10 Signs an Employee May Be Depressed

Male employee having trouble concentrating at his desk, possibly due to depression

Did you know that approximately 8% of adults will experience major depression at some time in their lives? For these people, getting the assistance that they need can make all the difference.

Depression is a serious chronic illness that shouldn’t be ignored, whether you are the one experiencing depression personally or whether you suspect someone in your life may be depressed.

Unfortunately, it’s common for depression to go unnoticed, undiscussed, and untreated.

Sometimes those who are suffering don’t even know that what they’re experiencing is depression. Employers, HR professionals and even coworkers can help create a healthy and supportive workplace by familiarizing themselves with the signs of depression and acting compassionately should they suspect that a colleague is dealing with depression.

Try to remain aware of the below signs, particularly if you note several occurring at once.

1. Taking more sick days

Do you have an employee who is frequently taking sick days? In addition to emotional symptoms that may prevent an employee from coming into work, depression can cause physical symptoms. Stomach problems, headaches, back, chest pain, joint pain, and dizziness are some of the physical symptoms of depression.

Depression also causes the immune system to weaken, which makes the sufferer more susceptible to catching illnesses like common colds or the flu.

2. Losing motivation

Those with depression will often lose interest in activities they once enjoyed. Depression can also suppress a person’s ability to sustain good feelings over time. It could be that one minute an employee shows excitement in a project, but then it dissipates when she is in the midst of completing it.

If you notice that an employee is not as excited about her job as she once was, or that she appears to have given up on her hobbies, this could be an indicator of depression.

3. Changes in social behaviour

Social cues can reveal that someone is depressed, but these cues are often easy to misinterpret. This is because what we would consider typical behaviour for one person is not the same as typical behaviour for another. But sudden changes in behaviour, particularly if they appear to be unexplained, could indicate something more is going on.

For example, someone who is naturally sociable might withdraw from friends, family or colleagues, whereas someone who is normally passive might suddenly become agitatedly outspoken. Take note of any behaviour that seems uncharacteristic for a particular employee.

4. Difficulty meeting deadlines and goals

Depression tends to lower productivity. This is because a person with depression is not always emotionally present even when they are physically present. The sufferer’s mind is often somewhere else. As a result, he may struggle to engage fully in the task at hand and be slow to process information.

If an employee who has not previously had performance issues starts missing deadlines or is not producing work at their usual pace, consider that depression may be an underlying factor when you speak with them about their performance.

5. Trouble concentrating or remembering

Many are not aware that depression is associated with short-term memory loss. When depressed, the brain’s ability to take in information quickly and efficiently becomes impaired. This makes it particularly difficult to process and retrieve memories.

If you observe an employee is having trouble concentrating, or see them struggling to remember whether or not they have completed tasks, these could be indicators that they are dealing with depression.

6. Fatigue and low energy

People who are dealing with depression often also experience insomnia at the same time. They may have a hard time falling asleep at night because their mind is preoccupied.

Conversely, another sign of depression is oversleeping. No amount of sleep seems like enough – that’s because depression can make a person feel physically numb, lacking the energy to get up and move throughout the day.

7. Frequently arriving late at work

Tardiness can be a sign of depression, sometimes a direct result of low energy and oversleeping. This sign can be harder to observe if you work in an office where flexible work hours are common and employees often determine their own schedule. However, if an employee is continuously showing up to meetings late or unprepared, or is frequently not showing up at the time he has said he would, then there may be something going on.

8. Changes in appetite and weight

Depression can cause a person to lose interest in eating. She might not have the energy to cook anymore or prepare a meal, or feels physically nauseous and doesn’t eat as a result.

On the other hand, depression can also cause the sufferer to overeat in an attempt to physically fill an emotional void – this is commonly referred to as emotional eating. If you notice your employee has lost or gained a considerable amount of weight in a short time, or her eating patterns have changed, then she may be going through depression.

9. Alcohol and drug abuse

People with depression may use substances like alcohol or drugs as a way to self sooth and escape feelings of guilt and despair. Unfortunately, this is likely to only worsen their depression.

Depending on the circumstances and the severity of the abuse, it may be difficult to notice if your employee is abusing alcohol or drugs, but it’s worth keeping an eye out for anything unusual that might hint at unhealthy habits. Pay attention to things like changes in behaviour, appearance and odour, and of course make note if the employee is drinking excessively during social work gatherings.

10. Conflict with coworkers

If an employee is going through depression, he may become more agitated and easily defensive. This could cause him to have conflict with coworkers. He might be more emotional than usual, prone to overanalyzing situations, taking things out of context, and responding to criticism personally. If you notice an employee having a hard time getting along with coworkers, this might be something to gently approach them about.

In some instances, people observe the signs of depression and come to the incorrect conclusion that an employee is slacking off at work or is no longer committed to their role. Being able to recognize the above signs for what they are, especially when they represent a significant departure from the employee’s usual demeanour and approach to work, can be the first step towards helping someone get the assistance they need.

Depression is a tough subject and it’s often hard to approach someone who is suffering for fear that you may be making matters worse or coming across as critical or judgmental. But if you suspect an employee is going through depression, don’t ignore it.