Dan Parton wonders why more policies aren't in place to tackle workplace depression:
British workers are the most prone to depression, with 1 in 4 saying they have had an episode, if the results of a pan-European survey are to be believed. So why don’t more employers have policies in place to help employees who may be struggling with depression?
Overall, 1 in 10 working people of the more than 7,000 surveyed in Europe had taken time off work because of depression, with an average of 36 days lost per episode, according to the IDEA (Impact of Depression in the Workplace in Europe Audit) survey from the European Depression Association.
That’s a lot of depressed people, and also demonstrates that recovery from depression is no short-term thing – 36 days is the best part of 2 working months
Yet despite the widespread nature of depression, many workplaces still don’t have anything in place to help employees who may be experiencing problems. Of the managers surveyed, about 1 in 3 said that there was no formal support in place to help them deal with employees’ depression. British managers were most likely to have support from colleagues in HR, but still only just over half said they did.
The financial burden caused by of depression is huge: The Mental Health Foundation says it costs employers £26 billion per year. While figures like this are to be taken with a pinch of salt, there is no doubt that the cost to businesses from such things as absence and, perhaps conversely, presenteeism – where an employee with depression tries to soldier on at work, but is unable to do their job effectively – can be massive.
So why depression is not addressed in some workplaces – and still remains a taboo subject in a minority – is a mystery to me. The IDEA survey confirms a wealth of other evidence about the widespread nature and effects of workplace depression. It’s not as if the results of the survey were a revelation.
Surely, as an employer, if there was a health issue preventing an employee carrying out their job to their best ability, you would want to address that as soon as possible? Of course, that is looking at things from a purely business perspective. More important is the human side – the employee needs to get better for themselves and for their family.
Depression is very common and having an open workplace culture where employees are not afraid to reveal their problems, and know that they will be supported if they do – and can be encouraged to seek treatment earlier – could ensure that people recover, and get back to work, more quickly.
It doesn’t have to cost much to be aware of depression and have plans in place to help employees who may be experiencing problems. Indeed, it could even save money in the long run.
Can employers really afford not to do this?