Dealing with Depression at Work

18 October 2023 at 09:33 · 5 min read

A woman at work in 2 photos: 1 in colour, 1 in black and white.

Work is a big part of our lives, and it seldom needs any help being made more difficult. 

Depression is a disorder that is caused by many factors: emotional, medical, or genetic. However, sometimes we forget that the environment we find ourselves in also greatly affects our health. If you are already dealing with depression, you’ll by necessity be dealing with depression at work as well.

From time to time, everyone can feel tired before going to work or just have a feeling of a “bad day”. However, when it turns into exhaustion every day, it is time to ask ourselves what is wrong. A difficult, or outright hostile work environment and poor conditions can affect our health more than we think. They are most often associated with depression, stress, and various chronic diseases. Depression is widespread in the world around us, but we are still insufficiently aware of it as a problem that people live with daily. Despite the symptoms that depression can generate, they are still expected to continue to function and perform his tasks properly at work.

On the other hand, feelings of depression caused in the workplace can seep into other areas of life over time. It negatively affects close relationships, and physical health becomes impaired as well. If you ask employees if they know why their job makes them unhappy, many of them will not know the answer. Why? The majority are trapped in a routine without realizing it. Employees may find themselves feeling joyless, bored, tired and demotivated without really understanding why. Even if they recognize this, they may feel helpless to get out because they are afraid of change due to unpredictability, or financial inconvenience. 


Here are some signs that you may be working while depressed:

  • You report to work that you are ill just to stay at home, not because you want to do something else.
  • Hanging out with colleagues takes a lot of effort for you (even when just having coffee you have organized, it all comes down to how you complain about work that puts you back in a circle of frustration).
  • You don't want to get out of bed every morning (the idea of going to work gives you such an aversion that you would rather not get up at all).
  • Lack of energy (while you once cared about being productive, now you no longer have the strength to do so).
  • You think negatively about your job (whatever is related to your job is negative in your eyes).

Employees often avoid talking about their mental health because they are afraid of judgment and often are worried that it may lead to a reduction in job status or loss of future opportunities. If you’re dealing with depression at work, try these tips. 

What you can do:

  1. Seek help

If you already have a diagnosis of depression, you may already be involved in some form of treatment. Psychotherapy or support groups are the best way to deal with symptoms, and they will also help you manage your work-life better. It would also be prudent to find out what employee support and mental health care programs your company provides and how sick days and days off for medical reasons are arranged because you might need to make an appointment for check-ups and help.

  1. Find support

It can be also helpful to find a trusted friend, preferably at work, who can support you in this difficult time. There will be difficult days no matter what, and it is useful to have someone to listen to you and talk to you. Alternatively, if you do not want people at work to know intimate things about you, arm yourself with support and help outside of work from friends and family. Once again, psychotherapy groups are useful as a source of support because they can help you to realize that you are not dealing with depression alone. They can also help you can learn new strategies for functioning at work and the like from other people's experiences.

  1. Set clear goals

Depression significantly reduces our ability to achieve and maintain focus. It is crucial to set clear and achievable goals. You can make a to-do list for the day and highlight priorities to make sure you get done what is expected of you. It is a good idea to double-check how a task has been done, and take more time to prepare in detail for a task. If you have a difficult week, you can ask a trusted colleague to check your work. Depression is also known to impair memory and concentration and you can easily be only physically 'present' in meetings. Being careful with note-keeping is something that many people find helpful in order to not miss important content. 

With that being said, try to not be so hard on yourself. It is normal to have a hard day or a week. The race to beat depression is a marathon, not a sprint.

  1. Stand up for yourself

If things become difficult, or you have to be away from work for a long time, you should have the option to talk to your employer. It may be easier for you if your employer knows that your work and mood are related to depression rather than a lack of interest in the job. Sadly, not everyone has a good relationship with their employer, so remember, if you are not comfortable, there ought to be no need to go into detail. You need only tell colleagues and superiors that you are currently dealing with some health problems. You are better served by taking a day off to help you deal with symptoms that make it difficult for you to function than you are by suffering in silence.

  1. Take care of yourself

It is good to set aside some time to dedicate to yourself. That might be unthinkable for some - and it might be an attitude that some work environments still encourage.

However, numerous experiences of people with depression indicate that, for example, psychotherapy, yoga, support groups, exercise, family and mindfulness make them a better and more satisfied employee. In the end, not only will you get through your difficulties, but you can also become a better, more productive employee and discover traits and strengths that you didn't even know existed. And in the meantime, find the support you need, give up the idea that you have to suffer in silence and remember that you are by no means alone.


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