via Forbes : Millennials report suffering more than previous generations, and it’s impacting their abilities to lead and succeed in the workplace. Depression is a leading cause of both absenteeism and presenteeism. Absenteeism alone causes 23 billion dollars in lost productivity each year. Beyond finances, what makes the situation so grave is that 45% of mental health cases aren’t treated.
When millennials are entrepreneurs or in positions of leadership, the stakes are higher. The pressures of leadership can exacerbate the symptoms of depression. When leaders cannot effectively guide their teams, the consequences can be significant.
While depression itself is an organic, mental illness there are factors that can intensify episodes or make them more frequent, according to mental health coach and founder of The Holistic Sanctuary, Johnny Tabaie. Millennials often struggle with financial uncertainty and mounting student loan debt. As leaders, they often feel obligated to act as a support system rather than seeking support themselves.
Many also neglect their own physical and mental wellbeing. They eat too much or too little, or they don’t get enough sleep. Considering that the likes of Tim Cook and Marissa Mayer tend to settle for just 3-4 hours of sleep per night, a lot of millennials feel pressured to follow their lead and aim for a 100+ hours work weeks in order to be deemed “successful”.
Fortunately, there are solutions to this. “Depression is treatable, and there are entrepreneurs who have successfully battled depression,” Tabaie said.
The following strategies can help to mitigate the impacts of depression on millennial leaders and the businesses and people who rely on them.
1. Policies on absenteeism must support those seeking help for mental illness
“Depression is a chronic health condition,” Tabaie said. “Those who suffer from it often need ongoing care. Unfortunately, while many companies are willing to accomodate people with chronic physical conditions, support isn’t always there for those with mental illness. This is especially true when it comes to time off policies.”
As a result of many of these policies, depressed millennials often drag themselves into work so as not to be penalized for being absent. However, their presenteeism does nothing for them or the company. Instead, companies can adopt policies that encourage people to get help and be as productive as they can. This might include allowing flex time, offering people the opportunity to telecommute, increasing the number of sick days employees are given, or offering time off in increments rather than whole days.
2. A thinking shift needs to take place in attitudes about self-care and wellness
Unfortunately, people are often given the message that neglecting their well-being in favor of accomplishment and productivity is a virtue. Someone who works while being sick, pulls all-nighters, and eats lunch at their desk rather than taking an appropriate break is often lauded as a hard worker and go getter. Someone who prioritizes self-care, even if that means work takes second priority at times is often seen as being weak and without much ambition.
This is a shame, because over the long run, the latter person is likely to be just as productive as the first, perhaps more so. They’re also much less likely to burn out or to suffer more of the darker symptoms of depression such as suicidal ideation or action.
“Company leaders must encourage self-care,” Tabaie said. “They should also be vigilant when it comes to ensuring that employees do not overwork themselves. Those who are struggling should be encouraged to seek effective treatment up to and including participation in inpatient treatment programs. It’s also important not to shame those who set healthy workplace boundaries in order to prioritize their own well being.”
3. Healthy techniques such as mindfulness meditation should be taught in the workplace
Many workplaces already have wellness initiatives. These provide information and education on various health-related issues. These initiatives might include encouraging employees to get regular health screenings, providing healthier food options in company cafeterias and vending machines, or providing incentives for employees to join a gym or fitness center.
Unfortunately, a lot of these initiatives often fail to tackle the issue of depression, according to Tabaie.
It’s been proven that mindfulness meditation can reduce the impacts of depression, stress, and anxiety. This along with other self care and coping strategies should be taught and encouraged in the workplace. This will encourage millennials to be proactive in adopting behaviors that will help them with depression
4. Leaders must be encouraged to make and maintain social connections
It’s an unfortunate cycle. Depression leads to isolation and isolation leads to deeper depression. Add to that long work hours and full schedules, millennial leaders who are depressed often find themselves in a dark place.
Further, millennials don’t simply struggle with depression. They also deal with some significantly negative labeling when it comes to their generation. They are often labeled lazy, special snowflakes, or self-absorbed. As a result, they resist reaching out to others and creating support systems.
Tabaie says employers can help by creating environments where social connections are encouraged. They can set up mentorship programs or create peer support programs. Millennials themselves can seek out support groups. They can also reach out to supportive friends, family members and coworkers.