Quiet Quitting. The Great Resignation. Remote Working. Zoom. Teams. The pandemic, more than perhaps anything since World War II, has wrought significant changes in how, where and, perhaps most importantly, why we work. For the great majority of us, we work because there are bills to pay, or we’re chasing a certain career path. Yet these changes have seen more and more people step back and consider whether what they do is the right thing for both their mental and physical health.
According to the UK Mental Health Foundation, there are benefits for both employees and management when a company promotes a healthy environment. In fact, there is evidence to suggest that addressing wellbeing at work can increase productivity by as much as 12%. Add to this the fact that, according to GoodShape’s UK PLC 2021 Workforce Health Report, UK workers took an astonishing 319 million sick days due to poor mental health in 2021, and it’s obvious that looking after your own and your employees’ mental health in the workplace is more important than ever. The report also goes on to say that poor mental health was the number one reason for sick days in 2021. (link below) According to mental health charity, Mind, 1 in 4 people will experience a mental health problem of some kind each year, and more than 30% of the population live with a long-term condition.
In the UK, employers have a duty of care towards employees; that means they must do all they reasonably can to support their employees’ health, safety and wellbeing. If you’re struggling with your mental health and work, whether as a result of the job itself or external factors, there are several ways you can take care of yourself, while seeking the support you need. Here are some of our top ways to manage mental health and work.
Talk about your feelings
This can be as simple as confiding in a trusted workmate, or discussing your situation with your boss. Many companies have specific pathways for those seeking support, and your HR department should be able to help. The Equality Act makes it illegal for anyone to discriminate against people with mental health problems when you: are at work, applying for a job, or leaving one. Seeking additional help outside the workplace, such as counselling, can also be helpful.
There is evidence that regular exercise releases endorphins that lift the mood, as well as helping you to sleep and focus better. However, that doesn’t mean you need to go for an hour-long run every day! Try walking part or all of the way to work, if possible, or using part of your lunch break to do some light stretching or walking. Incorporating some form of regular movement in your life can help with your fitness and self-esteem, as well as giving you space to process your thoughts.
What we consume can affect how we feel, both physically and mentally. Eat a balanced diet, including fresh and whole foods and a healthy lunch at work, avoid too many sugary drinks and snacks, as well as caffeine, and keep alcohol consumption to a minimum.
Ask for help
If you’re feeling unable to cope, reach out. Whether to friends, family, a community support group or your HR department, don’t struggle alone. Your GP may be able to refer you on to counselling services, and your local Citizen’s Advice Bureau can also help if, for example, you’re struggling with debt. A helping hand may be what you need to help lift you out of the darkness.
Take a break
Sitting at a desk or standing in the same four walls for eight hours a day can affect how even the brightest of us feel at times. Make sure to schedule regular breaks during the day, even if it’s just to step outside for five minutes and get some fresh air. All UK workplaces are required to allow breaks by law, based upon the amount of time worked, so make sure you take your allotted amount. And, if you need more space, take time away from work. Just as you would take time off for a physical ailment that was affecting your ability to work, it’s important to remember to do the same if you’re struggling mentally.
Mindfulness practice helps us become aware of how we are and what we need in the moment. It is about taking time to pause. There are many studies of mindfulness and it has been proven to help with mental health in work, reducing stress, improving clarity, joy and calm. We can practice simply by bringing attention to our everyday activities such as a hot drink or a shower or perhaps a walk to work. Using our senses – sight, smell, touch, hearing and taste, we can bring attention to theses activities to help us become present for the moment we are in.
Do something you’re good at
Do you have a hobby you enjoy, a sport you love to play, or something you used to love to do? Spending time doing activities that bring you joy can help you forget your worries and change your mood, so make sure to carve some time out each week for something that’s just for you.
Look for something else.
If your work situation is truly untenable, preparing to move on can help you feel as though you’re doing something positive. Even if you only manage to make one application per month, it’s a step in the right direction.
Our working world is changing, as is the conversation around mental health, and the importance of staying healthy not only in body, but also in mind.
At Wellbeing in Your Office, we understand that anyone can be affected by a mental health issue at any time. The important bit is recognising the signs and then carefully approaching the issue by starting a conversation. This takes some skill and we have training courses that can help – for example First Aid for Mental Health course as well as single session talks on Workplace Mental health or Workplace Mental Health for managers. To find out more about our training courses, visit our website here.
So don’t keep it to yourself; as the saying goes, ‘a burden shared is a burden halved’. You may find there are plenty of helping hands out there who can help you carry your load.