Understanding the Link Between Productivity and DepressionAUTHOR: Noah Rue
It’s currently estimated that as many as 7% of Americans will experience serious depression at some point in their lives. More than 264 million people in the US are projected to be suffering from depression at any given time. But depression is not just a public health concern in the United States. Rather, depression is the leading cause of disability, worldwide.
Depression doesn’t just impact the quality of the sufferer’s personal life, however. It can also have a devastating effect on the individual’s work life, accounting for more than $40 billion in lost productivity each year. But what, exactly, is the connection between depression and productivity, and what can be done about it?
Depression and Procrastination
When you are depressed, it can feel as if your mind is fighting against you. And when you’re in a constant battle with your sadness, your own intrusive and overwhelming thoughts, it can seem next to impossible to find either the focus or the energy for anything else. Even the simplest decisions can become paralyzing. To attempt the most routine of tasks can feel like trying to climb Everest with a grand piano strapped to your back
It’s little wonder, then, that depression and procrastination are often found to go hand-in-hand. And that is often a major reason why your productivity suffers when you are depressed.
Depression and Anxiety
Depression is an adversary that rarely travels alone. Instead, if you’re experiencing depression, there’s a good chance you’re battling anxiety as well. Though depression and anxiety are very different, they often feed off of and exacerbate one another. For instance, if you’re depressed, you will likely have trouble concentrating, completing tasks, or even sustaining the stamina you need to make it through a work shift.
And that can contribute to anxiety about your performance, about what your employer and colleagues may think of you or expect from you. As your anxiety for your professional life grows, so too can your depression symptoms, those feelings of hopelessness and helplessness that impede your motivation and productivity. And so a vicious cycle is born.
Depression and Physical Illness
Depression is far more than a mood disorder. The body, mind, and spirit are, indeed, strongly interconnected systems. That means that when you are depressed, you are also highly susceptible to physical illness as well. Depression has been shown to decrease autoimmune functioning and increase the risk of high blood pressure, cardiovascular disease, stroke, and certain cancers.
And that can significantly contribute to lost productivity, not only through reduced performance at work but also through absenteeism. Depression and its comorbidities are estimated to result in more than 200 million missed workdays in the US annually.
What Is to Be Done?
Depression is a fierce opponent, but it is not an unconquerable one. If you or one of your employees is battling depression, there is hope.
One of the first and most important steps is to enlist professional help. If you need help managing your depression, a mental health expert, such as a psychiatrist or psychologist, can tailor a therapeutic plan that best meets your needs.
On the other hand, if you are concerned about managing your mental illness while on the job, a social worker can help as you transition into the workforce or learn to integrate your professional life with your mental health diagnosis. For example, a social worker can aid in vocational training, can educate you on your legal rights in the workplace as an individual with a mental illness, and can even help you open a dialogue with your employer and access important resources you need to thrive on the job even in the face of your illness.
The responsibility for maintaining productivity while facing depression doesn’t just fall on those who have depression alone. If you are an employer, then safeguarding the mental wellbeing of your team is not only the humane thing to do, but it is also the savvy cause of action. Happier and healthier employees are not just more productive, but they’re also more engaged, more loyal, and more effective.
So that means that the onus is on you both to advocate for your employees’ mental wellbeing and to cultivate a workplace environment where mental health support is a priority. You can create a culture of openness and safety by inviting frequent and transparent conversations about mental health, including training on how to recognize the signs of mental illness or distress in oneself and others, on how to practice self-care, and on seeking help and support when needed.
On those lines, offering benefits packages that include mental healthcare, as well as generous opportunities for employees to access “mental health” days, when needed, can go far in keeping your team happy, harmonious, and healthy.
Depression is a common and chronic condition worldwide. However, the connection between depression and productivity is not always widely recognized, though the links between them are strong and well-proven. This is due principally to the significant connections between depression, procrastination, anxiety, and physical illness. But, there is hope for those who suffer from depression and for employers who seek to support them. This includes seeking professional care early and often, learning to recognize the signs of an issue and the best strategies for managing the condition, and creating a workplace environment in which mental healthcare is a priority.