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The Ways Depression Can Affect Your Work and How To Deal With It

The Ways Depression Can Affect Your Work and How To Deal With It

Did you know that depression is much more than feeling low? It affects every aspect of life, including your work. It can lead to burnout and mental health issues.

80% of individuals with depression can’t function at their best.1 Instead, 27% face severe challenges in their lives.2 Moreover, 18.3% of employees struggle with mental health issues.2

It’s time to address this issue. Dive into our comprehensive guide to understand how depression impacts your work. You’ll also discover effective strategies to help you survive and proactively prevent workplace depression.

Work-related depression is when your job constantly stresses you out.3 

On the other hand, general depression affects how you feel everywhere, not just at work.4 

It’s vital to understand this difference. This enables doctors to help you feel better. It also helps to prevent these feelings from returning in the future.

How Can Work Contribute to Depression?

Man Yawning in office

Work-related depression can result from:

  1. Long shifts. Working more than 69 hours a week significantly increases depression risk.5
  2. Shift work. One-third of shift workers face depression.6 This is because it messes with your body clock. Also, you might feel isolated from loved ones.
  3. Workplace danger. Hazardous jobs increase your risk of depression by 60%.7
  4. Job insecurity. This leads to 59% of people developing work-related depression.8

Does Working from Home Pose Unique Challenges for Mental Health?

Working from home can increase depression risk.9 For instance, depression rates are 17.9% among remote workers.10 This is much higher compared to those working on-site.

4 main challenges affecting those working from home include:

  1. Isolation
  2. Distractions at home
  3. Lack of social support
  4. Reduced physical activity

Together, these increase the risk of depression among people working from home.

In What Ways Does Depression Hinder Work Performance?

Workers with depression underperform. This is because depression at work leads to:

  1. Fatigue. 41.4% of employees with depression report feeling tired.11
  2. Lower motivation. Depression can lower motivation by up to 25%.12
  3. Absenteeism. This means missing work without any reason.13

How Does Depression Affect Relationships in the Workplace?

An irritated women surrounded by colleagues

Depression changes how you interact with your colleagues, bosses, and clients. For example, workers with depression report14:

Additionally, coworkers avoid interacting with depressed colleagues. This can hinder open communication and work performance. In other words, depression can have a ripple effect on the whole team.

What Resources and Therapies Are Effective for Addressing Workplace Depression?

Several types of therapy and medications can help with workplace depression. For example:

1. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) helps people recognize and change harmful thought patterns. People learn how to handle work stress and deal with challenges at work. In one study, it dramatically improved the lives of 57% of patients.15

Abbreviation of CBT

2. Psychodynamic therapy also works well for many people. It aims to fix the emotional issues leading to depression. Studies show it is as helpful as other therapies.16

Psychodynamic Therapy

3. Interpersonal therapy is another option. 89% of people reported feeling better with it.17 This is because it can improve your communication skills at work.

Interpersonal Therapy session

4. Medications like Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) and Serotonin and norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (SNRIs) also work for workplace depression.18 But please consult your doctor before starting any medicine.

SSRI tatblet

7 Ways to Navigate Taking Time Off Work Due to Depression

Taking time off work is a great way to reset. Here’s how you can approach it:

  1. Start with self-evaluation. Understand how you feel.
  2. Consult your doctor. Speak with your healthcare providers to get a precise diagnosis and plan.
  3. Understand company policies. Review your workplace’s policies on medical leave.
  4. Know Your legal rights. Familiarize yourself with laws such as the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA).19 This allows you 12 weeks of protected (unpaid) leave for medical reasons every year.
  5. Communicate with HR (human resources). Have an open conversation with your HR department.
  6. Ensure you have all necessary medical documents.
  7. Plan how you will return to work once you are ready to return.

The CDC20 recommends getting professional help for work-related depression if you are:

  1. Always tired.
  2. Losing interest in activities you used to enjoy.
  3. Struggling to sleep. This includes trouble falling or staying asleep.
  4. Feeling restless or irritable.
  5. Finding it hard to focus.
  6. Having suicidal thoughts.
  7. Experiencing unexplained physical pain.

Early identification of these signs can lead to timely help. This can improve outcomes. Thus, a proactive approach can lead to a faster recovery and better mental health.

A proactive approach towards mental health can prevent work-related depression. You can be proactive by doing these 5 things:

  1. Strive for work-life balance. This ensures you have time to unwind and reduces stress.
  2. Practice self-care. Activities that rejuvenate can boost mental well-being.
  3. Learn practical techniques to lift your mood. These are essential during challenging times.
  4. Build a positive workplace. An environment that promotes mental health can make a difference.21 
  5. Stay active. Exercise improves your mood and helps in managing stress levels.

What are the Key Strategies for Maintaining Work-Life Balance?

Work Life Balance related words with a cup of Coffee

Work-life balance is vital to preventing work-related depression. To achieve it, the CDC22 recommends the following:

  1. Establish clear boundaries. Set specific start and end times for your workday.
  2. Take breaks. 
  3. Prioritize tasks. Focus on the most important tasks first to be more productive.
  4. Stick to a routine. This helps balance work and personal life.
  5. Set achievable goals.
  6. Build a network of supportive friends and family.

How Can You Create a Supportive Work Environment for Mental Health?

A supportive work environment is vital to your company’s productivity. To achieve this, employers can:

  1. Encourage breaks. Even short rest breaks can help employees stay energized.23
  2. Put in place wellness and training programs. These programs can improve employee mental health.24
  3. Encourage open conversations. The workplace should be a safe space for employees.
  4. Allow flexible working hours. Reduced working hours lead to improved well-being and less stress.25

Takeaway

Work-related depression is a major challenge to well-being. Working from home, though, although helpful for some, is not a solution. It also has its problems. 

