How Unresolved Depression Is Impacting Your Workplace

Mood disorders cause the largest disease burden and loss of work productivity in the working population.1 Among those, depression looms large. According to Mental Health America, depression ranks among the top three work-related issues for employee assistance professionals. The annual average for major depressive episodes—a description classifying serious depressive symptoms that last over a period of two weeks or more—is 7% among full-time adult workers.2 Unfortunately, the global COVID-19 pandemic has done nothing to improve mental health in the workplace. In a review of 68 studies including a total of 288,000 individuals throughout 19 different countries, approximately one-third reported experiencing depression related to the pandemic.3

Depressive episodes resulting from work-related stress are thought to reduce work productivity because they can cause decreased concentration, reduced motivation, and decision errors. One study found that depression reduced cognitive performance 35% of the time while interfering with a person’s ability to complete physical work-related tasks 20% of the time.4 Overall, the American Psychiatric Association reports that employees with untreated depression have a 35% reduction in productivity compared to those without depression.

Signs that mental health is impacting your workforce may include:

  • High turnover rates
  • Consistent struggle to meet productivity targets
  • Employees frequently calling in sick
  • Frequent concerns raised among employees regarding stress

Employers Can Take Steps to Minimize Depression

Depression has many factors, but employers can create an environment that reduces work stressors that can contribute to depressive episodes and increases well-being and community.

Ways to improve the work environment:

  • Regular work breaks – Working for longs stretches of time without breaks can lead to mental exhaustion and, ultimately, decreased productivity. Facilitate regular small interludes throughout the day to support improved mood, performance capacity, and overall mental health.
  • Stress reduction programs – Workplace mental health interventions can teach coping skills and relaxation techniques. Research suggests these can promote mental wellbeing and decrease the risk for depression. One study looked at the effects of a stress management program that used lectures on the perception of stress, measures to cope with it, stress-management recording sheets, and e-mail counseling, and found the program significantly alleviated perceived occupational stress of participants.5 Another paper that looked at the results of nine studies on preventing depression in the workplace concluded that cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) was the most effective intervention used.6 Learn more about CBT in our recent blog post.
  • Make care accessible – When it comes to prioritizing mental wellbeing, be vocal and proactive. Consider facilitating access for your employees to professional therapeutic care. Many programs, such as the Employee Assistance Program, provide access to qualified mental health therapists and a variety of services to help employees manage their lives. Online mental health coaching apps such as Mindboost provide 24/7 on-demand support and individualized care.

How Can I Support Mental Health for Remote Employees?

In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic and related shutdown, some workplaces have changed to a permanent or part-time remote working model, leaving employers and HR professionals with new challenges.

Working remotely creates unique problems, such as creating boundaries between personal and professional life. Establishing a routine can be extraordinarily difficult as well, compounding work stress. Furthermore, without the social support available through an in-person work environment, feelings of loneliness and isolation can begin to take hold. Encourage those working at home to combat depression with some practical tips, including:

  • Get out of the house regularly. If possible, use work breaks to take walks outside.
  • Keep work areas clean and clutter-free.
  • Spend quality time with friends and family. Try to set aside these times as work-free, and avoid the urge to think or talk about work-related issues.
  • Take breaks from your screen. Break up work time with short breaks away from your screen. Avoid spending leisure time on your screen.
  • Maintain a healthy diet and regular exercise – It’s hard to overstate how important these two are to reducing stress and promoting mental health. Eating a balance diet can help provide a constant source of sustainable energy, rather than cycles of energy spikes and crashes. Exercise has also been shown to improve mood in major depressive disorders.7

For more information about practical steps you can take to create a healthier, happier workplace where employees can thrive, contact Mindboost today for a demonstration. Our app has been proven to reduce symptoms of depression by 18% with regular use. We can connect your employees with small steps toward big improvements in mental well-being and positivity.

Works Cited

1. Greenberg, P., Kessler, R., Birnbaum, H., Leong, S., Lowe, S., Berglund, P., & Corey-Lisle, P. (2003). The economic burden of depression in the United States: how did it change between 1990 and 2000? J Clin Psychiatry, 64(12), 1465-75.

2. Woo, J.-M., & Postolache, T. (2008). The impact of work environment on mood disorders and suicide: evidence and impliactions. Int J Disabil Hum Dev, 7(2), 185-200.

3. Wang, Y., Kala, M., & Jafar, T. (2020). Factors associated with psychological distress during coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic on the predominantly general population: a systematic review and meta-analysis. PLOS ONE, 15(12).

4. Lerner, D., & Henke, R. (2008). What does research tell us about depression, job performance, and work productivity? J Occup Environ Med., 50(4), 401-10.

Mental Health America. (2021). Depression In The Workplace. Retrieved from Mental Health America:

5. Mino, Y., Babanzo, A., Tsuda, T., & Yasuda, N. (2006). Can Stress Management at the Workplace Prevent Depression? A Randomized Controlled Trial. Psychotherpay and Psychomatics, 75(3), 177-82.

6. Tan, L., Wang, M.-J., Modini, M., Joyce, S., Mykletun, A., Christensen, H., & S, H. (2014). Preventing the development of depression at work: a systematic review and meta-analysis of universal interventions in the workplace. BMC Med, 12(74).

7. Meyer, J., Koltyn, K., Stegner, A., Kim, J.-S., & Cook, D. (2016). Influence of exercise intensity for improving depressed mood in depression: a dose-response study. 47(4), 527-37.