Gloomy Monday? Managing Low Mood in the Office

It was St Swithin’s Day last week, and for most of the UK the weather was fine, so summer’s a good‘un if you believe the folklore; however, if you have a low mood or work alongside someone with depression, things can be pretty glum even when the sun’s shining.

What does it look like?

Depression spans a wide spectrum with ‘blues’ or low mood at one end, and despairing black melancholia with suicide ideation at the other. Duration also varies with low mood lasting a few days or weeks, while full-blown depressive illness may cripple a person for years and often requires hospitalisation.

As a manager, you are not responsible for diagnosing depression, but you are responsible to meet the needs of the business and if personal problems are impairing an individual’s ability to perform their workplace duties, you need to support them in getting help.

A depressed member of your team may reveal themselves through low productivity, mood swings, increased stress levels, absenteeism; or ‘presenteeism’, when s/he is not pulling their weight and the rest of the team has to carry the burden. This may mean referring a depressed employee to an Employee Assistance Programme or external provider.

In my hypnotherapy practice, I help people deal with depression on an individual basis as well as help teams build resilience to stress, anxiety and negative thinking at a corporate level with a focus on prevention rather than cure, providing ways to recognise and counter the triggers for depression, anxiety and stress before they control a person or team.

What are the main triggers for depression in the workplace?

  1. ‘Life stuff’—such as grief and loss, including death or departure of a partner, family member or close friend.
  2. Insecurity about job—organisational changes at work, including redundancy and restructuring, causing anxiety and stress through uncertainty.
  3. Addictions—alcohol and drug use at home or a gambling habit, creating stress, anxiety and depression in the office (not to mention, hangovers, tiredness and lack of concentration).
  4. Physiological change—female and male menopause and the common problem of postnatal depression or SAD (seasonal affective disorder).
  5. Acquired Behavioural Complex—ABC—Low mood or stress can take root in children close to a depressed or anxious parent / carer, and it can develop into depressive illness in adulthood. Depression can also descend on a person suddenly with no obvious cause.

High Risk Roles

There are some business roles with a proclivity for low mood and depression. Commonly, frontline staff within social work or customer facing roles in social housing; taxation; the police and emergency services, often have a greater susceptibility, as staff regularly deal with unhappy domestic situations; many receiving threats of violence or have to manage people threatening suicide. I have seen a huge rise in referrals to my clinic for alcohol and cocaine addiction as the pressures of work and availability of ‘recreational’ drugs tempts employees to seek a ‘quick fix’ for work stress.

Signs of depression in the workplace

Here are some tell-tale signs that a member of staff could be suffering from stress and possibly depression, anxiety, or other mental health problem.

  1. More time off sick

Is a staff member seeing the doctor more frequently? Catching more colds, tummy bugs and flus are all common symptoms of anxiety and distressed immune function, as is taking time off sick.

  1. Loss of enthusiasm

Low mood brings loss of motivation and a downbeat demeanour. Lethargy is a common symptom of depression revealing itself with excessive yawning and dark circles around the eyes.

  1. Withdrawal and isolation

Puzzling changes in a person’s behaviour such as increasing isolation from friends and co-workers, or perhaps a previously placid person displaying out-of-character hostility.

  1. Failing in the role

Lack of focus or slowness in completing normal tasks is often indicative. Forgetfulness or failure to achieve project deadlines is common. In a work environment, depression links to anxiety and stress and it can seriously compromise health, concentration and effectiveness. A bit like moving through quicksand, the effects on the individual and the team can be huge.

Deal effectively with workplace depression

Proactive steps should be taken to get a depressed employee back on track:

  1. Tackle the situation promptly. A gentle, though direct confrontation from a person whom the employee trusts and respects, expressing concern and addressing issues is the first step.
  2. Be sensitive. A supportive attitude rather than a confrontational one will help the depressed person feel someone is there to share their pain. Maybe they need temporary assistance with their duties; perhaps better working conditions such as more light, low noise, comfortable temperature; or some time off work or reduced hours to help them get back on track. Unreasonable work conditions combined with other problems, such as difficulties at home or unhappy events can exacerbate depressed mood.
  3. Listen. Unburdening that emotional weight through letting the depressed person talk will be a huge relief to them. As they share their story, it can often help them gain a new perspective on a situation and make headway toward a solution.
  4. Bespoke solutions. Depending on the type of depression, there are therapies available including Hypnotherapy, Cognitive Behavioural Therapy and NLP (Neuro Linguistic Programming). Medication is not always the best answer and can delay healing by putting a person in a zombie-like state or making them addicted to prescription drugs.
  5. Supportive follow up. Help the person feel supported by regularly asking how they are coping. Another empathetic staff member or external support can help.

Depression can affect a company’s productivity, morale and effectiveness. Recognising the causes, spotting the signs and knowing where to get assistance is the sign of a great boss.

Self-help meets bespoke solutions

Life changes, such as getting a regular good night’s sleep, healthy eating, reducing alcohol intake and regular exercise, can help you feel more in control and able to cope with depression. Self-help techniques can also include meditation, tapping, breathing exercises and learning how to think about problems differently.

I run a range of exciting and engaging corporate courses through Carol Barwick Learning and Development with toolkits designed to help staff build resilience and deal with stress, anxiety and depression in the workplace and at home.

Public and private sector clients include those from Manufacturing, Housing, Retail, NHS, Fire & Rescue Service, Probation Service, Government Agencies and Charities on a national basis.

For more information on these great value bespoke courses which can be delivered separately, or as mix and match programmes, please contact me. Select from my 90 minute “buzz sessions”, seminars, half day workshops or full day events and receive your essential toolkit to empower you and your team to be more resilient and effective.2