A group of major European employers today launch a report featuring fresh insights into the fight against depression in the workplace. Up to 55% of employees diagnosed with depression in Europe take time off work due to the illness – equating to more than 38 million people. BT Group plc, Deutsche Post DHL, H. Lundbeck A/S, Ogilvy and Unilever have publicly shared information on their mental health policies in a bid to improve management of depression by employers across Europe.
“Depression costs European employers an estimated £77 billion a year, yet despite this many workplaces underestimate its impact,” said Tim Munden, Vice President HR, Unilever UK and Target Depression in the Workplace Advisory Group member. “At Unilever we firmly believe addressing depression through our mental health policies will benefit both our people and our business. We aim for 10% reduction by 2015 in work-related mental ill-health cases and working days lost to mental ill-health.”
BT’s Good Health, Good Work programme has already produced great results, reducing sickness absence rates due to depression by 30%. Furthermore, it has been calculated that employers could save at least 30% of lost productivity costs by implementing workplace policies that address mental ill-health.
“It is vital that employers across Europe are proactive in promoting a healthy work environment which supports employees with depression,” said Julia Ingall, Talent Management Director, Ogilvy & Mather Group UK & EAME and Target Depression in the Workplace Advisory Group member. “Depression is an illness that many, including those in HR, feel unqualified to deal with, so we hope this report will help inform and educate and address these challenges.”
The featured companies in the report are all members of the Advisory Group to Target Depression in the Workplace, an initiative set up to advise and support human resources professionals across Europe on the management of depression among their employees. The advisory group, whose members also include Barclays, Luxottica, Nature magazine and Royal Mail Group Ltd collectively employ over 600,000 people in Europe and generate revenues of almost €200 billion annually. The International Labour Organization and Federation of European Employers are also members of the advisory group.
“Case study examples shared in this report demonstrate how employers can encourage early detection and management of depression, when equipped with the right policies and resources,” said Bill Wilkerson, Executive Chairman of Mental Health International and Target Depression in the Workplace Chair. “By taking action now, we can preserve the future wellbeing of workers and their families, as well as deliver benefits to employers and the economy.”
Depression, the leading cause of disability worldwide, affects 350 million people and has a direct impact on company profit due to presenteeism (attending work whilst ill) and absenteeism (taking time off work). The cognitive symptoms of depression – concentration difficulties, indecisiveness, and/or forgetfulness – are present up to 94% of the time in an episode of depression and cause significant impairment in work function. People with depression report on average 5.6 hours per week of total health-related lost productivity time more than those without depression.
The report “Depression in the Workplace in Europe: new insights from business leaders” also emphasises the burden, impact and challenges faced by companies as a result of depression.
The full report and further information on the Target Depression in the Workplace initiative can be found at www.targetdepression.com.