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Depressed Employees? Here's how you can deal with it!

Updated: Sep 2, 2023

Depression among employees is a serious issue and one that some people think doesn’t exist. Even though it seems like there are many reports of depression, these claims are largely ignored. If an employee has depression, it will cause them to be less productive in their work environment and sometimes managers may also consider dismissing an employee with depression.

employee has depression

Impact of depressed employees at workplace

Depressed employees can have a detrimental effect on their workplace. Moreover, they can also influence the people around them. In many cases, they will lose their sense of responsibility and put others at risk. This is because they are not able to prioritize their work and end up leaving incompleting tasks that were important. As a result, these employees will end up causing delays in the completion of their work.

Here are some of the effects that result from depressed employees:

1. Poor performance:

If an employee has depression, it could cause them to neglect their work duties and responsibilities. This could be because of difficulty in concentrating on tasks that seem mundane, difficulty in completing tasks on time, and putting other projects aside in order to complete more important ones first. If an employee finds it hard to stay focused on their tasks at hand, they may leave important tasks incomplete or rush through the task so they can do something else they find more interesting or fun.

dismissing an employee with depression

2. Increased absenteeism:

It’s hard to confirm or deny if the employee has depression since it can be difficult to make a positive diagnosis while they are at work. One of the biggest indicators is absenteeism, and it can heavily affect your business operation in terms of replacing the work that has missed. Employees who are suffering from depression are more likely to call in sick rather than dealing with the symptoms of their condition.

3. Reduced productivity:

If an employee is having difficulty concentrating on their tasks, they won’t be able to finish the job that you have asked them to do. You will start to notice a trend of the same few tasks being repeated over and over, and it will lead to a drop in quality of work. Depressed employees are also likely to be productive during some parts of the day but less so during other parts. They will find it hard to get started on their work and may even procrastinate.

4. Non-cooperation:

If you are the manager of a depressed employee, you may find that you can’t get them to be cooperative or accountable for their actions. They will feel like they do not have your trust or respect, and they won’t be motivated to listen to you because of this. You may also find that your employee has depression, they are no longer motivated to participate in work events. Depression could cause an employee to become withdrawn and not want anything to do with the company.

Action points for managing an employee with depression

depressed employee

When working with depressed employees, managers need to remember that the business is the priority. To ensure that productivity stays stable, it will be important to follow these steps to help your employees cope with the condition and remain productive:

1. Train managers on how to spot depression: Your initial actions should be to train managers on how they can recognise signs of depression in their employees. They should know what behaviors and signs they should look out for. Managers also need to have a basic understanding of what causes depression and what recovery might look like when it comes time to deal with this condition. Psychotherapists can be very useful resources in helping managers deal with these issues in their team members and manage them appropriately;

2. Address the depression in context: You employees may not be able to see the cause of their depression, so it’s important to talk about how the depression is affecting their work. This can be done by showing your support for their wellbeing and encouraging them to seek treatment for their condition. You should also ask them how you can help them feel more comfortable and productive at work.

3. Develop a management strategy: It’s important to develop a strategy to help your depressed employees continue to be productive. This can include breaking down tasks that can be done in smaller chunks, and helping them schedule their work as per their convenience for some time.

4. Encourage employee participation in healthy activities: Promote healthy living among your staff by encouraging them to take regular breaks from their desks, eating lunch together as a team, and encouraging physical activity outside of work. These small things can go a long way when it comes to improving morale and increasing productivity;

5. Provide them with a supportive manager or mentor: It’s important for managers to be aware that the common attitude about depression is changing. It’s now becoming more accepted and understood, which is a good thing for managing the condition. Depression can be an untended illness, so providing your depressed employees with a manager they trust who can listen to them, encourage them to remain productive, provide support, and help them make healthy choices will go a long way towards helping them recover;

6. Take care of yourself: If you are the manager of someone who suffers from depression, take care of yourself as well. You may also be affected by their symptoms, and it will be important to talk to someone you trust and ask for help. There are plenty of resources online, such as this one, that can help you make productive choices when dealing with the condition. The most important thing is to be consistent in your approach so you can find the things that work for your employee.

7. Keep it mum: It's a good idea to keep this conversation private between you and the employee since they may not be ready to share with the rest of the office. If you want to discuss their depression with them, do so in person or through an online meeting. You can also mention it at open meetings for employees to share about how well they are doing, and share your own experiences on how you dealt with it.


Depression and anxiety are common mental disorders. As the prevalence of these disorders is often considered to be high among employed individuals, it is important that employers have a plan on how they can help their employees who suffer from these disorders to maintain professional competence and to prevent them from leaving their job or being absent from work. The responsible manager is usually unable to assess mental disorders due to the lack of specialized knowledge and skills in this area.

Depression and work productivity are often related to each other. A depressed employee is less productive in their daily tasks as well as in the long term career development and it might be difficult to employ them any longer. Thus, due to the increased pressure from the employer, depressed employees might feel even more stressed, their stress level increases further and the symptoms might even become worse.

Therefore, the first step should be to involve mental health professionals e.g. a psychiatrist, a psychologist or a psychotherapist to identify the presence of mental disorders and to assess the work capacity of employees suffering from depression or anxiety disorders. They can also provide suggestions on how to cope with these problems at work and long term disability management for their employees.

The next step should be to include the employee suffering from depression in the dialogue, support them, listen and discuss possible solutions on how to maintain professional competence and how they could get effec

managing an employee with depression

tive treatment for their condition. The employer could also support an employee by making available a representative as contact person for questions related to health (e.g. the human resources department) and by making available support services e.g. counseling or a recovery program.

This way employees suffering from depression or anxiety disorders are given the possibility to continue their professional career and company’s employee retention is ensured.

At last, you can also try conducting creative art based therapy sessions such as music therapy workshops with your employees in a group periodically. This will ensure that the prolonged stress doesn't convert into stress or anxiety in the long run.