Depression in the Workplace

Let’s face it. Across the world, we have all had some form of difficult year with many moving to home or virtual working.

I know a lot about that as I began my full-time role on the first day of lockdown, and still haven’t stepped inside my work offices yet. There has definitely been a bigger emphasis on mental health over the course of the pandemic, with campaigns to put more mental health services in place and keep other establishments which have also shown positive effects on mental health, such as gyms, open.

As we look hopefully ahead into 2021, online working may remain, as many have seen the economic value of working from home, whilst others – and most likely the more popular opinion – will return to offices and some form of routine normality. Nonetheless, it is so important now, that workplaces are readily prepared to help support the mental health of their staff.

19% of reported mental health issues are depression, the highest reported mental health issue reported in England. With over 2,000 estimated prevalence rates of self-reported stress, depression, or anxiety, per 100,000 workers in the 2019-2020 annual year (2), this represents the highest rates we have seen in over 20 years. These self-reports reflect stress, depression or anxiety caused, or made worse by, work, and demonstrated that the top two single most influential factors are workload and lack of support within the workplace. It is important to recognise here that these are self-reported incidents, when actually this number will be a lot higher. Workers may feel uncomfortable for speaking out in their workplace due to fear of judgement, lack of support, or in the worst case scenario, losing their job.

Organisations have a responsibility to create a welcoming and open culture to help support and recognise both physical and mental wellbeing. Line managers play a crucial role in this, but we must remember to support the mental health of our Line Managers too as the pressure of such responsibilities could have a detrimental impact.

Signs and Symptoms of Depression in the workplace:

In addition to the listed signs and symptoms of depression here, you may also notice the following in individuals:

· Decreased productivity · Safety problems

· Morale problems · Absenteeism

· Lack of cooperation · Presenteeism

· Frequent complaints of being tired all the time

· Complaints of unexplained aches and pains

· Alcohol and/or other drug misuse (1)

But what about home working? The above become a lot more difficult to track, or even notice.

Signs and symptoms may include:

· Lack of interest in appearance

· Dark and cluttered backgrounds

· Frequent excuses or complaints to miss video meetings

· Lack of video or vocal input in virtual meetings

If you recognise any of the above symptoms, it is definitely worth finding an appropriate person to have a conversation with the employee - this would hopefully be a Mental Health First Aider, as they are appropriately equipped with the skills and knowledge to help support the employee. If this is a Line Manager, have an initial conversation first, off record. As a MHFAider, we often need to prioritise this role over others. Alternatively, larger businesses may have access to and EAP programme which provide confidential hotline services.

As businesses move to make their workplace more welcoming of mental ill health, the following actions could be considered:

- Have a Mental Health and Wellbeing Policy

- Include Mental Health as part of the Absence / Return to Work form

- Actively promote the importance of mental health

- Flexi-time and/or the encouragement of late morning/early afternoon meetings.

If you are interested in training your Mental Health First Aiders in your workplace, contact us today on


Resources (courtesy of MHFA England):

Organisational training framework
Download PDF • 243KB
Download • 342KB
Workplace Wellbeing Toolkit
Download PDF • 408KB


1 – Adult MHFA Manual, MHFA England, page 56-57.

2 – Work-related stress, anxiety, or depression statistics in Great Britain, Health and Safety Executive, 2020; 4th November 2020.

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