Serious Illness + Depression in the Workplace

Employee Wellness month is just about over, however it is important to stay mindful of your employees’ overall well-being all year long. While most HR professionals manage day to day workflow they may not encounter serious illness or depression in the workplace as often as they actually occur.  According to the National Institute of Mental Health approximately 43.8 million adults in America suffer from mental illness. It is estimated that the global economy is losing one trillion dollars each year due to the loss of productivity caused by depression and anxiety disorders. How can management and HR stay on top of such serious issues to keep their employees healthy and informed? 

Read further for tips on dealing with serious illness and depression in the workplace:

1: HR is a safe place.

Employees who encounter serious illness or mental health problems may shy away from HR. They may feel that HR can’t keep their struggle a secret, or that their job will be at risk if anyone knew about their problems. They may confide in a single co-worker or manager, but it is important for them to know the real value HR departments hold. Communicate the positive benefits of the options and resources that are available to them.

2: Integrate employee assistance programs.

Few employees know that most employers have Employee Assistance Programs. EAPs are confidential programs that can assist employees with their mental health well-being which typically offer counseling or rehabilitation referrals. If your company has EAPs be sure to publicize it.  According to Dan Medelson of consulting firm Avalere Health, “Employees need to see the leaders of the company acknowledge the importance of engaging with mental health professionals when it’s needed.”

3: Work wellness into company culture.

Being encouraged to practice overall wellness can positively change the dynamics of your employees. Being open and communicative with them about depression and serious illness resources can allow them to feel more comfortable seeking help. Offering supplemented gym memberships, healthy lunches and even massages can improve the well-being of your employees.

4: Review policies and implement better practices.

It is important to create a healthy workplace for employees as they may come across risk factors in the workplace that can trigger mental health issues. The most common stressors are poor communication, inflexible and over demanding work hours, or a low level of support from management and colleagues. Implement a cohesive work environment and practice better communication styles for both employees and managers so you can retain happy healthy employees

While serious illness or depression can be a sensitive topic in the workplace, it cannot be overlooked. Employees need to feel safe in their work environment and need to know that they have the resources available to them should they need it. The overall feeling of protection and satisfaction of your employees can directly relate to their happiness, productivity and engagement in the workplace.