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The Shocking Reality - and Impact - of Workplace Depression in Asia

Workplace depression in Asia is an area of mounting concern. A recent workplace survey conducted by AIA Vitality found that 53 per cent of workers in Asia is at risk of mental health issues, including depression. And it’s predicted that depression will be the most burdensome illness in developed countries by the year 2030.

Long working hours, less than desirable office conditions, workplace bullying and unsupportive management are just a few contributors to workplace depression. What’s more, the stigma around depression and mental health in Asian countries hinders individuals from reporting their depression to their employer or seeking help, oftentimes out of fear of losing their job.

In honour of Mental Health Awareness Month, we feel it’s important to bring this topic to light and recognise the impact workplace depression has on employees and organisations, and how companies can help support employees that may be struggling with depression.

Recognising Signs of Workplace Depression

Symptoms of workplace depression, including decreased productivity and quality of work, impaired judgement and decision-making, poor morale and absenteeism can negatively impact the work environment and company culture as a whole. In fact, studies show depression has a greater burden on job performance than chronic conditions like arthritis, hypertension, back problems and diabetes.

Many times, an employee may be suffering from workplace depression without realising. If you notice a colleague suffering from the symptoms below, encourage them to seek help.

  • Persistent anxiety or sadness

  • Changes in weight and or appetite

  • Irritability

  • Lack of cooperation

  • Frequent fatigue, tiredness

  • Changes in sleeping patterns

  • Decreased productivity

  • Decreased reliability

  • Difficulty concentrating

The Impact of Rising Absenteeism

Another recent study found that absenteeism (habitual absence from work) and presenteeism (when an employee attends work but is unproductive) are other outcomes of workplace depression. The study reported that employees throughout Hong Kong, Malaysia and Singapore lost an average of 63 days due to work absences and presenteeism. That’s two months lost to unproductive days!

And according to another study by the World Health Organisation (WHO), untreated absenteeism and presenteeism as a result of workplace depression will lead to nearly 12 billion lost work days globally between now and 2030. Not to mention billions of dollars.


How Employers Can Help

To reiterate, unresolved depression in the workplace not only takes a toll on the individual employee, but it can also mean big consequences for the employer as well. Increased turnover rate, workplace accidents and decreased productivity and loss of profits are just some of the results of depression amongst the workforce.

And while workplace depression can be a complex issue, there are steps organisations can take to help ensure the mental health and wellbeing of their employees. Workplace interventions, like smoking cessation programs, educational programs around health and sleep, flexible working hours, employee fitness classes, meditation rooms, designated breaks for quick walks or stretching and mental health days may all help to increase happiness at the office. But perhaps most importantly, employers should make a more conscious effort to prioritise the mental health of their employees and destigmatise depression in the workplace for a happier, more productive workforce.

Check our practices to help combat workplace depression and enhance workplace wellness here.