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A guide for workers – How to manage your mental health in the workplace

Written by Lee Watson

The last few years have seen a lot of changes to the workplace and employees’ places within it, mostly driven by the pandemic. All industries have been impacted to one degree or another. Whether that’s related to new working at home arrangements or from redundancy, workers have had to cope with an awful lot of change of late.  

The effects of poor mental health in the workplace 

Whilst change can be exciting, it can also be stressful. During the pandemic, levels of depression amongst the UK population remained broadly the same, but reports of anxiety almost doubled. It’s not surprising for that to happen during a period of such uncertainty.  

Conditions like anxiety can impact your ability to perform in your job and they can also have a profound impact on your home life. It might make you less able to concentrate, or more irritable.  

Why might people now be feeling more stressed? Well, the pandemic is one reason and it has, seemingly permanently, changed the way that we work. Hybrid working, where you split your time between working at the office and working at home, or working from home at all times, has started to become more common. For some, this has been a blessing, you get to save both time and money on the daily commute, which can, in itself, be a cause of a great deal of stress. Your finances will be better and you’ll have more time to really relax in the evening or, perhaps, sleep in during the morning. 

However, some people have found the isolation of working alone from home to be more difficult to cope with. Some people get their energy from social interaction and some of these people will be missing out on the everyday, seemingly inconsequential interactions that have been stripped away from their lives. 

Cutbacks might also have led to heavier workloads for the staff that remain, which can put a real strain on employees 

What can your employer do for you? 

One thing to remember is that employers have a legal duty of care to support the health safety and well-being of their employees. This includes looking after employees’ mental well-being. Workplaces have certainly become more aware of the need to ensure their employees are mentally well. One response to this is the Mental Health First Aider. Some employers will have staff who have been trained to act as mental health first aiders. They will be able to listen to you and confidentially discuss your issues.  

Speak to your line manager or HR team if you’re feeling stressed or overwhelmed. Remember, not being able to deal with your workload does not mean that you are a failure or that you’re not good enough. 

Ongoing mental health conditions can be classed as disabilities, so don’t be afraid to ask your employer to make accommodations for you, in just the same way as they might for physical disabilities. Exactly what you need will vary, of course, but hopefully, your employer will be open to making changes especially when accommodation can require very minor adjustments whilst at the same time having a massive positive impact on the employee and the work that they do.  

What can you do to help yourself? 

Work smart, not hard – Overworking can be extremely detrimental to your mental wellbeing and your work. Sure, the occasional late-night might be necessary to hit a deadline, but you shouldn’t make a habit of it. By working longer hours, you’re cutting down on your time to rest, relax and recuperate 

Take breaks – Ensuring that you take breaks, including your lunch break is absolutely essential. It can even be beneficial to your work as a fresh and property-rested mind can approach tasks with renewed vigor.  

Go for a walk, perhaps. Physical activity can sometimes reduce your stress levels. If you’re working from home, take some time to do a bit of housework. Whilst you are still technically doing work, you’ve changed what you are doing, and, as they say, a change is as good as a rest. Besides, housework is physical activity, which, as above, is good for relieving stress, plus you end up with a tidier home and work environment, which is bound to make you feel better anyway. You could even pop out and do the weekly food shop. Getting any kind of chore done during breaks can also leave you with a larger chunk of time to relax during evenings and weekends too. 

Put your work to bed – Most days you’ll be leaving work with tasks still open. This can potentially play on your mind once you finish work. One idea to avoid this is to complete a to-do list of actions for the next day/week. This can help you to draw to a close the day’s work and give yourself a substantive plan as to what you need to do tomorrow, creating a clear line of demarcation and providing a mental full stop to tasks. 

Leave work on time – Sure, there are going to be occasions where you have to work late to hit a deadline, but by no means should this be the norm. If you find that you’re going home late far more than on time, clearly something has to be done. 

Try to prioritise tasks. If all else fails, speak to your line manager about your workload and see if there is anything they can do to help. If that fails, note your concerns with HR so they are aware. Again, this may be happening more and more frequently due to lay-offs and staffing issues, so it’s most definitely worth raising a concern. There is no point in burning yourself out, for your own health’s sake, and for the benefit of the company, who won’t be getting the best performance from an exhausted employee. 

Differentiate between work time and home time- Don’t bring your work home with you. Do you really need to check your email in the evening, or can it wait until tomorrow morning? If you have a work phone and your job doesn’t require you to be on call, switch it off when you leave work. Keep your work tool and your home tools separate. Many companies will have a policy against using work laptops and other equipment for personal reasons anyway, but if you’re not using your work laptop for anything but work, there’s no temptation to have a quick sneaky peak at your emails which could end up snowballing into hours of extra work and a loss of time t0o relax and de-stress. 

Make time to relax – People need time to wind down after work, whether that’s by spending time alone, with family, or engaging in social activities. Going for lunch or after-work drinks/meals with colleagues or outside friends can help you to feel relaxed. You might also get the chance to vent about things that have been annoying you. After all, a problem shared is a problem halved. 

Sleep – Try to get a good night’s sleep and keep yourself in a regular sleep pattern. This can be the first thing that goes out the window when work starts to become overwhelming, so if you’re not sleeping well, try to look at what the root cause is and work out ways of changing that.  

The Power of Words and Music – If you’re in the office, trying to concentrate on some work, it might be a good idea to play some music. Music can help you to concentrate by blocking out distractions and letting you focus on the task at hand.  

Listening to calming music can also help you relax and reduce anxiety, so don’t be afraid to put some headphones on and play some of your favorite songs. 

Playing music to and from your commute to work, can also help you to cut out the screeching of trains and give you a sense of calm and isolation that would seem otherwise impossible. You might be able to do the same thing by losing yourself in a good book. Wherever and however, you transport yourself in your mind, it’s bound to be better than the reality of public transport. 

Conclusion 

If your mental health is suffering, there is always something that you can do. Whether it’s through self-help, talking to your friends and family, discussing issues with your place of work, or seeing help from a professional for treatment. Whatever you do, do it as soon as possible and, if you have had thoughts of harming yourself, go to a medical professional as soon as possible. There is no shame in looking for someone to aid you. If you’d broken your leg, you wouldn’t ignore it; mental health issues are exactly the same and the sooner you get help, the sooner you can start on the road to recovery. 

At Cornerstone we can provide you and your employee with the required vital assistance, covering all the critical stages of the assignment – pre, during, and post-move. Contact us to find out how we can help you and your employees make the most of this opportunity! 

 

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