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Stress, Anxiety, Depression: What it Looks Like at Work and How to Provide Support

Recent data show that we are actually working more now than before the COVID-19 pandemic and that productivity increased 47% in 2020. Work can be stressful. Now that so many of us are seeing our work and our home lives intersect and overlap, we can find ourselves often feeling overwhelmed. According to the Mental Health First Aid (MHFA) curriculum, anxiety or feeling anxious is characterized by a “persistent feeling of apprehension or dread” in situations that are not actually threatening. Stress can be a trigger for anxiety, so it’s important to identify the symptoms early. Feeling sad from time to time is also common, but if these feelings persist for longer than usual it may be worth taking a second look. Depression is common, with at least one in 10 people experiencing it in their lifetime.

That’s why it’s important to check in with your colleagues and employees to make sure they feel well and comfortable at work. It’s also important to know how to recognize the signs that someone may need extra support. You can check in with someone using these phrases from the MHFA at Work curriculum to get the conversation started:

  1. “It sounds like you are having a difficult time.”
  2. “Is something bothering you?”
  3. “Would you like to talk?”
  4. “I’ve noticed you’ve been more quiet than usual and wondered if you are OK?”

When having this conversation, remember to always listen non-judgmentally and try to have resources readily available to offer someone if they need more support. Though we spend a lot of time at work, we are more than our job titles. Your mental health matters, even at work.

Remember that signs and symptoms for anxiety and depression can vary for each person and may look different when at home or at work. At work, this may look like missed deadlines, procrastination, coming in late, frequent error, and low energy.

A few common signs and symptoms of depression to keep in mind include:

  1. Irritability
  2. Changes in self-care/appearance
  3. Increased substance use
  4. Indecisiveness
  5. Thoughts about death or suicide
  6. Low energy
  7. Sleep changes
  8. Feeling hopeless or helplessness

You can #BeTheDifference for your colleagues and employees by knowing the signs, checking in, and listening to the needs of those around you.  For more tips on how to support your colleagues, take a look at some of our other blogs:

  1. How to Recognize if Your Colleague is Struggling
  2. How Employers Can Help Manage Anxiety in the Workplace
  3. How to be an Effective Listener at Work
  4. Six Ways to Reassure a Colleague


If you or someone you care about feel overwhelmed with emotions like sadness, depression or anxiety, or like you want to harm yourself or others, call 911.

You can also contact the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration’s (SAMHSA) Disaster Distress Helpline at 800-985-5990, the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-8255 (TALK) or text MHFA to 741741 to talk to a Crisis Text Line counselor.


Resource Guide:

  • Business Wire. (2020, May 19). Prodoscore research from March/April 2020: Productivity has increased, led by remote workers.
  • MHFA. (2020). Mental Health First Aid USA at Work. Washington, DC: National Council for Mental Wellbeing.

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