The Philippines is, generally, a happy place. The Filipino spirit is known to be happy and unwavering amidst harsh times. However, the COVID-19 pandemic hit hard and has left people with feelings of sorrow and anxiety, even those who are employed. With tensions rising and the financial crisis still looming in the horizon along with the uncertainty of a 13th month pay, let us discuss how you as HR managers could handle employees who are suffering from depression during this period of crisis.
Let us start off by defining depression and having a glimpse of the situation of depression here in the Philippines.
Depression and how it relates to your employees
According to Mayo Clinic, depression is a mood disorder that causes a persistent feeling of sadness and loss of interest. A person who is depressed has trouble doing day-to-day activities, and they just can’t simply snap out of it. Simply put, depression is a mental health disorder.
Depression is a prevalent condition that affects at least 20% of the population in the Philippines. As reported by the Department of Health, women are more susceptible to this condition than men. In light of Republic Act No. 11036 or the Mental Health Act, several mental health programs have been rolled out by the Department in the hopes of addressing mental, psychological, and neurological disorders among Filipinos.
While the Act seeks to establish access to comprehensive and integrated mental health services, our country’s focus on providing such services has just started and there is still a great deal to be done in terms of making substantial progress in this area. In the corporate world, management has to contend with this reality and must seek ways to prevent unwanted cases involving declining mental health among employees.
The COVID-19 crisis is direr than ever. Some companies are still unable to operate at full capacity. As long as there are no vaccines, work-from-home arrangements are still recommended or required. This could break a person who is used to working in an office environment.
So, what does this translate to in the workplace? If we consider that one out of five Filipinos suffers from depression, then we can assume that one out of five employees is experiencing anywhere from a mild to serious case of depression.
An employee may be depressed in this pandemic for a number of reasons. He/she may have lost the only social interaction he/she had over the past years. His/her partner may have been laid off from work. Worse is that the employee’s salary may have been decreased as a result of cost-cutting measures that are being implemented by employers because of the current COVID situation. It can also be caused by the non-existing separation of home and office in a work-from-home setup, where personal problems can gravely affect an employee’s mental abilities.
Having said these things, you should not, under all circumstances, reprimand your employees when it’s clear that something is wrong with them. If, for any reason, you should reprimand them, observe them first for signs of depression. Symptoms of depression include:
- Loss of interest
- Avoidance of Social Interaction
- Poor performance
- Memory difficulties
- Personality changes
- Physical aches
- Suicidal thoughts
If two or more symptoms are observed in your employee, chances are he/she is suffering from depression. Now that you recognize this, what should you do?
What to do if your employees show signs of depression
First off, HR managers or team leaders should relax the person of duties for a while. Your employee is still going to get paid but tell his/her supervisor to cut some slack on that person. Provide your employee access to your company’s mental health and wellness benefits and programs.
Normally, it is best if there is a monthly mental health assessment for all employees of the company, but quarterly check-ups would work great, too.
Forget about reprimanding the person first and focus on how to help him/her. A psychiatrist will usually assess the degree of depression that person has, so you can adjust your goals accordingly to help your employee in need. Focus on treating your employee first before he spirals down because of the condition.
The greatest word of advice that a human resource manager can get is that the Human Resources Department must strive to give the best things an employee should have in his work, including reasonable salary according to his/her skill, enough leave credits, and recreational activities such as team building and in-office or virtual parties. All these are the responsibility of the HR Department because you are the ones who can significantly contribute to your employees’ well-being.
As they say, employee retention is important, and what better way it is to retain employees than to keep them happy. Giving them low salaries won’t cut it, and while it is understandable that the Budget Department is in charge of the company’s finances, it is imperative that the HR Department raise this issue to the management to prevent brain drain within their company. After all, it is bad to lose someone skilled because they’re depressed. At the very least, give them a reason to stay. In general, make all employees feel at home, wherever they are working from. Give them what makes them happy, and they will give you the equal amount of productivity you wanted from them right from the start.
So, as the Pandemic goes on, let’s find ways as HR managers to cheer up our employees. Depression is not a joke and it will make people unproductive. Always remember, this is not their fault. Never reprimand them because they’re doing something wrong, but rather, find ways to improve their mental health as a whole. Give them access to the medical attention they need and launch programs and activities that promote mental health awareness. By managing and understanding employees who are suffering from depression, you increase the overall productivity and good disposition of all people in your workplace, and that’s what Human Resource management is all about – increasing productivity and people’s well-being through positive ways.
If you are looking for a Human Resource Information System to help streamline your HR and payroll processes, especially one that includes an Occupational Safety and Health module that can help you manage your employee’s mental health and well-being, the Everything at Work System might be the solution for you. Click here to inquire more about the Everything at Work System.
1. Lally, J., Tully, J., & Samaniego, R. (2019, August). Mental health services in the Philippines. Retrieved October 27, 2020, from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6646843/
2. Work, O. (2018, March 26). The Cost of Depression in the Workplace – Part 1: The Research. Retrieved October 27, 2020, from https://thriveglobal.com/stories/the-cost-of-depression-in-the-workplace-part-1-the-research/
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