At work, everyone goes through periods when they are not on top of their game. But unusually sloppy or sub-standard work could be a sign of a deeper problem. Mental health problems, such as depression, occur in more of the population than you might think, and can manifest themselves as poor performance in the office.
While you may think sadness is the main symptom of depression, there are many other little tell-tale signs that could show that someone is struggling with their mood. It is important to be able to recognize depression in the workplace, so that your colleague or employee can get proper help to sort it out. Depression is not a sign of weakness — it’s an illness, and there are steps that can be taken to solve it.
Here are some signs and symptoms that could signal that someone you work with is suffering from depression, plus what you can do to help.
1. Changes in Timekeeping
If one of your colleagues or employees starts being late when they used to be punctual, this could be a sign of depression. Depression often causes sleep disturbances, with sufferers either finding it hard to fall asleep, or having difficulty staying asleep. Depression sufferers sometimes wake up very early in the morning too. If a colleague’s timekeeping suddenly changes, or they look especially tired, this could mean that they are suffering from sleep problems brought on by depression.
2. Skipping Lunch
If you notice that one of your colleagues seems to be skipping lunch, this could be due to depression. Depression is often accompanied by a loss of appetite, although milder depression sometimes makes people eat more. As a result of this, you may notice that the individual has lost, or gained, a lot of weight recently. If your colleague is not on a diet, it may be time to get concerned about their welfare.
3. Missing Deadlines
People who suffer from depression often find it hard to motivate themselves to do anything, and may not show enthusiasm for projects that they would normally enjoy. It is common for someone with depression to lose interest in work that they would normally like. Depressed people also tend to have difficulty making decisions, which means that projects may suffer from abnormal delays. People with depression tend to ‘slow down’ as well, so you may notice that they move, and even speak, more slowly than normal. If someone at work is missing deadlines or taking more time to complete their work than they usually would, it could be that they are suffering from depression.
If someone who is usually easygoing at work suddenly becomes irritable and snappy, they could be suffering from a mood disorder. Stresses at home or work can make someone more irritable, but if the snappy mood lasts for a while, this could signal that depression has taken hold. Depression can make people snap at the slightest things, from a piece of office equipment going missing, to having to wait in line to make coffee. Depressed people may find it difficult to accept help, too, so even if you offer to sort out a particular issue, you may not see an improvement in mood if someone is ill with depression.
5. Poor Concentration
If your colleague or employee is suddenly struggling to do simple tasks, they may be suffering from depression. Depression can cause difficulty doing everyday things such as writing, reading or listening properly. If you notice a colleague struggling to compose a letter, read a report, or make a phone call, it may be that they are suffering from a bout of depression. If they can’t seem to follow instructions or grasp simple concepts, a mood disorder could be causing it.
6. Unexplained Aches and Pains
People with depression sometimes suffer from physical pain which can’t be attributed to any other outside cause. Your colleague may complain of headaches, backache, or other niggling pains. People sometimes even report having chest pains, and think there might be something wrong with their heart — only to find they actually have depression. Once you have checked that aches and pains are not being caused by a medical condition, or external factors, such as an uncomfortable office chair or a poorly-adjusted computer monitor, it may be time to consider stress or depression as the cause.
7. Unwarranted Worry
If a colleague goes from being bright and animated to excessively nervous or worrisome, this could be a sign of depression. People suffering from depression may blow things out of proportion, worrying about things that really don’t matter. They may feel overwhelmed and helpless and view little tasks as giant feats. They may also find it difficult to accept praise when they have achieved something. If someone at work is finding it more difficult to cope than normal, they may be suffering from a mood disorder.
8. Reckless Behavior
People with severe depression tend to reach a place where they hardly care about themselves at all. This feeling of worthlessness sometimes translates into excessive risk-taking or reckless behavior. This is also a sign that they want to escape from the world and their feelings. Reckless behavior can include abusing alcohol or other substances, gambling and dangerous driving. If depression has taken hold of someone, they may not even care if it seems to interfere with work. It doesn’t mean that they don’t want, or need, help. In fact, if someone at work gets into trouble for being reckless, this may be the perfect time to sit down and address if some larger problem, like depression, is bothering them.
What to Do
If you have noticed these symptoms in one of your colleagues, and they have lasted for more than a week, or worsened over time, depression may be the culprit. Depression can be treated with therapeutic help or medication. If you suspect a colleague may be suffering from depression, ask them if they’d like to talk about anything. If they seem reluctant, you could help by leaving mental health leaflets on the office noticeboard. Workplaces which have a pro-active approach to health and wellbeing can help employees get over problems like depression more quickly. Bosses who are open and approachable will find their employees struggle less with acknowledging the problem and seeking help.