Avoiding the workplace funk

Avoiding the workplace funk

Working in a funk can lead to loss of productivity or motivation. That’s why researchers recently looked at how the workplace itself can intervene and prevent the onset of depression in employees.

The report, published in BMC Medicine, indicates that companies offering mental health programs can reduce the level of depressive symptoms among employees. The study examined nine controlled trials, including a mix of cognitive behavioral therapy, mental health literacy, increased physical activity and team participation. When compared to a control group, study results demonstrated a positive effect in preventing depression when proactive steps are taken.

“Previously, it had been assumed that mental health interventions will only help those who are already suffering from significant symptoms. Here, we have shown that a range of relatively simple programs can reduce the level of depression symptoms across an entire workforce. This provides evidence that workplaces can be proactive, rather than reactive, when considering workers’ mental health,” said study researcher, Dr. Samuel Harvey, to OnMedica

According to the Centers for Disease and Control (CDC), patients with depression miss an average of 4.8 workdays and suffer 11.5 days of reduced productivity in a three-month time period. 

Dr. Harold McGrath, chair of the department of psychiatry and substance abuse services at Advocate Christ Medical Center in Oak Lawn, Illinois, agrees with the study and says preventive mental health programs provide benefits to both the employee and employer. 

Financial institutions, for example, have been known to implement tactics to those analyzed in the study to ensure their employees are making sound decisions on behalf of the bank and its customers. 

Dr. McGrath explains how employers can take small steps to prevent employee depression without a mental health program. 

“Company leadership should engage in supporting their workers by showing appreciation and satisfaction for their employees’ efforts,” he says. “Workers feel emotionally reimbursed when their work is recognized and appreciated and, ultimately, they feel fulfilled.” 

In addition to companies making best efforts to keep the workspace happy and healthy, employees also should take responsibility for their happiness. Dr. McGrath recommends the following steps to maintain a positive work environment and stave off depression: 

1)    Routine: Follow a routine by eating healthy, regularly exercising and sleeping well.

2)    Outdoors: Sunlight has a very positive affect on mood, so take breaks to expose yourself to natural sunlight.

3)    Self-gratitude: Seek satisfaction or gratitude from your work, so that your labor becomes a reward to yourself.

4)    Support system: Build a social support system with your colleagues. If you have a sense that the people around you are supportive and caring, your work environment will be more positive.

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  1. Making sure you take desk breaks — walk to someone’s office, for example, rather than just “meeting by phone” can also help.

  2. Interesting story and some good tips. I never realized this was such an issue!

  3. Lynn Hutley

    I agree that a good support system will make all of the difference in the world.

  4. cordelia_79720 May 15, 2014 at 9:11 pm · Reply

    Sadly, such ideas are not welcomed in corporations today…as a matter of fact, in the ‘halls of power’, preventative caring for employees is either a token gesture for tax writeoffor non-existent…workers are “expendibles” mid-level management are told…and the executive level slashes and burns headcount to manage the P&L profitability. Yes, there are a few exceptions, especially in the enllightened high tech industry…but they are few and the exception.

    …Which leaves ‘informed workers’ too try to squeeze in the suggestions above when no one would notice lest anyone criticize directly or gossip about the ‘non-productive time’ the worker who invests in themself at work is, and probably in the earshot of a manager with hiring/firing authority … competitive pressures to keep ones job are intense …

    Perhaps the psychologists would like to make the case to managers for retention of employers and a stable work environment … ? which only matters most in a knowledge-driven working

  5. I think having a great balance of professional and personal outlets are important. Team building outings/ exercises can also be helpful to be the workplace funk.

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About the Author

Julie Nakis
Julie Nakis

Julie Nakis, health enews contributor, is manager of public affairs at Advocate Children's Hospital. She earned her BA in communications from the University of Iowa – Go Hawkeyes! In her free time, she enjoys spending time with friends and family, exploring the city and cheering on the Chicago Cubs and Blackhawks.