Dealing With Depression at Work

Depression is a common and serious mental health issue affecting millions worldwide. It can be a debilitating and isolating experience. Experiencing depression at work is no different. It doesn't discriminate and can affect anyone. Full-time employees, shift workers, temporary staff, and part-time workers can all deal with symptoms. It is not just a temporary low mood; it requires attention and care from the person affected and their colleagues.

In this blog, we'll delve into what exactly depression is and how it can manifest in the workplace. We'll discuss the signs of work-related depression and provide tips on how to cope with it while working. We'll also explore ways colleagues can support someone living with depression and how employers can create a mental health-friendly workplace culture. By the end of this post, we hope that those struggling with depression at work will feel empowered to seek help and that their colleagues will better understand how they can provide support.

Understanding Depression

Depression is a common and complex mental health condition affecting many workforce individuals. According to the Mental Health Foundation, 12.7% of all sick days taken in the UK can be attributed to mental health conditions. Additionally, around 17 million working days were lost in 2021-2 due to work-related stress, depression, or anxiety, according to findings by the Health and Safety Executive.

It is essential to recognise the signs of depression early on to intervene and provide support. Not only can depression impact work performance, but it can also have a significant effect on overall well-being.

Addressing depression is an excellent first step towards improving quality of life. By understanding depression symptoms and their impact on the workplace, we can create a more supportive work environment and help our colleagues navigate this challenging condition.

Defining Depression in the Context of Work

In the context of work, major depression (major depressive disorder) refers to experiencing general depressive symptoms while on the job. Factors such as workload, toxic work environments, and burnout can contribute to work-related depression. It is essential to address work-related depression, as doing so can positively impact both personal and professional lives.

By acknowledging and addressing work-related depression, individuals can take the necessary steps to improve their well-being, work performance, progression towards career goals, and overall quality of life.

Recognising the Signs of Work-Related Depression

The good news is that recognising the signs and symptoms of work-related depression helps towards early intervention. An awareness of depression symptoms can help you and your co-workers get to grips with mental health struggles.

What are the signs of depression at work?

Absenteeism, feelings of sadness, difficulty concentrating, unexplained bouts of crying, and loss of motivation can all be signs of work depression. Individuals with severe depression may also suffer from substance abuse, such as alcohol, drugs, or other stimulants. By acknowledging and addressing work-related depression, individuals can positively impact their overall mental health.

Understanding these signs, including when an individual is masking or internalising symptoms, is the first step towards seeking the appropriate help and support. Remember, work-related depression is a complex condition that can affect anyone, so it's essential to prioritise mental health in the workplace.

Taking action and seeking help is an excellent first step towards managing feelings of depression and promoting a healthier work life. If you're wondering why work might be triggering depressive symptoms, read on to learn more about how to take care of your mental health on the job.

Differentiating Between Stress and Depression at Work

Stress and depression are often interlinked but are distinct mental health issues. Symptoms of depression, such as persistent sadness, boredom, feelings of hopelessness, and loss of interest, can be debilitating.

Bipolar disorder (previously known as manic depression) is another mental disorder that causes extreme mood changes. People with bipolar disorder experience intense emotions or 'mood swings'. They could feel ecstatic or euphoric when they're happy and then depressed and melancholy when they're sad.

Stress, on the other hand, is usually temporary. Anyone experiencing these symptoms can seek professional help to differentiate between the two.

Professionals, such as psychiatrists, can provide clarity and guidance in understanding whether you're dealing with stress, depression, or bipolar disorder.

Remember that distinguishing between these conditions is the first step towards getting needed support. It's important to note that depression can vary in severity, and a person may show signs of depression for two weeks or longer.

Causes of Depression at the Workplace

Various factors can contribute to the development of depression in the workplace. The following situations are typical culprits:

  • work overload
  • toxic work environments
  • imbalance between work and personal life

Additionally, remote work arrangements can pose challenges to mental health.

