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How to Handle Depressed & High Anxiety Employees in the Workplace

by Ashley Miller, studioD

Anxiety and depression are serious problems affecting workers in the United States. According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, or ADAA, nearly 40 million people over the age of 18 have an anxiety disorder, and those with anxiety are also more likely to be diagnosed with depression. Workers report that job stress has a tremendous impact on anxiety and feelings of well-being and productivity. By helping stressed, depressed and high-anxiety employees, employers can promote workplace health and improve the overall functioning of their organization.

Identify Problematic Behaviors

Employees experiencing anxiety or depression are not likely to reach out to their employers because they fear being laughed at or not being taken seriously, feel it would affect their chances of promotion or feel stigmatized, says the ADAA. But identifying behaviors that are typically associated with anxiety or depression can help you take action. In the workplace, anxiety and depression can manifest as increased absenteeism, fatigue, poor relationships with coworkers, a low or nervous mood and reduced productivity or poor performance. Workplace stress is a main contributor to these disorders. The ADAA reports that many workers experience increased work-related stress due to deadlines, interpersonal relationships, staff management or dealing with various work issues.

Talk to the Employee

It's not easy and it might make you feel uncomfortable, but talking to your employee about your concerns and observations is usually a helpful first step in dealing with employee anxiety and depression, says CentriX Disability Management Services. Set aside quiet and private time to meet with your employee. Let him know the specific behaviors you've observed. Explain that you are concerned about his health and well-being. Inform your employee that you recommend that he speaks with his family doctor or your employee assistance program, if available.

Take Action to Resolve Problems

Sometimes, employees experience depression and anxiety for reasons not related to work. But in cases where workplace stress is a factor, taking measures to reduce stress may help employees suffering from high levels of anxiety and depression. It might not always be possible, but examining the issues that create employee stress can help you get to the root of the problem. According to "Mental Health: A Workplace Guide," a publication of Desjardins Life Insurance, some of the factors that you may need to address include heavy workloads, overtime, unrealistic goals or responsibilities or managers that don't match employee abilities with tasks. Talk to managers and involve your human resources department to see how you can best minimize or resolve the issues you've identified.

Consult the Employee Assistance Program

Many medium- to large-sized companies contract with employee assistance programs, also known as EAPs, to provide services, such as assessment, training and counseling, to employees in need. If your company has an EAP and you're not sure how to address your concerns about a specific employee, consult an EAP counselor for advice. EAP counselors are trained in mental health and workplace issues and can provide you with confidential guidance on how to best handle the situation. You can also refer your employee to the EAP for free and confidential assessment and counseling services.

About the Author

Ashley Miller is a licensed social worker, psychotherapist, certified Reiki practitioner, yoga enthusiast and aromatherapist. She has also worked as an employee assistance program counselor and a substance-abuse professional. Miller holds a Master of Social Work and has extensive training in mental health diagnosis, as well as child and adolescent psychotherapy. She also has a bachelor's degree in music.

Photo Credits

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