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Home Day-to-day Issues Employee Wellness Don’t sweep depression under the boardroom table

Don’t sweep depression under the boardroom table

Kay Vittee
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A cliché to most of us, ‘blue Monday’ has a completely different meaning to the millions of South Africans suffering from depression and who have to present themselves at work often trying to hide the very real challenges this illness presents them with every day. How, as an employer, do you deal with an employee who suffers from this disease?


 
We need to explore ways in which we can manage the risks this illness presents to business and its staff as it is believed that one in five South Africans are affected by mental illness, with women being twice as likely as men to be diagnosed with depression.  As depression still has an unfortunate stigma attached to it, there are without doubt many people suffering undiagnosed and without help.
 
Undiagnosed depression in the workplace is known to have substantial effect on productivity, absenteeism and ‘presenteeism’, which is the loss of productivity because of working with health or personal issues instead of taking time off work because of the fear of reprimand, discipline or dismissal.
 
Knowing how to identify the signs of depression is the first step to getting help
 
Symptoms of depression in the workplace can include:

  • Impaired concentration,
  • Increased and unusual mistakes and poor work quality,
  • Decreased productivity,
  • Withdrawal and declining participation in team or group activities,
  • Lack of enthusiasm, and
  • Increased sick leave.

The cost of depression in a workforce is both tangible and intangible as the negative impact on staff morale, energy levels, teamwork, enthusiasm and compromised contribution to innovation, creativity and motivation has a ripple effect. If left unchecked, it will certainly result in visible business costs. Poor productivity, poor customer service, lost work hours and brand damage are only some of the business costs directly linked to this illness in a business.
 
6 ways you can ‘depression-proof’ your staff

1.Encourage a healthy lifestyle with regular exercise,
2.Break down the stigma associated with mental illness,
3.Educate your staff about how to identify the symptoms in themselves and co-workers,
4.Ensure that HR and management are informed and equipped to offer advice,
5.Provide access to relevant advice and organisations as well as a specialised treatment facilities and professionals, and
6.Communicate that 80% of people with depression can be successfully treated.
 
In a recent Gallup survey, it was found that part-time workers are more likely than full-time workers to be affected by depression – 16.5% opposed to 12%.
 
A company that invests in a healthy workforce will sooner see productivity and profitability rewards more quickly than a company that is of the opinion that their staff’s personal and health challenges are not of their concern. A philosophy of open communication in addressing issues builds healthy relationships with staff.


Kay Vittee is the CEO of Quest Staffing Solutions and previously she worked at Absa. Kay is also a superb business leader who inspires her organisation to live the essence of superior customer service. Clients trust her judgement and will continue to include her in driving quality solutions for their businesses.



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