It is important to recognise that depression is a complex state of mental health that various reasons can influence in the workplace. By acknowledging and addressing these contributing factors, employers and team members can work towards creating a healthier work environment.

Navigating Through Depression at Work

Managing depression at work requires a holistic approach encompassing all aspects of life.

It is crucial to maintain a healthy work-life balance, as this can have a positive impact on mental health. Seeking professional help, such as psychotherapy or counselling, can equip individuals with practical tools to navigate depression at work.

Employers play a vital role in supporting their employees by implementing policies prioritising mental health and promoting acceptance and understanding. Open communication with supervisors and colleagues about mental health struggles can foster a supportive work environment.

By addressing depression at work from different angles, individuals can navigate these challenges and find hope for a brighter future.

Practical Tips to Cope With Workplace Depression

Managing depression while working requires a comprehensive approach. One practical tip is to develop a self-care routine prioritising mental well-being, especially on weekdays. This includes incorporating regular exercise, proper nutrition, and enough sleep into your daily routine.

Engaging in stress-reducing activities like mindfulness or hobbies can also alleviate symptoms of depression.

Another helpful strategy is to set realistic goals and break tasks into manageable steps. This can help reduce feelings of overwhelm and increase productivity.

You can also use available mental health resources, such as employee assistance programs, for extra support.

Improving your overall mental health is a good first step towards effectively coping with depression at work.

How can Colleagues Support Those Living with Depression?

Creating a supportive work environment helps care for individuals with depression. By educating themselves about depression, colleagues can foster empathy and understanding.

Providing a listening ear, encouraging open conversations, and collaborating on reasonable accommodations can make a significant difference in supporting coworkers with depression.

How Can Employers Create a Mental Health-Friendly Workplace?

Employers can create a mental health-friendly workplace by prioritising employee wellbeing and promoting work-life balance. Key steps include implementing policies supporting mental health, training managers, encouraging open communication, and collaborating with mental health professionals.

Fostering a Supportive Work Environment

Fostering a supportive work environment is crucial in managing depression at work. Promoting mental health initiatives like workshops and seminars can raise awareness and reduce stigma. Offer employee training. Try one of our courses, like Health, Well-being and Wellness Awareness.

Team-building activities can help build strong employee social connections, enhancing overall well-being.

Implementing flexible working arrangements to encourage work-life balance can also positively affect mental health.

Additionally, providing access to mental health resources and counselling services shows a commitment to employee well-being.

When Should Professional Help be Sought?

Recognising signs of workplace depression is crucial for early detection. Seeking professional help can make all the difference when dealing with depression and improving overall well-being. Don't let stigma prevent you from contacting a mental health professional.

If you require immediate assistance with your mental health but it is not an emergency, contact NHS 111 online or by phone.

Some charities can offer support. These include:

  • Hub of Hope is a national database that brings together local mental health services.
  • CALM is the Campaign Against Living Miserably for people in the UK who are dealing with symptoms of depression, feelings of burnout, or a lack of motivation.
  • Samaritans are available to listen at any time of day or night. You may chat with them about anything, no matter how difficult.


In conclusion, it is crucial to recognise and address depression in the workplace. By understanding the signs and causes of work-related depression, individuals can take proactive steps to navigate through it. It is important to differentiate between stress and depression and seek professional help when needed.

Colleagues can play a vital role in supporting those living with depression by fostering a supportive work environment. Employers are also responsible for creating a mental health-friendly workplace by implementing policies and resources that promote well-being.

Remember, mental health should not be ignored or stigmatised. By prioritising mental health at work, we can create a healthier and more productive work environment for everyone involved.

Further Reading

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Bethany Wesson

Bethany Wesson

Bethany is a freelance content writer and has produced articles for the Commodious Knowledge Bank since 2023. She has written about various health and safety topics, from asbestos to mindful business practices.

  • Mental Health
  • Mental Health Awareness
  • Business
  • Social Wellbeing
  • Heath and Safety
  • Depression