How to handle staff suffering from stress or depression

Businesses are operating in pressured markets and economies. Undoubtedly, some of these business stresses are passed on to staff and this can create many problems, two of which are the emotional reactions of a person: stress and depression.

depressed manThere has been a lot written and talked about in the media over recent years, regarding mental health issues and illnesses. These discussions have had a positive impact – more people are beginning to accept and understand that stress and depression are two very real issues and illnesses.

Several years ago, stress was identified at the most common workplace health issue, with 62% of respondents put is in the top 5 concerns they had about employees. And employers have been listening, with many more investing in on site services such as office massage and the like.

Work related stress and depression – what is it?

There are many factors that can trigger a stress reaction in an employee but it is important to note that the stress and depression being discussed are far beyond the ‘normal’ reactions that people have on a daily basis. Some stress in life is good, just as there are days that we feel ‘down in the dumps’. In these cases, we can often identify the issues that have triggered the response and can deal with them accordingly.

With prolonged stress and depression, the person experiencing them may be unable, a first, to identify what it is they are stressed about, or what they are ‘depressed about’. After all, life is good, work is great and there is nothing seemingly obvious or wrong, so why are they feeling like this?

In this situation, it can take counselling as well as mentoring sessions to begin to understand and identify the causes. But, as an employer, you have the responsibility to ‘care’ for your employees.

Making adjustments

Inevitably, there will be adjustments and modifications that need making and in the main, this is perfectly reasonable. It could be something as identifying that the physical space in which the person works is not suitable or, the environment in which they work is difficult.

Can work place stress and depression be prevented?

There are times when depression and stress are a reaction to all kinds of various factors and situations; some stresses can be avoided but in some cases, they are an emotional illness that needs to be medicated and counselled. However, there is no harm in attempting to prevent and maintain the emotional health of a workforce…

  • Empathy – the biggest emotion that is often missing when this type in terms of stress and depression is empathy. Peers and management can often misunderstand or misinterpret both of these illness and issue; when staff feel valued and liked by their managers etc. they feel more willing to share concerns etc.
  • Opening avenues – it can be difficult to create an atmosphere where information and concerns are shared, when the culture of a workplace has long been that these emotional issues are not discussed. Not everyone will feel comfortable flying in the face of this set culture, so start opening avenues with feedback forms and staff surveys. Remember, criticism is not a personal attack but something that needs dealing with!
  • The overall health picture – understanding that overall physical and emotional health is important in keeping stress and depression at bay, why not encourage a healthier approach?
  • Mentoring or supervision sessions – creating time to sit and talk and listen with staff is important. These one-to-one sessions are invaluable but, when time is short and work pressure, what inevitably happens is that they are pushed aside. This indicates that they are not valued hence, as a company, these one to one sessions must be seen as invaluable in maintaining the emotional health of your workforce.
  • Time management – recognising that staff are, on occasions, swamped with work is invaluable in preventing stress. Supervisors and management need to be proactive in working with staff to manage this work load, delivering the task or service on time and to a good standard.
  • Clutter free work environment – many offices and the like leave a lot to be desired; they don’t need to be designer or minimalist in nature, but cluttered, untidy and dirty work environments can cause some staff a huge amount of stress. Understanding that some of the smaller, hidden elements can build to create a situation that some people feel overwhelmed by is an important step in understanding, dealing with and preventing stress and depression.

People used to be scared, uncertain and fearful of dealing with emotion issues, such as stress and depression. Employers tried to quickly fix it, but often these were token gestures that glossed over the surface of a complex situation.

How do you deal with stress and depression in the workplace?