17 May Navigating Mental Health in the Workplace: Promoting a Healthy Work-Life Balance
Worryingly, poor mental health in the workplace is extremely common, with 1 in 4 workers silently struggling. As well as impacting the lives of employees, these issues are costly for UK businesses. Mental health conditions are one of the leading causes of absence, with over 12% of employees taking days off as a result. The cost of presenteeism, where employees come to work even if they’re struggling, is even greater.
At work, risks to mental health may be related to job content or work schedule, specific characteristics of the workplace, or opportunities for career development among other things. Creating a healthy work-life balance or work-life integration is essential to improve not only our physical, emotional, and mental well-being, but it’s also important for our career.
A good work-life balance has numerous positive effects, including less stress, a lower risk of burnout, and a greater sense of well-being. This not only benefits employees but employers, too. If you are struggling at work, try these 10 tips to create a healthy work-life balance.
1. Learn to say “no”
Learning how to say no can be one of the hardest soft skills for any dedicated professional to learn and put into practice. But it’s an important part of setting boundaries.
To start, you must first assess the typical demands of your day and learn to articulate and prioritize what you have on your plate.
It can be helpful to recognize that saying “no” to things that are less of a priority frees up time and energy to say “yes” and attend to other things that are important to you.
2. Take breaks
Even a 30-second microbreak can: Improve concentration, reduce stress, keep you feeling engaged, and make your work feel more enjoyable.
It’s especially important to be mindful of this when you’re working from home.
A study by The Energy Project found people naturally go from full focus to physiological fatigue every 90 minutes.
3. Use your lunch break
If you have a lunch break at your place of work, it’s your right to use it.
This means you shouldn’t be expected to always eat at your desk and work through lunch.
You can take this time to enjoy your meal mindfully. You can also do short meditations or breathing exercises if your stress levels are high or experience chronic stress.
4. Talk to your line manager if you are struggling at work.
Finding a better work balance shouldn’t just be down to you. Your workplace should also help too by encouraging a culture of openness so you can speak up if you’re under too much pressure. Of course, it can be difficult or impossible to stand up for yourself at work if you’re precariously employed or worried about losing your job. It might be a good idea that you know your rights before addressing any issues.
5. Prioritize your health
Recognizing the importance of maintaining your physical health, emotional well-being, and mental fitness is the first step to making it a priority in your life.
Use the concept of habit stacking to build simple, supportive actions into your day. Consider habits like daily meditation, exercise, social connection, and using your paid time off.
One of the most important ways to achieve a sense of work-life balance is to let go of perfectionism. The approach of perfectionism may have brought some success during school and early career. But the stress it causes accumulates over time. The strain on our system and emotional resources increases as our responsibilities increase.
It’s important to recognize that life isn’t always easy. Everyone struggles, and you aren’t always going to get it “right.” Recognizing this truth allows you to create a shift toward a more compassionate growth-and-learning approach to work and life. This can help to support a sense of balance.
7. Communicate boundaries.
Set and communicate your work hours to your colleagues and customers so that you have clear boundaries. This should include when you’ll work and when you won’t be available to respond.
One simple way to achieve this is to set up an autoresponder to alert those who contact you via email that you are offline. This message can also let them know when you’ll respond.
This removes the pressure to keep checking work emails.
8. Make space in your schedule for family time
Block out some time that’s devoted entirely to your family.
For this to work, everyone in your family needs to make this time a priority. Make sure you’re all on the same page. You all need to decide to take the necessary steps to carve this time out. You can also set this time apart to call family members or other loved ones who live far away.
9. Don’t be afraid to unplug.
Cutting ties with the outside world from time to time allows us to recover from weekly stress and gives us space for other thoughts and ideas to emerge. Unplugging can mean something simple like practicing transit meditation on your daily commute, instead of checking work emails.
10. Ask for help
High-achieving professionals are often guilty of taking everything on themselves. They don’t want to “bother” anyone by asking for help.
Sometimes this is tied to feelings of obligation. Instead, consider that asking for help gives other people the gift of giving — and being part of a solution and support system. This builds the benefits of mutual relationships for all involved.
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