How To Manage Employees With Depression

Learning how to manage employees with with depression is vital for any effective manager. Unfortunately, an employee suffering from depression or another mental health issue is common in the workplace. A caring culture where staff feel they can openly discuss their mental health issues can help them individually. It can also send out a clear message about the company or organisation’s values.

As humans, we all have fluctuating mental health. The more proactive a company is about helping those struggling with clinical depression and creating a supportive culture, the more respect they will gain. The happier and healthier employees are, the more motivated, successful, and accomplished the organisation.

There are simple measures managers can take to promote the message that the organisation supports employees with mental health issues and does not discriminate. These measures can include implementing a flexible work schedule.

Destigmatising mental health is essential not just for employees but also for society. The more open conversations are, the less alone those struggling will feel.

What Is Depression?

It is important that managers understand what depression is if they are to be more caring, empathetic, and compassionate. This will both support employees with depression and ensure that the company or organisation can thrive when faced with such challenges.

Understanding what depression is also enables teams to foster an environment of care and support. Destigmatising mental health disorders can help everyone who is struggling feel as though they can speak out about it and obtain the help they need.

Depression is a common mood disorder defined by continual sadness, emptiness, and a lack of motivation towards life. It doesn’t have a singular cause. Instead, it can arise due to multiple factors, leading to symptoms of depression, including:

  • Feeling low, sad, and tearful
  • Feeling empty
  • A lack of concentration
  • Low self-confidence and excessive guilt
  • Feeling hopeless
  • Insomnia or sleeping too much
  • Increase or decrease in appetite
  • Lack of energy
  • Feeling pessimistic
  • Persistent pains, aches, headaches, or cramps
  • Suicidal thoughts

Is Depression Considered a Disability?

Under the Equality Act 2010, depression is considered a disability if it has a substantial and long-term effect on an employee’s ability to complete tasks and activities in the workplace. If an employee’s mental health condition fits the criteria of the Equality Act, they gain protection from discrimination at work.

Regardless of whether someone’s mental health is severe enough to be classed as a disability under this guidance, managers should work to create an environment where people feel empowered to talk about their mental health and feel safe at work.

How To Manage Employees With Depression

How to Spot the Warning Symptoms of an Employee With Depression

Each person’s mental health presents differently. Some people can hide signs of depression, whilst others struggle to do so. However, there are some common warning signs that managers can look out for if they are concerned about depression in an employee.

These symptoms include:

  • Being late for work or frequently taking time off
  • Missing deadlines or meetings
  • Avoiding social settings at work
  • Limiting interaction with colleagues
  • Frequently making mistakes
  • Reduced energy at work that may be mistaken as boredom
  • Lost productivity
  • Reduced work performance
  • Loss of interest in tasks
  • Change in appearance
  • Poor hygiene
  • Anxiety and overwhelm whilst trying to complete tasks

How To Initiate a Conversation Surrounding Mental Health Issues

Initiating a conversation surrounding mental health can feel daunting, but it doesn’t have to be. Luckily, these dialogues do not require any special skills; they just require managers to listen, respect the employee, empathise, and be approachable. Although many employees with depression approach their managers, others do not.

When starting a conversation, a good approach is treating a mental health disorder just like a physical illness. Some effective conversations simply start when a manager asks an employee how they are.

Engaging in open communication where mental health dialogue is normalised helps encourage an open work culture where employees feel safe to have honest conversations surrounding their mental health in the future. Creating a routine whereby each employee is asked how they are offers a space for them to open up.

When talking about sensitive issues, it is vital that employees with depression feel comfortable. The conversation must also remain strictly confidential. Many employers choose to facilitate the discussion in a comfortable space that is quiet, private, and neutral. When talking to an employee with depression, managers should remember to ask non-judgemental and simple questions so that employees can express their problems.

Upon having a conversation with an employee, implementing a plan for the future, such as flexible hours, that includes practical adjustments to improve their mental health at work, what might trigger their mental health, and what impact it has on their work is essential. Managers may also wish to discuss a time to review this plan and the support measures proposed to assess their success and make adjustments accordingly.

Managers may also wish to encourage employees with depression to seek external help from services such as a GP, counsellor, or therapist. This will give them tools to manage their mental illness.

If a team member does not feel ready to talk openly when approached, ensuring that they understand support is available can go a long way.

How To Create a Safe and Supportive Culture for Employees and Offer Mental Health Support

Make Reasonable Adjustments

If an employee is suffering from depression, managers must make reasonable adjustments for them so that they are on an equal playing field to non-disabled employees.

It is also important that managers provide individual support to each employee with a mental health problem. Actively listening to employees will identify what adjustments will be best for them and their triggers.

There are many additional adjustments managers can make to ease the pressure on someone’s mental health and, in turn, evolve the organisation into one of positive values. Below we have outlined some simple and inexpensive adjustments to consider.

  • Flexible work schedules. Offering an employee flexible work hours is a great motivation tool as a flexible schedule can help take the pressure off the employee if they are struggling with sleep issues due to their depression, for example.
  • Changes to the working environment. Changing the workspace so it is quieter, has some privacy, or is more or less busy depending on the employee’s needs can help improve their well-being. Working from home may suit some people more, but managers must make sure to keep in regular contact if this is chosen.
  • Offering an employee with depression time off for appointments. Some employees will avoid external support and help due to being afraid to ask for time off. Offering employees time off for therapy or counselling due to severe depression is advised.
  • Creating a safe space at work. Creating a space where people can have some time out if they feel overwhelmed can support employees in feeling more comfortable whilst at work.
  • Assessing an employee’s role. From easing an employee’s work arrangements to providing additional training, assessing an employee’s position can help them manage their depression better.

Treat Mental Health the Same As Physical Health

Mental health has a profound impact on an employee’s well-being. It is therefore extremely important that mental health is treated similarly to physical health problems. Making sure that the work environment feels judgement-free and supportive can help an organisation support those with depression.


To conclude, organisations can implement numerous steps and measures to create a positive work culture and provide support. The more comfortable employees feel about talking openly about their mental health, the more likely they are to seek help.

To find out more about depression in the workplace or how to help employees with mental health problems, contact us today.

How To Manage Employees With Depression

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