What do the following people have in common?
• Retired engineer
• Laid off project manager
• Stay at home parent
• Newly graduated student
• Trailing spouse to a military soldier
• Injured and recovered worker
• Out of work actor

These people have much more in common than you probably realize. The commonality is what they are missing. All of these people are missing the many benefits we get from working. Of course, we all know that they are missing the paycheck, but there are other aspects to work that most of us take for granted, until we no longer have them. When you are in the work trenches it’s kind of hard to think you would miss anything. You probably think the idea of not working sounds like a dream, and it can be, but not without recognizing what things you are missing and taking action to replace them.

When you look at the stories of these various people, you will often find a theme of depression, feeling down, deflated and being adrift. These people may also share their commonality with retired individuals, who have one of the highest rates of depression than any other demographic. The key reason: They have failed to replace those important aspects, the good things they got from working, also known as “workplace assets”.

Let’s look at these four workplace assets and what you can do if any of them are missing in your life.

1. Structure – Our work effectively manages our time and drives our decisions about our daily priorities. We know what time we have to get up. We know when we’ll perform various work tasks throughout the day. We probably have our non-work activities scheduled, too. This is a form of tension and accountability that motivates us. Without the structure that work provides, we are left kind of rambling around day to day with only the occasional appointment to interrupt the vast feeling of having nothing important to do. I often hear people talk about “filling their day”. We are easily bored, so when left to our own devises, we will fill our day, but often with mundane tasks that are not very fulfilling.

Solution: Create a schedule for yourself and stick to it. Take the must-have activities, things you know you need to do each day or week, and determine exactly when you will perform them. If an item is on your calendar, you are more likely to keep that appointment. If you’ve been meaning to work out and just haven’t started, consider adding those kinds of activities for your calendar.

2. Social Contact – For most of us, work provides the main part of our social fabric. We become attached to people we work with for a variety of reasons. We have a shared set of circumstances with these people. We also see them daily (or frequently) and, therefore, get to know them well enough to form relationships. Even if you aren’t fond of most of the people you work with, the fact that you are interacting with others is an important nurturing act. We need other people. It’s that simple. When you aren’t working you lose a big (and for some people all) part of the social aspect of your life.

Solution: Maintain relationships with past co-workers, beef up your existing relationships or make new friends. Sometimes when we lose the commonality of a shared work place, it can be hard to keep relationships going. It’s important that you recognize that many people simply can’t put in additional time and energy to see people outside of work. It’s not a reflection on your adequacy as a friend. You also need a bit of a variety to your roster of friends. Rarely will one person fulfill all your needs, so you may want to find settings where you share common interests with others with whom you may form new friendships.

3. Purpose – Bottom line, your work gives you purpose. You have somewhere to be and something to do. You are contributing at some level and that gives you purpose. Perhaps you may feel that your life purpose is to serve at a different level, but you are still contributing yourself in a specific way. Your contribution gives you a sense of personal self worth and identity. When those things are gone, there is a sense of loss and lack of purpose.

Solution: Try volunteering. If you are unemployed, you can seek volunteer work that will give you experience, thereby enhancing your resume for getting the job you really want. Also, non-profit organizations always have more need than money, so they will welcome you with open arms. If your situation doesn’t support a volunteer situation, then find your purpose by helping someone in some way. When you give of yourself, you add a great deal of meaning to your life.

4. Money – It’s obvious, but worth mentioning. When you encounter a loss of income, some serious budgeting may be needed. If you are able to plan for your situation, it allows you to save money to cover your needs. If your situation hasn’t allowed you to plan, you may be reacting legitimately to a lack of funds.

Solution: If there is any possibility that you may lose your job, consider paying off some bills now and cutting back on expenses. If you don’t already have a savings account with enough funds to cover 3 months of living expenses, then start one now. If you are already in an income loss situation, research all of your income producing options, including unemployment benefits, community program benefits (like food banks), or even a part time job to help make ends meet. If you are lucky enough to have your financial situation covered, good for you. You can focus on the other three assets.

Of the four work assets, the lack of money is probably the one we understand the most. We know that it can put serious stress on us which can truly create depression. The other three work assets are less obvious, but the loss of any one of them can contribute to making your life a less than positive experience. The idea of not working is great until you’re facing these losses. We are, by nature, social and creative creatures that function best when we have structure to keep us focused, people to be around, and activities to give us purpose.

Author's Bio: 

Dorothy Tannahill-Moran is a Career Coach and expert on helping her clients achieve their goals. Want to discover specific career change strategies that get results? Discover how to by claiming your FREE gift, Career Makeover Toolkit at: