How to Fight Depression at Work if you Can’t Take Time Off

If you are dealing with depression at work and are unable to take time off (for whatever reason), you may be finding it difficult to manage. So here we offer up some strategies that have worked for others, including myself, when struggling with depression at work.

43.8 million adults in America experience some form of mental illness in a given year and 16 million of those are living with major depression; Many of which are still having to go to work and mask the struggles they are feeling internally.

Mental Health By the Numbers
Millions of people in the U.S. are affected by mental illness each year. It’s important to measure how common mental illness is, so we can understand its physical, social and financial impact — and so we can show that no one is alone. These numbers are also powerful tools for raising public awareness, stigma-busting and advocating for better health care. | Source:

It’s harder to do even the general day-to-day stuff when you have a debilitating illness that is actively interfering with your focus and motivation.  So what steps can you take to fight depression at work when you can’t take time off?

1. Talk to your Doctor

The first step is to talk with a Doctor.  Depression evaluations are free under the Affordable Care Act so you should go and get screened.  Talk through your symptoms and what you are struggling with to then see if there are any natural solutions or medications that will help for the time being.

2. Seek therapy

If you don’t already have a therapist, ask for a referral via your Doctor or Employee Assistance Program (EAP). Otherwise there are online therapy options, flexible to suit your needs and work around your schedule.

3. Connect with a local support group

Outside of your family and friends, who although may be extremely supportive, might not fully understand your condition first hand – you could connect with a local support group for that extra level of help and to find out what methods others members are using to cope at work.

4. Talk to your employer

If your mental illness qualifies as a disability and if the company you work for employs 15 or more people, you are covered by Americans with Disabilities Act, but only if you ask your employer about it.

This act gives you and your employer the opportunity to go through an interactive process to make some reasonable amendments to your role and form an agreement.  For example, if your job allows for remote working you could request to do part of your work at home to ease some additional stress.

Be open with your manager regarding your mental health so that they are aware of the issue and can help you better manage your workload or motivation.

5. Create manageable goals

If you have multiple tasks on your work to-do list, break them down into smaller manageable pieces to focus on and tick each one off when complete – always a great feeling!

Breaking tasks down into small segments will prevent you from feeling overwhelmed and make you realize you can get it done.

6. Be pro-active

If your mental health has really impacted your work performance and you are concerned about losing your job, try to think of the ways that you could improve and take that information to your manager before they flag it up with you.

Fear of being reprimanded can weigh heavily on anxiety so it’s better to tackle it head on and get the issue out in the open and if you have some steps for improvement in place, your employer will see you are committed to your job.

7. Take care of yourself

Don’t forget about yourself.  Even doing the basic things like getting up early, taking a shower and getting dressed in the morning and making it to work on time can make all the difference to your outlook on the day ahead.

Eight dimensions of wellness
Left untreated in the workplace, issues like anxiety, depression, family problems or drug abuse translate into poor performance, missed work, poor employee retention, inconsistent customer service and even increased workplace injuries that may cost your organization in terms of disability and workers’ compensation. | Source:

Outside of work try to push yourself to do things you enjoy, whether it be to read a book or take an exercise class (to release some endorphins), taking that time to re-energize yourself will have a positive impact on your day or even the week ahead.

Finally, it’s important to remember you are never alone in this, and not only will you come out of the other side, you may even start to see work as a contributing factor to your recovery.


Sage HR

For companies where people are paramount to success, Sage HR  helps businesses overcome the complexities of managing their people, so they can focus on growing their business.

Written By

Robyn South

Robyn is a HR professional with over 7 years experience in generalist and complex employee relations matters. A newly established Virtual HR Assistant offering a range of HR services online, who loves to travel and part of the content management team at CakeHR.