Depression is one of the most common mental health conditions that can significantly impact employees and companies alike. Let’s take a closer look at what employers and human resources departments need to know about supporting workers who may be struggling with depression.

7% of adults in the U.S. workforce experience depression each year (NIMH, 2022).

Depression results in an average of 5 missed work days per month (Haslam et al., 2005).

Depression reduces productivity by around 35% – a major loss for businesses (Stewart et al., 2003).

Impact on Work

Depression’s far-reaching impact can impair various aspects of an employee’s job performance and workplace interactions. The hallmark symptoms of fatigue, lack of concentration, and indecisiveness that accompany depression can significantly hinder work output and decision-making skills (Mayo Clinic, 2022). Depressed staff are more likely to miss deadlines and make mistakes, leading to decreased efficiency and potential project setbacks (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention [CDC], 2021).

As motivation and engagement wane, the quality of work and contributions to projects may diminish (Woo & Postolache, 2008). Additionally, irritability and withdrawal, common symptoms of depression, can contribute to increased tension with coworkers and hinder effective communication (Harvard Business Review, 2017). Disturbingly, research also indicates a rise in workplace injuries and accidents when employees are dealing with depression (LaMontagne et al., 2008).

Costs to Employers

Employees with untreated depression utilize healthcare benefits more frequently (Wang et al., 2004).

Absenteeism and disability leaves are more common (Ochsmann et al., 2019).

Higher turnover results in recruitment and retraining costs (Greenberg et al., 2021).

Presenteeism – lost productivity even when at work (Wang et al., 2004).

Replacing an employee with depression costs 30-200% of their salary (Harvard Business Review, 2021).

Fostering a Supportive Workplace Culture

Addressing depression in the workplace requires a multi-faceted approach that starts with reducing stigma and acknowledging depression as a legitimate health concern (World Health Organization [WHO], 2022). Offering flexible work arrangements can be beneficial for employees managing their symptoms effectively (CDC, 2021). Robust mental health benefits, such as therapy and employee assistance programs, are crucial in providing accessible care to employees (Forbes, 2019). Training managers to identify warning signs and reach out with support is also paramount (Moll, 2014). Peer support programs can play a significant role in fostering a supportive environment where employees can help and empathize with each other (Ochsmann et al., 2019).

Accommodations and Solutions

There are many potential accommodations and solutions that can aid depressed employees. Weekly check-ins with managers helps assess workloads and responsibilities that may need adjusting (Forbes, 2019). Providing quiet spaces to regroup during difficult days can be helpful (CDC, 2021). Schedule adjustments like later start times or extra time off allow flexibility (Wang et al., 2004; Forbes, 2019). More frequent breaks during the workday reduce burnout (CDC, 2021).

Supporting an employee through a depressive episode leads to recovery faster, as well as loyalty and retention. A proactive approach to depression in the workplace positively impacts productivity, focus, and morale for everyone.

What unique challenges have you or your workplace encountered related to depression? Please share your experiences below.


National Institute of Mental Health. (2022). Major depression.

Haslam, C., Atkinson, S., Brown, S., & Haslam, R. (2005). Anxiety and depression in the workplace: Effects on the individual and organization (a focus group investigation). Journal of Affective Disorders, 88(2), 209-215.

Stewart, W. F., Ricci, J. A., Chee, E., Hahn, S. R., & Morganstein, D. (2003). Cost of lost productive work time among US workers with depression. JAMA, 289(23), 3135-3144.

Mayo Clinic. (2022, August 2). Depression (major depressive disorder).

Woo, J. M., & Postolache, T. T. (2008). The impact of work environment on mood disorders and suicide: Evidence and implications. International journal of disability and human development, 7(2), 185–200.

World Health Organization. (2022). Mental health in the workplace.

American Psychiatric Association. (2022). What is depression?