Absenteeism tends to be lower and presenteeism higher in a workplace where managers are open in helping and showing support instead of avoiding employees with depression, found recent study. As reported in BMJ Open, employees from country with a larger number of managers who avoid bringing up the depression topic tend to take more days off work.
According to lead study author Sara Evans-Lacko from the London School of Economics and Political Science, while depression is common to be found in the workplace, it can be a taboo thing to discuss even in the most open organisation. There remains barrier to acknowledge depression as a serious issue and talk about it. Previous studies suggested that 70 percent workers experience the effects of at least one mental health issue, she added.
In the study covering 15 countries across the globe, Evans-Lacko and colleague Martin Knapp analysed workers who had been previously diagnosed with depression, manager attitudes about discussing such case, as well as work performance measures such as absenteeism and country-level effects such as gross domestic product (GDP) as a sign of economic prosperity.
While there are wide variation across the countries regarding business leaders’ approach toward mental health issue, in general managers in Asian countries are found to be more likely to avoid employees with depression. Only 16 percent managers in Japan had offered help to employee with depression. Managers in China and South Korea are also reported to have low levels of support and training in dealing with depression in the workplace. As consequence, they were less likely to offer active support, Reuters reports.
On the other hand, managers in Mexico are found to be the most supportive, as more than half (67 percent) respondents said they had offered help for depressed employees. In South Africa and Spain, 56 percent leaders admitted they offered help.
The report also notes that among individual employees, those working in smaller companies or with high educational attainment tended to take more time off because depression-related problems. Individuals living in high-GDP countries also took slightly more time off, although at the country level, higher GDP is linked to higher rates of presenteeism, meaning that employees would prefer to show up at work even with depression.
On the individual level, men aged 45-64 with medium to low education levels also tended to have higher levels of presenteeism, while 25-to-44-year-olds overall tended to have lower levels of presenteeism. Manager reactions to employees with depression were at least as important as national GDP in predicting employee absenteeism or presenteeism, the study team notes.
“Managers at the top set the tone, which cascades into workplace policies and training programs that other managers can use to support their employees. Managers often don’t know what to say or don’t want to make it worse, but talking about it helps,” Evans-Lacko said.