Tips for Working While Depressed

Working while experiencing depression can feel next to impossible some days. Below are a few tips for navigating work while depressed. 


  • Break up tasks: it can be difficult to combat the lack of concentration and energy that often accompanies depression. Breaking up tasks into small chunks can be helpful. For example, instead of writing an entire newsletter in one sitting, try just writing one paragraph.  Then take a break if you need to, and try writing another paragraph.  It’ll be less daunting to complete the task when it’s broken up into smaller chunks, and you might find that once you get started, things will start to flow more.
  • Say no: Be sure to delegate tasks when appropriate. If you feel comfortable, consider letting colleagues know about your condition so they understand where you’re coming from. 
  • Speak about your depression: While there are potential downsides to being open about your mental health condition at work, if you are in a position to do so, it can be beneficial to disclose to coworkers and supervisors. This can help coworkers support you when you are having a bad day, for instance, and there also may be potential accommodations available to you (i.e. working from home). 
  • Personalize your workspace: Physical environment can have a large influence on mood. Lighting, temperature, colors, and noise all have the potential to impact your mental health. Try to make your space positive and comfortable – bring plants, pictures of people you care about, inspirational quotes, etc. If loud noises affect your attention span/mood, consider purchasing noise-canceling headphones to help. 
  • Create a wellness kit: create a kit of wellness supplies to help you cope with low mood while you’re at work. Examples of supplies could include: 
    • Essential oils of your favorite grounding scents
    • Stress balls/silly putty 
    • Ear buds for listening to a meditation or favorite playlist
    • Tissues
    • Calming teas
    • Instant ice packs (in periods of high emotional intensity)
    • Small journal & pen to write down thoughts



Know Your Rights as an Employee

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) is a federal law that prohibits discrimination against job applicants and employees with disabilities. The law applies to private employers with 15+ employees and state and local government employers. 


  • Though you must be able to perform the essential tasks of your job, you are entitled to reasonable accommodations. These are adjustments made to work procedures/rules to help you perform your job. Examples include:
    • flexible work schedules
    • reduced noise in the work area
    • regular written/verbal feedback
    • private, quiet space to rest during a break



Requesting Accommodations at Your Workplace

Though the ADA, you are entitled to reasonable accommodations at your workplace to help you perform your job duties (see “Know Your Rights as an Employee”). To request an accommodation:


  • Ask your employer’s HR department how to request an accommodation
  • Decide what type of accommodations you need & be ready to explain how they will help you do your job
  • Put your request in writing
  • Talk with your treatment provider (therapist, psychiatrist, etc.) to see if they can provide documentation
  • Take notes and keep a written record of any conversations you have with your employer (i.e. keep copies of emails and forms). 
  • Know that once you submit your request, your employer is required to talk with you about possible accommodations. 



Taking a Leave of Absence from Work

Sometimes, you may need to take off multiple weeks in order to cope with depression.


  • The Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) is a law that allows you to take off up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave in the event of an illness (or to care for a sick family member), while preserving your job and benefits.
  • The caveats to FMLA:
    • FMLA applies to employers with more than 50 employees
    • You must work a minimum of 12 months for the same employer to quality
    • If you are denied FMLA, contact the Department of Labor to file a complaint. 


SOURCE: NAMI, U.S. Dept of Labor

What to Do if You've Experienced Discrimination

If you feel like you’ve been discriminated against because of your depression, there are a number of actions you can take: