Depression At Work

Depression is hard enough to talk about with friends and family, let alone with an employer you’re intent on impressing. Shame, guilt, humiliation, disapproval: There are many reasons, real and perceived, for keeping depression under wraps. But whether you say it out loud or keep your lips sealed, you’ve got to face your depression head-on or risk it ruining every aspect of your life, career included. Here are a few tips to keep in mind during this difficult time:

Confide in your boss. If your work has suffered but you’ve begun treatment, you might want to bring your boss up to speed and let him or her know that you’re on the road to recovery—especially if you have a good relationship. Don’t be surprised if your boss reveals his or her own struggles with depression; you could end up on the receiving end of some priceless advice from someone who’s been right where you are.

Keep your co-workers out of it. The office cooler is not the shrink’s couch. Though giving voice to feelings of loneliness and despair deserves applause, sharing your deepest feelings at every opportunity isn’t going to inspire any confidence in your employer or co-workers. Workplaces are human driven organisms, and humans can be coldly calculating. In the wrong hands, your personal information could be used to discredit you (“You don’t want someone that weak or unstable to handle the new client, do you?”). Don’t allow your depression to define who you are in the workplace. If you’re aching to share your struggle with a co-worker who also happens to be a good friend, do it outside of the office.

Treat yourself with care. Everyone’s depression is different. Sometimes it ebbs and flows, feeling better or worse at certain times during the day. Deep breathing and meditation during your afternoon coffee break can help keep it in check. On other days, a brisk walk in the sun or a lunch-hour chat with a close friend or family member does the trick. Indulge in little treats for yourself within the framework of your own workday routine that soothe your depression without putting your job at risk.

FSA Facts to Note and Keep in Mind

Did you realize that enrolling in a Flexible Spending Account (FSA) can actually save you some hard-earned cash? The money set aside is pretax, so it’s practically like lowering your co-pay and prescription costs.

Check with your HR department to see what their deadline is for enrollment in an FSA plan. Then follow these tips.

Estimate your medical and dental spending. Think about what expenses you might have in the coming year. Ever thought about Lasik eye surgery (yes, it’s covered!) Other eligible expenses include prescriptions (even birth control), transportation to medical appointments, glasses and contact lenses, doctor co-pays, sleep aids, and many over-the-counter medications. You’ll need a note from your PCP to get reimbursed for certain expenses like massage therapy or sunscreen if you need them to treat a specific condition, but you can usually request a note online.

Find out how to get reimbursed. Some plans will give you a debit card preloaded with your allotted amount for the year, which eliminates the need to fill out paperwork and submit receipts. If you’re in a “paper plan,” the company will ask that you mail or fax your receipts to them so that they can cut you a check (or direct-deposit the money into your account). Generally, money will be deducted from every paycheck over the course of the year, but you don’t need to wait until the money has been deducted before you can use it. If you’re shelling out for something pricey like a new pair of glasses or contacts, it’s helpful to find out how quickly you get reimbursed so you won’t overdraw your checking account and get into a bind.

Use it or lose it. If you haven’t used the money in your FSA account by March 15 of the following year, you will lose it. If you still have money left, you could splurge on a new pair
of glasses, stock up on OTC meds like Tylenol, or get a flu shot.

Save on Health Insurance

Given the scary state of the economy, many people are reconsidering all areas of their budgets these days. But if you’re young and fairly healthy, and have medical insurance, you probably haven’t given health-care costs a second thought. Think again—you could be overpaying in lots of little ways that really add up. Below are suggestions for reclaiming some of your hard-earned cash.

1 Review Your Insurance Options Regularly
Your workplace probably makes it easy to roll over your benefits selections each year without reviewing them. Resist the temptation! If your company offers two or more medical insurance options, check them annually to make sure you still have the most cost-effective one. Even if the plan names have stayed the same, what they cover can change a lot over time. Also, don’t assume that the cheapest way to get insurance is through your own company—if you have a spouse or domestic partner, you might get a better deal on his or her insurance plan. Websites like ehealthinsurance.com or vimo.com offer basic price and
coverage comparisons.

2 Set Up a Flexible Spending Account (FSA)
An FSA lets you put aside money from your paycheck before taxes to pay for medical and other health-related costs. Admittedly, taking advantage of an FSA may take a bit of effort. For example, you’ll need to calculate how much to hold back from your pay at the start of each year, and you’ll have to stay current on which expenses qualify. But using pretax money can cut your out-of-pocket medical costs by about one-third—possibly enough so that you can recover from any hassle on a beach in the Caribbean.

3 Research Your Drug Options
There are a number of ways to save money on prescription drugs. Generic versions of costlier name brands are often available, and most insurance companies also have lists of preferred drugs that will cost you less. Rxaminer.com is one great resource for checking out alternatives on a particular drug. Prices vary between pharmacies too, so it’s worth calling around if you have an expensive or recurring prescription to fill. Finally, use your doctor as a resource. She’ll be able to provide guidance on what’s best for your health as well as your wallet, and may even be able to offer you free samples of prescription drugs.

4 Negotiate
It’s a little-known fact that many out-of-pocket medical costs, co-pays, and deductibles are negotiable, especially if you can legitimately argue that they constitute a financial hardship. (Say, if you’ve just been laid off.) Remember—it never hurts to ask. If you’re looking at a particularly hefty bill for a hospital stay or feel your insurance company has denied you coverage for a procedure unfairly, check to see whether your company offers access to a patients’ advocacy service such as Health Advocate to help you navigate the system.

5 Pitch A Win/Win Money-Saving Idea to HR
Your company may consider offering a new health benefit if it doesn’t cost them much and will result in healthier, more productive employees. One example is the Weight Watchers at Work program, in which a company pays to have a Weight Watchers meeting leader come into the office once a week for a session with all interested employees. This saves you the time and expense of a personal membership.

6 Stay Alert For Hidden Perks
Your workplace or insurance carrier may offer perks that are easy to overlook if your employee manual or insurance literature is gathering dust at the back of your file cabinet. Common benefits include significant discounts on gym memberships or even on alternative wellness therapies like massage. Spa day, anyone?