How to Handle Depressed & High Anxiety Employees in the Workplace

It's not uncommon for employees to experience anxiety at work.
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When an individual's job demands are greater than what she can handle, it can cause depression and anxiety. In turn, depression and anxiety can cause reduced productivity and increased absenteeism. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 27 percent of all individuals that suffer from mental illness report serious difficulties in work and home life. These difficulties are a growing concern for management, which makes it important to address them immediately after you notice a problem.

Wellness Programs

Organizations that offer wellness programs such as free counseling for employees can help reduce the amount of anxiety and stress in the workplace. Let employees know their privacy will be protected so they are more comfortable using the service. You can also offer on-premise health clubs that let employees work out and blow off steam on their own time. Companies that have a cafeteria on-site should offer healthy meal choices and snacks so individuals can maintain good eating habits even while on the go.

Encourage Communication

Encourage employees to talk to you about what is causing their depression and anxiety at work. According to Fairleigh Dickinson University, open communication is an important way to combat stress. Provide training sessions so managers will know how to recognize stress and anxiety, how to listen to employees in an effective way, and what actions to take to help employees overcome their issues. For example, managers might be able to ease the problem by reducing workloads wherever possible and distributing tasks more equitably among workers.


Monitor breaks and scheduled lunches to make sure everyone is taking their allowed break times. Stressed employees will often skip breaks to get more work done. Keep an eye out for anyone who seems to never leave their desk and encourage them to stretch their legs. If you find that an employee spends too much time at her desk -- and seems to be suffering emotionally because of it -- offer to take her to lunch or coffee to get her away from her work for awhile. Encourage her to chat about any issues she might be having on the job.


One common sign of depression is an employee who remains socially isolated. To help prevent this problem, create teams and assign employees to work together. Individuals within a group tend to encourage one another and find solutions through interaction. Follow up on the teams through weekly meetings and make sure everyone participates. This encourages everyone to maintain contact with each member of the group.

Make Contact

Approach a depressed individual with compassion and in confidence by inviting him into your office and expressing your concerns. Ask if he needs time off or if there is anything you can help with. Talk to the human resources department if you need additional assistance or suggestions on how to approach the individual.

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