One in five millennials suffer from depression at workplace. (Source)

BDA recently released a paper that explored the relationship between depression and decline in work performance comparing multiple generations. They found that the prevalence of depression is higher amongst millennials compared to their older colleagues.

“Depression costs the economy more than $23 billion annually due to absenteeism.” ~ Marie Apke, COO, BDA

The report suggests training and informational campaigns to detect signs of depression amongst coworkers and enable further treatment to improve employees’ mental health.

Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) has long been recognized as an effective treatment for depression. According to this theory, a person’s mood is related to their thoughts, and if we are able to identify negative patterns of thought and replace them with positive ways of thinking, we can lift the cloud of depression.

It recognizes negative thought patterns like “I am feeling so depressed, it has been incredibly rough few days,” and replaces them with a positive way of thinking “Everyone has rough days, I am having them too, so let’s just move on.”

Let us understand five elements of cognitive therapy you can use at your workplace to alleviate symptoms of depression and help millennials to stay motivated. Don’t let the heavy terms scare you; these ideas are incredibly simple and actionable.

Behavioral Activation

I am not lazy

If an employee has Monday blues, his pattern of thinking would be “I am so not in the mood today.” If he starts having these blues from Tuesdays through Fridays, his pattern of thinking would be “Everything around here is really depressing.” This leads to inertia and lack of motivation.

Behavioral activation involves recharging demotivated employees through use of trigger activities. For instance, playing video games can supercharge certain people and drive away inertia; consequently, a lot of workplaces encourage the use of PlayStation or Xbox. Arrange enjoyable experiences for employees with positive co-workers who can reinforce this enjoyment.

One approach to behavioral activation involves getting employees out of depression loop or TRAP – Trigger, Response, Avoidance Pattern and replacing it with TRAC – Trigger, Response, Alternate Coping response. TheraNest has developed a simple Behavioral Activation worksheet that can be used for employees caught in this trap.

Socratic Questioning


“Socratic questioning is disciplined questioning that can be used to pursue thought in many directions and for many purposes, including: to explore complex ideas, to get to the truth of things, to open up issues and problems, to uncover assumptions, to analyze concepts, to distinguish what we know from what we don’t know, to follow out logical implications of thought or to control the discussion.” ~ Wikipedia

R.W. Paul has laid down 6 types of Socratic questions that can help you reach out to your millennial employees. These are questions for clarification – Why do you say that? Questions to probe assumptions, reasons and evidence – Can we also assume that it is not possible? Can you give me an example? And questions about perspectives – Why is it the best? What are its strengths and weakness? Can you give a counterargument for it?

Socratic questioning is often used in cognitive theory and encourages critical thinking by bringing awareness to the employee, which in turn facilitates cognitive restructuring. It brings employees from the abyss of despair by questioning root causes of depression that are based on assumptions and false alarms.

Prioritizing Problems

High priority

CBT focuses on solving specific problems or doing one thing at a time. As increasingly more information, tools, gadgets and people vie for our attention, it has become difficult to prioritize and organize. Millennials multitask more than other generations, and anxiety and the failure to accomplish anything substantial at the end of the day can lead to depression.

This has made it very important for employers to set priority goals and lay a clear path. This is not only true for millennials but employees of all ages. Multitasking isn’t a virtue and the latest workplace best practice is to prioritize tasks with clear communication and collaboration techniques.

At the workplace, make extensive use of intuitive software tools for task scheduling, time saving, project management, and collaboration – Wrike is a good one. Also,

  • Identify and prioritize all tasks, however small.
  • Learn to use interactive Gantt charts to manage dependencies and reduce risk-associated stress.
  • Always allow wiggle room with deadlines.

Role Playing & Imagery

Role Play

Role playing or role reversals help employees to identify their own as well as colleagues’ problems in a mature way.

This intern was named the CEO of a multinational company for a month. Other than providing her an opportunity of lifetime to learn and share valuable lessons, the act also sent a message to 5000 other employees of the company not to lose hope for anything.

You can start small by making little but tangible shifts in your organization, such as assigning a team member to other team, swapping department heads, changing seating arrangements, etc.

Another very cost-effective way to create a mentally stimulating environment is using images. Imagery-based exposure is a very strong factor in quashing depression. Conference rooms, meeting rooms, cafeterias, etc. are the usual places where you need a great deal of positive imagery to crush negative thinking before it rears its ugly head.

Ask your employees to vote on positive and happy pictures and try to copy some of that style on your walls.

Cognitive Restructuring

Chinese Meme

Cognitive restructuring is a psychotherapeutic process of learning to identify and dispute irrational or maladaptive thoughts known as cognitive distortions, such as all-or-nothing thinking (splitting), magical thinking, filtering, over-generalization, magnification, and emotional reasoning, which are commonly associated with many mental health disorders. ~ Wikipedia

Cognitive restructuring forms a major part of cognitive theory. A person suffering from depression usually blames or degrades himself. Typical reactions include

  • “I didn’t get that interview call. I must really suck!”
  • “The boss didn’t talk to me in the meeting. I am going to be fired.”
  • “The company has been acquired and I’m going to be laid off.”

An immediate senior or HR personnel can work to identify the reactions of millennial employees using survey forms or one-to-one dialogues. Once you identify your employees’ negative sentiments or doubts, put in place an ongoing strategy for cognitive restructuring.

Signing Off

You often use psychological theories in our day to day life knowingly or unknowingly. You use it to avoid your mother’s coddling, tackle an office bully, or calm a hot-headed friend. If you can find a way around the intrinsic jargon of psychology, you’ll stumble on some of the best practical research and advice that can give a tremendous boost to the quality of your workplace.

signing off

Tracy Vides

Tracy Vides is a content strategist who works with startups and ecommerce businesses to manage their digital and social marketing efforts. Tracy also writes for over 20 business and tech blogs across the web. Hit her up on Twitter @Tracyvides anytime for a chat.