Welcome to Part 2 of our Practically Perfect Series! If you missed part 1, you can find it here. Today we’re looking at managing a working life while battling through mental health issues. As someone who has gone through the struggles of mental health in the workplace, I shall be unpacking a few tips for managing that work life. Let’s jump in!
Working Life vs Mental Health
If you’re a working professional struggling with mental health issues, I’m sure you know how difficult it is to maintain that work life. The fear of being treated differently because of your condition, or the stigmatisation that can be rife in the workplace, it makes dealing with mental health issues that much more complicated, which it really shouldn’t. With all the struggles we face daily, we don’t need the extra pressure.
How do we face those struggles, though? Already we’re at a disadvantage, as our minds are telling us we cannot cope with it, we won’t be taken seriously and so many other anxious or depressive thoughts. It’s so easy for us to think we will fail before we’ve even started. The fact that a lot of companies still have that negative attitude towards mental health really doesn’t help. But what can we do? Moreover, how can we, as friends and family, support our working friends or family members?
A Few Practical Working Tips
There are a number of options that people can explore that they don’t necessarily know exist. When my depression hit back when I was still working for the bank, I had absolutely no idea that any of these options were available to me. If I had, I think I would have struggled less in the beginning. You may be familiar with them but just in case, here they are:
There are online forums on the company intranet that allow for discussion about mental health. I found these to be particularly useful, as I could communicate with colleagues across the brand about my mental health. It brought me support from others who were struggling and also allowed that degree of anonymity if you weren’t comfortable disclosing who you were as you were struggling. Just be advised: some companies may not appreciate you doing this during work hours. Breaks only, and all that!
I never knew Occupational Health existed in a mental health capacity. If you can get them involved, they can liaise with your doctor, assess you and offer some workplace adjustments to make it easier for you to be at work. We all think of Occupational Health as giving people the ergonomic chairs or set desks to allow them those adjustments for their physical health but they also offer an array of mental health adjustments. Schedule alterations, additional medical breaks, set working hours and more. Getting in touch does involve you having an assessment and potentially some liaising with your GP but they can certainly offer those sorts of adjustments to make it easier for you to cope at work.
This was something that the company I worked for didn’t offer but some companies do nowadays. In the same way that you can get representative access in other areas, you can get a representative to speak on your behalf in work. If you’re struggling with making that phone call to phone in sick, some companies allow you to set up a representative to speak on your behalf. Check out next week’s post on Representative Access for more information!
HR is normally something quite scary but it is an important stepping stone for your mental health in the workplace. They can approve things like change of hours if needed, temporary changes of working styles and things of that nature. Additionally, they are also the ones who get Occupational Health involved if Occupational Health isn’t already. They may also have a specialist team that can offer you an array of support.
The Union is also something that people don’t like hearing about but they have a number of options. They can act as your representative, they often have access to counselling services and they can step in and mediate when things aren’t going well in the workplace, such as with management handling. I left it too long to join the Union and it cost me my job, so don’t leave it long!
Wrapping Up and Next Week
Despite mental health not being a predominant topic in the workplace, there are still numerous options that you can tap into to help you cope. Don’t be afraid to get you or your loved one or friend involved in these options. They might make things a lot easier.
Next week we will be looking at Representation and also a tip for our UK followers that really really helped me practically. I hope you’ll join us!
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