Charles Benayon

Founder & CEO of Aspiria


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High-Functioning Depression: The Mental Illness that Hides in Plain Sight

April 7th is World Health Day, and this year’s theme is “Depression: Let’s Talk”. While we have focused quite a bit on the topic of depression in light of “Bell Let’s Talk Day” only being a few weeks ago, I thought I’d discuss an issue that doesn’t get as much attention as it should – high-functioning depression.

Take a minute to think about an employee you talk to every day. You may chat with them about their family, discuss your plans for the weekend, or even joke around with them. Now imagine that on the inside, that employee is suffering from low energy, negative thoughts, and is struggling to keep a smile on their face. This is the reality for people living with high-functioning depression.

Just like regular depression, high-functioning depression results in loss of energy and feelings of hopelessness. The difference is, people with high-functioning depression don’t show any of these symptoms physically. They can go to work in the morning and perform tasks perfectly well. In fact, they could even be one of the highest-performing employees on your team. One could say that the “overachievers should not be overlooked”.

When it comes to high-functioning depression, a person’s outward behaviour doesn’t match the reality of what they are feeling. They plow through to get things done in their personal and professional lives, but are “exhausted”. High-functioning depression has been likened to “running a race with a weighted vest”. Because that vest is “invisible”, the illness often goes unnoticed by friends, family, coworkers, and HR managers.

Although the nature of high-functioning depression makes it difficult to detect, it’s certainly not impossible. There are subtle signs that may help you tell when an employee is suffering. Recognizing the signs can be crucial to preventing the situation from developing, and ensuring support is in place. Let me share with you some of the signs that an employee may have high-functioning depression:

  • Constant self-criticism and/or feelings of low self-worth
  • Place too much pressure on themselves
  • Feel like they are wasting time on the job
  • Feel like they have little life purpose or are lost
  • Feel like they are a nuisance to their family and friends
  • May have substance abuse problems outside of work
  • Worry about the small stuff and are unable to let things go

The feelings associated with these signs are not necessarily manifested on the outside and these signs do not necessarily indicate the presence of high-functioning depression, but glimpses of these signs can be flags for you to offer support.

It’s important for a manager, HR or otherwise, to remember that a mental illness doesn’t have to be seen to be real. Ensuring that you’re checking in with your staff and starting an open dialogue can make all the difference when it comes to helping an employee with high-functioning depression. Employees are more likely to ask for help from their employer when you provide them with a supportive environment.

Do you pay attention to the employees that seem “okay” on the outside? Do you have the support mechanisms in place to encourage open communication?


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Feeling Safe

SafetyMainAs I write this blog, I am reminded that today is Remembrance Day, a day dedicated to the men and women in Canada who lost their lives fighting for our freedom and safety.

In the past month, Canada has been rocked by incidents of violence toward our country and accusations of harassment in the workplace. Victims have come forward and shared their stories with the media and in turn, the public. Where we live and work should be a space that should make us feel safe and comfortable. It is a human right in a free society to feel safe. At work, the Human Rights Code, Workplace Violence and Harassment Legislation and the Criminal Code, are safety laws available to employees, yet harassment in the workplace are covered up for years, and still continues.

There are ways we can help create an environment that does not tolerate wrongful treatment of others, but also provides the resources should harassment issues still arise.

Every employee has the right to be treated with respect and has a responsibility to treat others with respect. If a person feels that he or she is being harassed, they should talk to someone that they trust, whether it be a co-worker, a family member or an employee in the human resources department, if one exists. It is important to document these incidents, and inform employees of the policies the employer has in place.

Harassment poisons the entire workplace and affects employee morale and productivity. Fortunately, there are a few things you can do as an employer or person of influence to keep your work environment safe and respectful:

  1. Clear Expectations
  • Make sure that the expectations in your workplace are clear – harassment of any kind will not be tolerated.
  1. Monitor the Atmosphere
  • Pay attention to the tone of interactions and comments made between co-workers and the use of offensive emails, inappropriate comments, derogatory language or jokes, and check for increased absenteeism or staff turnover.
  1. Lead by Example
  • Model respectful behaviours
  1. Maintain Open Communication Channels
  • Policies, procedures, and resources should be posted visibly in common areas, and senior management should offer an open door.

 

A workplace with an EAP and advanced health management programs that include trauma support will be able to help your employees in their time of need, and aid in their recovery in the workplace. We can all work together to create a safe place where we can work productively and feel supported. Let’s pause today and ask if the recent violence against Canada and harassment events reported in the media have caused you concern for your safety? What steps have you taken to make your office, which is a microcosm of the larger community, a “safer” environment for you, your colleagues, and your staff? Are we doing our part to make our work environment and country a safe place to work and live?

I look forward to hearing from you in the comments section below.


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How Can You Help Your Employees With Work-Life Balance?

work-life-balanceLast week, I addressed ways an employee can find work-life balance.

This week, I’d like to focus on the employer and how they can keep their staff motivated by providing an environment that values work-life balance. We can no longer ignore the fact that the majority of people spend more hours at work than they do with family or friends.

I’ve outlined below my top four recommendations that can help employers think outside the box and be creative in making a work/life balance for their employees:

  1. Flexibility

More and more employees are looking for flexible scheduling in their position, and this may include:

  • Changing shift schedules, e.g. work four 10-hour shifts, so staff can enjoy three days off each week instead of the typical two-day weekend
  • Offering seasonal hours
  • Trusting employees to self-monitor rather than punch a time clock. Some examples where this can be used include: when coming in late, making up the time later in the day; coming in early and leaving early; and, going to appointments on company time and making up the time.
  • Allowing employees to take a longer lunch, if they come in early or work later
  • Offering job-sharing between two part-time staff to provide flexibility while ensuring the work still gets done
  1. Telecommuting

When possible, incorporate a work-from-home policy, even if it is only a few days per year, like during major snowstorms. Virtual meetings can help employees that would find it challenging to be on site to attend.

  1. Appreciation

Appreciation does not have to be monetary. Make yearly anniversaries with the company an extra paid time off day to show staff their employer remembers and appreciates their tenure.

Present high-performing employees with family vacation packages in addition to, or in place of, yearly bonuses.

  1. Benefits Awareness

Keeping employees informed of your existing benefit programs are important, but do they understand how to use your Employee Assistance Program? Provide simplified access and ongoing communication and training to ensure employees are well-informed of the advantages and how the benefits can be used.

Every age group desires balance and flexibility while they manage their professional and personal interests and responsibilities. It’s time we start looking at the stress we can reduce for our staff, which can increase the opportunity for positive mental health to flourish.

While you may not be able to initiate all of these suggestions, even tackling a few will help employees see your organization’s concern for true work/life balance in the workplace and could keep them dedicated, productive, and emotionally healthy.

 

As an employer, what things do you feel you need to create a better work/life balance for your employers? What creative ideas have you offered your employees that have resulted in great success, and could you share any of them with our followers? I look forward to reading your feedback below.