Thankfully, the solutions are simple. Start by developing healthy habits and strive for a greater work-life balance. Therapies like CBT can also help. Also, remember, it’s completely okay to seek professional help when needed.

Sources

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2. Mental Health In The Work Place. Punlished July, 2018. https://www.cdc.gov/workplacehealthpromotion/tools-resources/pdfs/WHRC-Mental-Health-and-Stress-in-the-Workplac-Issue-Brief-H.pdf. Accessed November 2, 2023

3. Schonfeld IS, Bianchi R. From Burnout to Occupational Depression: Recent Developments in Research on Job-Related Distress and Occupational Health. Frontiers in Public Health. 2021;9. doi:10.3389/fpubh.2021.796401

4. Otte C, Gold SM, Penninx BW, Pariante CM, Etkin A, Fava M, et al. Major depressive disorder. Nature reviews Disease primers. 2016;2. doi:10.1038/nrdp.2016.65

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6. Xu M, Yin X, Gong Y. Lifestyle Factors in the Association of Shift Work and Depression and Anxiety. JAMA network open. 2023;6(8). doi:10.1001/jamanetworkopen.2023.28798

7. Russo M, Lucifora C, Pucciarelli F, Piccoli B. Work hazards and workers’ mental health: an investigation based on the fifth European Working Conditions Survey. Med Lav. 2019;110(2). doi:10.23749/mdl.v110i2.7640

8. Ganson KT, Tsai AC, Weiser SD, Benabou SE, Nagata JM. Job Insecurity and Symptoms of Anxiety and Depression Among U.S. Young Adults During COVID-19. J Adolesc Health. 2021;68(1). doi:10.1016/j.jadohealth.2020.10.008

9. Kim HY, Hong YC, Lee N, Park J, Lee KS, Yun JY, et al. Working From Home, Work-Life Balance, and Depression/Anxiety Among Korean Workers in the COVID-19 Pandemic Period: A Mediation Analysis. J Occup Environ Med. 2023;65(2). doi:10.1097/JOM.0000000000002726

10. Şentürk E, Sağaltıcı E, Geniş B, Ö GT. Predictors of depression, anxiety and stress among remote workers during the COVID-19 pandemic. Work. 2021;70(1). doi:10.3233/WOR-210082

11. Tung TH, Hsiung MC. Work Fatigue in a Hospital Setting: The Experience at Cheng Hsin General Hospital. Healthc Pap. 2021;9(6). doi:10.3390/healthcare9060776

12. Dagne T, Beyene W, Berhanu N. Motivation and Factors Affecting It among Health Professionals in the Public Hospitals, Central Ethiopia. Ethiop J Health Sci. 2015;25(3). doi:10.4314/ejhs.v25i3.6

13. Uribe JM, Pinto DM, Vecino-Ortiz AI, Gómez-Restrepo C, Rondón M. Presenteeism, Absenteeism, and Lost Work Productivity among Depressive Patients from Five Cities of Colombia. Value in health regional issues. 2017;14. doi:10.1016/j.vhri.2017.03.001

14. Thisted CN, Labriola M, Vinther NC, Kristiansen ST, Strøm J, Bjerrum MB. Managing employees’ depression from the employees’, co-workers’ and employers’ perspectives. An integrative review. Disabil Rehabil. 2020;42(4). doi:10.1080/09638288.2018.1499823

15. Thimm JC, Antonsen L. Effectiveness of cognitive behavioral group therapy for depression in routine practice. BMC Psychiatry. 2014;14. doi:10.1186/s12888-014-0292-x

16. Schauenburg H. [Psychodynamic psychotherapy of depression]. Fortschr Neurol Psychiatr. 2021;89(3). doi:10.1055/a-1368-7056

17. Schramm E, Mack S, Thiel N, Jenkner C, Elsaesser M, Fangmeier T. Interpersonal Psychotherapy vs. Treatment as Usual for Major Depression Related to Work Stress: A Pilot Randomized Controlled Study. Front Psychiatry. 2020;11. doi:10.3389/fpsyt.2020.00193

18. Gautam S, Jain A, Gautam M, Vahia VN, Grover S. Clinical Practice Guidelines for the management of Depression. Indian J Psychiatry. 2017;59(Suppl 1):S34.

19. Family and Medical Leave Act. DOL. http://www.dol.gov/agencies/whd/fmla. Accessed November 2, 2023

20. CDCTobaccoFree. Mental Health Conditions: Depression and Anxiety. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Published May 3, 2023. https://www.cdc.gov/tobacco/campaign/tips/diseases/depression-anxiety.html. Accessed November 2, 2023

21. Wu A, Roemer EC, Kent KB, Ballard DW, Goetzel RZ. Organizational Best Practices Supporting Mental Health in the Workplace. J Occup Environ Med. 2021;63(12):e925.

22. Mental Health in the Workplace. Published May 5, 2021. https://www.cdc.gov/workplacehealthpromotion/tools-resources/workplace-health/mental-health/index.html. Accessed November 2, 2023

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25. Voglino G, Savatteri A, Gualano MR, Catozzi D, Rousset S, Boietti E, et al. Original research: How the reduction of working hours could influence health outcomes: a systematic review of published studies. BMJ Open. 2022;12(4). doi:10.1136/bmjopen-2021-051131

Written By
Azrung Fayaz
Doctor of Internal Medicine | MBBS, FCPS, MRCP

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