Depression Affects Company Productivity – 10 Dec 2014 – HR Pulse
Depression Affects Company Productivity – 10 Dec 2014 – HR Pulse
Post written by Paragon Interiors   October 22, 2015


Depression is one of the most common health issues affecting the workplace today. The World Health Organisation (WHO) estimates that globally 1 in 4 suffer from mental disorders, making mental health problems more common than cancer and heart disease combined. The situation is SA appears to be very similar.
Many people with depression lose enthusiasm for their jobs and become withdrawn. Research by the Journal of Clinical Psychiatry has shown that during a three month period, people with depression miss an average of 4.8 workdays and suffer 11.5 days of reduced productivity.
This is equivalent to companies losing over $51 billion due to absenteeism and decreased productivity.The National Institute of Mental Health says approximately 80% of people with depression report some level of functional impairment and 27% report serious difficulties in their work and home lives. An alarming fact is that less than 30% of people who exhibit signs of depression get help, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.Not only are people depressed at work but workplaces can also exasperate the problem or lead to depression if poorly designed.

Physical stressors in the workplace affect workers’ sense of control, generating a sense of learned helplessness and diminished motivation. These stressors also affect social relationships such as team work.

“One of the factors we see contributing to stress and burn out is constant distraction and disruption at the office. There is a fine line between collaboration and not being sensitive to the fact that someone else could be trying to work on a focused task,” says Lucy le Roux, marketing manager for office design firm Paragon Interiors.

“Research globally shows that people are spending around 25% of their work day in disruption and that around 60% of employees in today’s high density open plan are actually near a source of distraction like a printing station, corridor or people continuously walking past their desk. If someone is already battling to cope with the demands made on them by corporate life then not being able to get their work done and having to work longer hours and during the evenings at home is just going to exasperate the problem,” says Mrs le Roux.

“We believe in creating a culture around productivity at the office where certain zones are used for quiet focused work and other areas are for letting off steam, meeting or having a catch up over coffee. By making sure that these areas are clear to staff you are sure to increase comfort levels and reduce stress at the office. The less stressed people are by their environment the more likely they are to reach out to others and build friendships, which is also helpful in decreasing psychological strain,” she says.

Tragically, about 15% of people with clinical depression die as a result of suicide. By 2020, depression is projected to be the leading cause of years lived with disability worldwide according to the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), WHO, 2013. The global annual cost of mental illness is estimated at nearly $2.5 trillion (National Institute of Mental Health, 2010).

Increased workplace noise, disturbances and distractions cause a negative effect on cognitive processes and task performance. This can lead to cognitive overload or over stimulation, reduced satisfaction and increased stress and illness. Constant disruption has an impact on health. Long term reactions to stressors such as noise and distraction include decreased performance and negative physical conditions like chronic fatigue, burn out and muscoskeletal disorders (Wallis, Steptoe & Cole, 2006).

“One of the ways that employers can help employees with depression and anxiety is actually through workplace design. Research from Discovery Healthy Company Index in 2012 showed that the physical work environment were in the top 10 sources of stress for the 19 000 employee’s surveyed. The report also found that despite SA facing major health challenges due to HIV and obesity, stress and stress-related illness is currently the primary health concern for 83% of corporates in the study.”

“Workplaces need to provide a variety of settings in the workplace for our diverse workforce. If someone is battling with the noise levels in the office they need to be able to move to a quiet area to work in or even work from home. We’ve also seen a need to provide corporates with office etiquette workshops focused on the type of behaviours that create a pleasant environment for people to work in,” says Mrs le Roux.

Another way of helping employees is providing wellness campaigns and raising awareness of depressive symptoms and providing treatment resources as this increases the likelihood that person will seek help. According to an independent study commissioned by Screening for Mental Health, 55% of study participants who completed a depression screening sought treatment within three months.