As companies strive to compete in a global economy, they become high-stress incubators for mental health problems. But if they focus only on increasing productivity and profitability, they will eventually decrease both. True sustainability comes from giving equal priority to productivity and employee well-being.
I know this firsthand. When I was a high-ranking executive at A.T. Kearney, I suffered a mental breakdown, culminating in a suicide attempt. It was then that I began to wonder how widespread and impactful the problem of workplace stress and depression really are.
What I found was that the stress that comes with a relentless drive for bottom line results often leads to a phenomenon called presenteeism. This is when employees are physically at work but are not fully engaged, which can cause them to be stressed and deeply unhappy. More and more research shows that left unchecked this stress easily morphs into depression.
Read on for a few tips on how to manage stress before it leads to depression:
Make sure their work fits their strengths
Engaged employees, doing work they’re good at, are happy employees. Companies can help reduce stress and prevent workplace depression by making sure employees are satisfied with their work.
Provide ways for employees to get exercise
According to the Mayo Clinic, a 30-minute brisk walk improves your mood 2, 4, 8 and 12 hours later compared to those who don’t exercise. A great way for companies to play a role here is to offer physical and mental wellness programs.
Create an “R U OK?” culture
One of the most effective ways to address harmful stress is “speaking to someone at work.” That’s why it’s important for managers and team members to ask those who might be struggling, “Are you OK?”
Know how to recognize the signs of depression
Of course, a key step in providing employees with the care and support they need is knowing the signs that indicate their stress may be causing depression. If a normally reliable employee starts calling in sick more than usual, missing deadlines or meetings, looks tired or overwhelmed, has a negative change in temperament or has a decrease in overall performance, they could be depressed.
Companies that recognize the dangers of allowing high stress work environments to go unchecked and help their employees get the mental health care they need will reap huge benefits.
Graeme Cowan is the author of “Back from the Brink: True Stories and Practical Help for Overcoming Depression and Bipolar Disorder.” For more information, visit www.IAmBackFromTheBrink.com.