Managing Mental Illness in the Workplace

Managing Mental Illness in the Workplace

05/9/19 Laura Gibbons

Mental illness can affect an employee’s productivity, judgment, ability to work with others, and overall job performance. The inability to concentrate or make decisions may lead to costly mistakes or accidents. Changes in performance and on-the-job behaviors may suggest an employee is suffering from depression include:

• Decreased or inconsistent productivity;
• Absenteeism, tardiness, frequent absence from work station;
• Increased errors, diminished work quality;
• Procrastination, missed deadlines;
• Withdrawal from co-workers;
• Overly sensitive and/or strong emotional reactions;
• Decreased interest in work;
• Slowed thoughts;
• Difficulty learning and remembering;
• Slow movement and actions; and
• Frequent comments about being tired all the time.

These same warning signs could point to any number of problems. As a workplace leader, resist the temptation to diagnose the problem, but instead recognize that something is wrong, and take care and respectful action to refer the employee to the EAP to get the resources they may need.

When you’ve noticed five or more of the warning signs listed above for more than two weeks, it’s time to have a talk with the employee about the work performance issues and highly recommend that the employee contact the EAP so that a professional can make the appropriate assessment and recommendations to help improve work performance and overall well-being. The sooner you have this conversation the better.

Source: Scott Wallace, Ph.D., R.Psych*

More Things that Managers Can Do
• Recognize that untreated depression is costly. A RAND Corp. study found that patients with depressive symptoms spend more days in bed than those with diabetes, arthritis, back problems, lung problems or gastrointestinal disorders. Estimates of annual costs to businesses range as high as $44 billion.
• Review corporate medical programs and employee health benefits.
• Increase management awareness about the issue.
• Work with the EAP to provide information about depression and other mental illness in the workplace, and make contact information to connect with the EAP easily accessible and available.

Source: The National Institute of Mental Health.*

*Source: EA Report Brown Bagger May 2019, part of the Employee Assistance Report, Volume 22, No. 5, May 2019

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