Living with Depression: Creative Solutions for Work

In Employment Articles, Featured, Mental Health Resources, News by ERI Webmaster

An important part of living well with depression is to engage in as many regular daily activities as possible, including work.  For many, the satisfaction and security of work leads to positive self-esteem, and being part of a work team can create a sense of belonging.

But. . . you may not feel positive or that you belong at work when experiencing depression. Working and talking with others could take an enormous effort. You may have difficulty concentrating and feel unmotivated. How can you keep working when you feel depressed?

Creative (and Reasonable) Accommodations for Work

Fortunately, you’re not alone. Many people with depression have found ways to be successful in the workplace and in their chosen career by identifying reasonable accommodations that work for them.

A reasonable accommodation is “a modification or adjustment to a job, the work environment, or the way things usually are done that enables a qualified individual with a disability to enjoy an equal employment opportunity,” according to the Job Accommodations Network.

To get a reasonable accommodation you would need to disclose to your employer that you have a disability and talk about ways to modify your job that would work for both you and your employer. Disclosing your disability and requesting an accommodation is a personal choice and entirely up to you.

Whether or not you talk with your employer about your mental health, think about if making changes in any of these areas could improve how you’re able to cope with depression at work. Be creative. Can you think of other changes that could change how you feel at and about work?


A flexible schedule could include one or a combination of these accommodations:

  • A flexible work-from-home schedule.
  • Part-time work hours, job sharing, adjustments in the start or end of work hours, compensation time or “make up” of missed time.
  • Time off for medical appointments, flexible use of vacation time, and additional unpaid or administrative leave for treatment.
  • Take breaks when they are needed rather than on a fixed schedule, more frequent breaks, considering backup coverage during breaks, and telephone breaks during work hours to call professionals and others needed for support.

Work Environment

Although a perfect work environment is rarely possible, a few changes to your environment could make a big difference in how you feel:

  • Work in a quiet area.
  • Use natural or full-spectrum lighting in your work area.
  • Block out distractions with a headset and listen to music or white noise.

Job Tasks

Concentrating on and completing tasks can feel daunting when you’re depressed. Think about if making changes in how you complete your tasks could make a difference:

  • Break large assignments into smaller tasks.
  • Plan for additional time for training and learning.
  • Create and use daily “to-do” lists, step-by-step checklists.
  • Explore how written or verbal instructions could work better for you.


Asking for a different supervisor or a change in positions are not considered reasonable accommodations. But don’t give up. Sometimes a small change in communication can change a relationship and result in higher work satisfaction and performance.

  • If you have difficulty with the way your manager communicates with you, suggest a different way to communicate that would increase your work performance.
  • Would more frequent communication help you prioritize your tasks? Let your manager know what could help you be more efficient.

Learn More about Working with Depression and Reasonable Accommodations

We’ve touched on just a few solutions and changes to think about that could make work a positive part of your life when living with depression. Here are some other articles that may be helpful:

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