With our data showing worryingly low levels of wellbeing, workplace mental health has never been more important. That said, many of us find it difficult to effectively balance work demands with our wellbeing, whether we’re working from home or onsite.
To support yourself and your team, read on for 10 mental health and wellbeing tips at work. You’ll discover a practical exercise for managing demands, understand how to improve your wellbeing at work and pick up actionable tips.
1. Everyone has mental health
It can be easy to view mental health through a medical lens, only focusing on things that “go wrong”, but it’s important to recognise that everyone has mental health, all of the time.
Your mental health is not only linked to stress, burnout and other challenges, it’s also tied into positives like thriving and growth. By understanding that mental health is a spectrum (from surviving to thriving) we can better optimise our wellbeing and enrich our lives at work.
2. Visualise your job demands
Visualise your job demands with the Job Demands-Resources model. This is essentially a see-saw, with the demands of your work on one side, and your personal resources (the things that keep you well) on the other.
As you’ll know, high workloads, short deadlines and lack of autonomy can all increase the demands of your job. That’s why it’s important to offset this with the other end of the see-saw: personal resources. This could be anything from regular breaks and sleep to nutrition and a sense of purpose.
Maintaining balance is your aim and doing so will keep you engaged, challenged and motivated despite the demands of your job.
Exercise: Reflect on how balanced – or unbalanced – your see-saw is. You may find it helpful to sketch it out. Consider what’s weighing on the job demands side and how you’re balancing this out.
Use this visual exercise to build an action plan for looking after your health and wellbeing at work. If you feel comfortable doing so, present this to your manager to support a discussion around your health.
By sharing this with colleagues you can help to identify organisation-wide challenges in job demands, while also sharing helpful mental health and wellbeing tips at work.
3. Don’t compartmentalise
We love to compartmentalise by keeping our work and private lives separate. However, while this sounds like a great approach, it’s not how our brains are wired; issues at home can deplete our personal resources, making it more difficult when work demands increase.
When you experience issues outside of work, it’s important that you don’t compartmentalise. You can avoid this by ensuring someone at work understands what you’re experiencing. This in turn may mean adjustments are made to give the support you need.
Exercise: Seek support – If you’re experiencing issues outside of work, you could try asking your manager for a 1:1 to discuss them. Your organisation may have a wellbeing plan you could complete, or you could get advice from your Occupational Health service. Whoever you speak to, support is the best way to look after your wellbeing, and restore balance between your demands and resources.
4. Build autonomy
Based on studies conducted at universities, author Daniel Pink argues that there are three key attributes to improving your motivation at work – and subsequently provide benefits to your mental health.
First up is autonomy: how much control you have over your working day, your projects and your approach. Are you able to choose projects that work best for your skills, or are you given work without your input? Are you able to shape how you approach tasks, or is there a set way in how you do things?
With your answers to these questions in mind, consider speaking to your manager about creating more autonomy for yourself at work.
5. Develop mastery
Mastery is also identified as having a contribution to wellbeing at work. Mastery is a sense of growth and improvement that drives you to become more effective and efficient in your role.
Developing mastery generally requires you to have the opportunity to use your skills at work. You may have training, coaching or other professional development opportunities which build your mastery in a specific skill. You can also develop mastery by working on tasks that stretch and challenge you.
6. Find purpose
The third element to boosting motivation (and wellbeing) at work is purpose. A purpose is the sense of “why” behind what you do.
You may find purpose in work that you feel contributes to something bigger or it may be a feeling of service when helping others. Alternatively, seeing the impact of your work can help develop your sense of purpose.
Consider if there are ways you could find more purpose in the work you do. By doing so, you’ll be on track to improving your wellbeing.
Developing purpose, autonomy and mastery can help guide you to building better mental health at work – but they’re not the solution for everyone.
7. Understand your mental health
It’s crucial that you’re able to distinguish between fluctuations in your mental health and damaging conditions like anxiety or depression.
Some activities will naturally give you energy, others will bring you down – this is natural. However, when these states become more pervasive it can point towards a problem.
If you spot that you’re feeling anxious or low and your usual resources (the ones we discussed in tip #2) don’t lift you up, it may be time to check in with someone for advice or signposting.
At work, this may be a trusted colleague, a Wellbeing Champion or your organisation’s Mental Health First Aider – if you have one. It’s important to speak to your manager too, so you can discuss adjusting your job demands if necessary.
Linking with Occupational Health or your Employee Assistance Programme are also helpful steps to take. And don’t forget your GP is always there to discuss concerns about your mental health (not just your physical health).
8. Don’t delay
This is one of the most crucial mental health and wellbeing tips at work: if you feel things are challenging, don’t delay in reaching out to someone. Unfortunately, it’s rarely the case that these issues improve without proactive action.
By reaching out sooner, you’ll make it easier to resolve your feelings and find strategies that work for you. It’s likely that the longer you leave it, the harder it can be to deal with.
9. Consider time off
While many of us find it hard to take time off in the first place – let alone when it comes to mental health – it’s important to recognise that a short break can help prevent longer absences.
Again, your Occupational Health department and your GP are good sources of guidance if you find yourself in this situation.
10. Keep checking in
Continue to check in on your own mental health to understand how you’re feeling and consider what you can do to look after it. You may find it helpful to regularly sketch out your demands – resources diagram to visualise how your wellbeing is being affected by work.
In any list of health and wellbeing tips at work, this is the most important: check in with others. Talk to others about your feelings and ask them how they’re feeling, you never know the difference one simple conversation can make. Remember, it’s not weak to speak out.
We hope you’ll find these health and wellbeing tips helpful at work useful, and something you can consider implementing in your life. If you have any tips or comments, feel free to connect with me on LinkedIn through the link below.
Written by Joe Pindar, Wellbeing Executive, Champion Health