You are a manager in a large company or a start-up. You get a call from one of your employees who tells you that they can’t come in today. They give you no reason, when you ask for one they evade the question and when you press they say they don’t feel like coming in today.
Must leave you stumped right? After all work is work, everybody complains but we all get down to it. Work doesn’t just help us pay bills, it serves a sociological, social and psychological purpose. It provides us with identity, self-esteem, a sense of pride, respect and direction. Sure, there are days you would rather avoid morning traffic, crawl out of bed late, eat a big breakfast, watch a matinee show, get a beer and take an afternoon nap, no? Everybody has those feelings when you are not in the mood to go to work.
For most people, these feelings are Monday blues, lack of sleep, a hangover, issues with the boss, a fight with a loved one, or something fleeting that usually goes away after a double espresso or after a reminder about the payment for that new house or car; they snap out of it. Then there are those who can’t just snap out of this, this could be depression. When the simple task of getting out of bed and going to the office seems like a monumental task. If they dragged themselves to the office what follows is a listless mood, lack of concentration, drop in sociability, decreased energy levels and feelings of sadness.
Depression and other mental illnesses are affecting more people in the UK than ever before. A sixth of the population in England aged 16 to 64 have a mental health problem, according to statistics body NHS Digital; This means that as an employer or manager, it’s your responsibility to ensure that your staff feel comfortable enough to seek help from you if necessary.
Below there are some simple policies and procedures that will help to provide the proper support and encouragement any sufferers need to come forward and seek treatment or confide in you.
- Educate your employees about depression, the warning signs, symptoms and how it can affect performance in the workplace. Raising awareness not only helps people to recognise if they themselves are suffering, but the less taboo the subject, the more likely people are to come forward if they have already been diagnosed.
- If you have any existing employee assistance programmes in place, then make sure they know about this because it can be a big help when it comes to coping with mental illnesses. If you don’t already have anything like this, it’s well worth considering because the number of people diagnosed with depression in the UK rises every year so chances are that it will affect your business at some point.
- One of the most effective things you can do as an employer is to promote a culture of acceptance. Teach your employees that mental illnesses are no different to other ailments such as diabetes or asthma. This helps to eliminate any prejudices or judgements.
- If employees are happy to talk to you but want it to remain confidential, respect this and under no circumstances discuss their situation with anyone they haven’t consented to.
- Depression is not easy to overcome, and it will take time. Try to be as flexible as you can to help aid this. For example, they may take more sick days than usual - try not to get frustrated with this. Perhaps offering flexible working from home or reduced hours may help until they have made a full recovery.
"Noticing how your employees function daily will help immeasurably in spotting changes. Early detection of symptoms and acting on them can mean healthier, higher-functioning employees and a more productive workplace."