space.


1. Know the Signs

As an HR professional, it’s your duty to be in tune with the general feeling of your employees. If one of your top performers has recently become withdrawn or forgetful, you should take notice. Make time to research and understand the symptoms associated with clinical depression so you’re prepared to address it early on, rather than waiting until your employees hit rock bottom. Be alert to the following common signs of depression:

  • Fatigue
  • Unhappiness
  • Indecisiveness
  • Withdrawal

But don’t stop there. Continue to educate yourself on symptoms and coping mechanisms to serve as a real resource to struggling employees.


2. Train Managers

With so many employees and responsibilities, it’s impossible for HR to keep tabs on the physical, emotional, and professional wellbeing of the whole workforce. That’s why managers provide valuable insight into the wellbeing of individual employees. Spend time equipping managers with the tools they’ll need to support their employees. This could be through training sessions, information sharing, or creating an open dialogue around mental health. In turn, educating your workforce on the realities of employee depression will lead to a more supportive environment and create allies across the company to support anyone who is struggling.


3. Provide Safe Spaces

Transform your office into a safe and calming environment with simple changes, such as adding plants, letting in natural light, or turning an extra room into a meditation or wellness room. These are all simple and low-cost ways to help employees recenter themselves throughout the day. If you have any display screens in the office, consider putting up a relaxing live stream or encouraging message every now and then. A little positive reinforcement can go a long way.


4. Be Flexible

While it’s not your job to diagnose employees and prescribe solutions, you can take notice and offer flexibility to support employees during difficult times. Whether it’s letting employees work from home once a week, providing couches in the office for a change in scenery,, or offering flexible hours so employees can build their schedule around counseling appointments, HR can help employees maintain a comfortable balance.


5. Offer Professional Resources

In tandem with day-to-day support, your benefits package is a perfect place to include professional resources. Basic mental health services are an important piece of any medical plan, especially considering how costly untreated depression can be to companies. Similarly, you might offer additional ancillary and voluntary benefits like an EAP (Employee Assistance Program) or telehealth counseling programs. This shows employees that you want them to have access to all the resources they need to feel comfortable at work.

A holistic approach to health and wellness goes beyond traditional healthcare or gym memberships. Mental health is a critical but often overlooked aspect of employee wellbeing. Don’t underestimate your ability to help employees cope with depression at work, as every bit helps. Stay educated about the signs and effects of depression, so that you’re prepared to be the empathetic resource your employees need.

Topics: Benefits, Wellness

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