Depression at Work: Identifying, Managing and Coping Strategies


Depression is a major mental disorder worldwide. It can affect anyone, regardless of age, gender, ethnicity, or profession. In Australia, around one million people experience depression each year. While depression can manifest in various ways, employees who struggle with depression face unique challenges in the workplace. Depression can impact job performance, cause absenteeism, and reduced productivity. The purpose of this article is to explore the impact of depression on the workplace, how to identify depression at work, and coping strategies for employees.

Impact of Depression on the Workplace

Depression can impact an employee’s physical, emotional and mental health, which can lead to several issues including decreased productivity, increased absenteeism, and reduced work performance. Depression can result in a lack of motivation, decreased focus and difficulty in making decisions, which can lead to errors and mistakes. Employees who struggle with depression may become disengaged, negatively impacting teamwork and the work environment.

Depression can also cause absenteeism or the ability of the employee to complete tasks on time, which can have an impact on service delivery. It can lead to time off work and decreased work hours, resulting in productivity loss and increased workload for other employees.

Employees who experience depression while working in customer-facing jobs may experience increased stress, leading to burnout and decrease in job retention. This can be particularly challenging for managers, non-depressed employees and the organization in general, affecting workplace culture.

Depression’s impact can manifest in various ways, such as:

  • Lowering job satisfaction, morale and workplace productivity
  • Reducing the ability to handle responsibilities or make decisions effectively
  • Disrupting team dynamics, increasing conflicts and lowering collaboration levels
  • Increasing the risk of burnout, mistakes or accidents in safety-critical environments, such as healthcare, construction or aviation

Identifying Depression at Work

Employers and colleagues can play a significant role in supporting employees experiencing depression at work. It is essential to identify potential signs of depression, such as cognitive, emotional, and behavioural changes. Some of the most common signs of depression at work include:

  • Low mood, sadness or irritability
  • Lack of motivation and low energy levels
  • Difficulty concentrating, completing tasks and making decisions
  • Changes in appetite or weight, sleep disturbances or physical pains
  • Increased use of alcohol or drugs
  • Reduced work performance, absenteeism, and isolation from colleagues
  • Disinterest or loss of pleasure in activities

It is essential to note that it is possible to experience depression without showing all the symptoms listed above. Colleagues may also struggle with different phases of mental illness; therefore, proper communication with an open mind and conversation techniques can help identify some signs of depression.

Managing Depression at Work

Employers must provide support for employees experiencing depression at work. This can be done through various ways including:

  • Providing access to employee assistance programs, mental health first aid or counseling services
  • Facilitating flexible working arrangements, such as reducing or changing work hours, working from home or a quiet space, or providing ease of access to medical attention or support
  • Providing access to resources and information about depression, its symptoms and available treatments, and implementing regular on-site training for employees, which raises mental health awareness and breaks stigmas surrounding mental health
  • Establishing initiatives that encourage mental wellness and mindfulness practices, such as meditation or anxiety reduction training

When depression is identified in an employee, the employer and employee need to have open and frequent communication. A discussion should be held with the employee to determine the appropriate support measures needed to accommodate the employee while still performing their job. This encourages employees to feel supported by their employer, which can help reduce the stigma attached to mental illness.

Ultimately, focusing on developing a culture of respect and open communication can be beneficial in managing depression at work.

Coping Strategies for Employees With Depression

Employees who experience depression can take different steps to cope with their mental health and maintain workplace balance. This includes:

  • Pursuing exercise, outdoor activities and other forms of self-care that promote mental wellness
  • Engaging in reflection and mindfulness techniques, such as meditation or deep breathing exercises, to promote mindfulness
  • Talking with trusted colleagues or support groups outside of work
  • Engaging in hobbies or other activities that bring pleasure or release and help achieve a work-life balance
  • Seeking professional help when needed, such as psychotherapy or medication

Awareness is a vital first step in dealing with depression in the workplace. It is essential to remember that mental health disorders are not a weakness, and it’s natural to experience mental and emotional pain. Therefore, colleagues and employers need to create a nurturing environment that facilitates learning, growth, and support for all employees experiencing depression.


Depression can significantly impact workplace productivity, employee mental and physical wellbeing, organizational performance, and morale. It is essential to create an environment driven by communication, education, and resources for individuals and organizations to identify and manage depression better, and ultimately, support colleagues to maintain mental wellness. By prioritizing workplace support and creating a culture that encourages open communication, employers can benefit from a workforce that is resilient, productive, and empowered to conquer challenges associated with depression.


FAQs about Depression At Work

What is depression and how can it affect work?

Depression is a mental health disorder that can cause feelings of sadness, loss of interest, and hopelessness. It can have a significant impact on an individual’s ability to perform tasks at work and maintain productivity. Symptoms of depression, such as fatigue and difficulty concentrating, can make it challenging to meet deadlines and work efficiently. Moreover, depression can cause frequent absenteeism, reduced work quality, and even job loss.

What are some signs of depression in the workplace?

Signs of depression in the workplace can include social withdrawal, decreased productivity, missed deadlines, apathy, and an increase in tardiness or absenteeism. They can also present physical symptoms such as exhaustion, headaches, and chronic pain. Other behavioural changes such as increased caffeine intake, substance abuse, and even suicidal ideation can also be warning signs. It is essential to pay attention to these signs and offer support if necessary.

How can employers support individuals with depression at work?

Employers can provide support for individuals with depression by providing a safe and healthy work environment. Firstly, this involves creating an open dialogue between employees and managers to discuss mental health issues. It’s also vital to develop and implement policies that support employees who may be experiencing depression. Employers can offer resources such as counselling sessions or financial assistance for therapy. Another crucial aspect is to provide flexible work hours, workload adjustments and wellness programs to facilitate a more accommodating environment for employees struggling with depression.


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