Minding your mental health is more important than ever in today’s society. With the ever increasing pressures of modern day technologies such as social media, and more expectation to succeed in a professional capacity, it is little wonder that a significant number of people are experiencing workplace anxiety and feeling frazzled while in and out of the office.
Given that we spend a large proportion of our time each week at work, it is important that we reduce workplace stress where we can, which is sometimes easier said than done. We spoke to Senior Consultant Christian Vanezi who outlined some simple steps below which you can undertake daily to help manage this, and to make the working day run as smoothly as possible so that you can reach your optimum potential.
1. Don’t be afraid to speak up and voice your concerns…
Don’t underestimate the saying ‘’a problem shared is a problem halved’’. If there are problems at work bothering you which you feel somebody in your organisation could help with, then don’t be afraid to ask. Companies also have a HR department for a reason, and it is their job to assist you as best they can with any relevant work issues you may be having. Alternatively, simply making your manager or another member of your team aware of the difficulties you’re experiencing can have a profound effect on your wellbeing.
If you are experiencing mental health problems such as anxiety and/or depression outside of the workplace that are unrelated to a specific issue at work, then it may still worthwhile bringing this to the attention of your employer. Many companies have Employee Assistance Programmes that are often underutilised which can help you avail of beneficial services such as counselling. If something like this isn’t available, then maybe you should consider discussing the possibility of setting up such a scheme for your workplace with your HR department. It’s actually beneficial for organisations to invest in such services, with a recent study released by the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) revealing that mental health conditions which are left untreated end up costing Australian workplaces approximately $10.9 billion each year. This is made up of $4.7 billion worth of losses in terms of absenteeism, $6.1 billion in terms of presenteeism and a massive $146 million in compensation claims. With these stats in mind, it is little wonder that most HR departments would be open to discussing your ideas on mental health initiatives.
2. Mind both your mental and physical health as best you can…
You may have heard people talking about ‘’Healthy Body, Healthy Mind’, and this certainly rings true in relation to maintaining your optimum performance at work. Exercise releases happy endorphins and so those in need of that extra serotonin should ensure they get at least 30 minutes of exercise as often as they can each day. Although it may not always be possible to fit in that amount of exercise every single day, even simple steps like walking for some or all of your commute, or taking the stairs instead of the lift can help contribute. Here at SThree, we have certain protocol in place to enable our employees to achieve this, such as allowing them to take an extended lunch break weekly to partake in a physical activity of their choice, such as going to the gym, playing sport, or simply taking a long walk.
No amount of exercise however, can compensate for a poor diet and other negative health choices. Getting the right nutrition, particularly when at work, can make a huge difference to how you perform throughout the day, not to mention your overall energy levels. Preparing a healthy lunch, keeping hydrated and avoiding alcohol midweek could help significantly if you are suffering from low mood. Once you have taken these steps, it should also be easier to identify what the actual issues you are facing are, without suffering from low energy and fatigue as well.
There have been various studies undertaken which prove the effects diet can have on mental health. For example, one 2014 study reported that high wellbeing levels were reported by those who ate more fruit and vegetables. In addition to this, a randomized control trial published in the PLOS ONE journal outlined that depression symptoms minimized among a group of young adults who followed a Mediterranean diet for three weeks. This included plenty of fruit and vegetables and a limited amount of highly processed foods. These results are just some from numerous studies which outline the correlation between a healthy diet and a healthy mind. It is also worth noting that getting enough sleep and rest is crucial to both your physical and emotional health alike. Aiming for 7-9 hours during the week is key to ensuring you have enough energy to get you through the day and keeping your moods balanced.
3. Become more involved at work and get to know your colleagues…
If you feel isolated at work, it can really accelerate any mental health problems you may already be facing. Joining a committee such as the social committee can be a great way of getting to know people within the office, some of whom you might not get a chance to speak to otherwise. Likewise, attending social events planned by such committees can also be beneficial in getting to know your colleagues and team members outside of the traditional office setting. Having positive relationships with your co-workers can massively impact how you’re feeling both in and outside of the office, so it may be worthwhile making the effort where possible.
Socialising doesn’t have to be limited to ‘’work drinks’’ either. Some companies participate in activities such as tag rugby and other sports, so joining a team like this could be another option available of to get to know people outside of the work environment. Here at SThree, for example, we host numerous events that are outside of the stereotypical work night out. These include regular trivia nights, indoor golf, barefoot bowls and beach clean ups to name just a few, and they serve as a great way to interact with colleagues outside of the office.
By integrating yourself more within the office, it may make work a more enjoyable place for you overall, and will also mean you have other people to voice your concerns or queries to, aside from HR or your manager.
4. Consider other people’s mental health in the workplace too
Whether you are in an entry level role or a management position, everyone has a certain amount of responsibility to empathise with one another, particularly in a professional capacity. Encouraging people to discuss how they’re feeling and simply asking them how they’re getting on also takes away some of the stigma which still surrounds mental health in the workplace. It may be as simple as asking someone how their day was or how they’re getting on at work, but it could make a major difference to how they’re feeling in the long run. By reaching out, you are also strengthening your relationships with your colleagues, which as we discussed in the point above is important for a positive work life. A really great initiative which highlights the power simply asking people how they are holds is R U OK Day, but this is really something that should be a regular daily activity for people as opposed to something limited to just one day a year.
If people were more mindful of the mental health of their colleagues, then it should create more positive atmosphere within the office, and essentially a better company culture too. A win-win!
The above are just 4 simple points to get you started on improving your mental health in the workplace, but there is much more you can do to build on this and to ensure you have a more positive working life. As we spend such a significant amount of our time at work, it is crucial that we are proactive in managing our mental health while we are there and so it is not something which should be neglected. The tips featured in this article need not just be limited to your time in work though, you can use them where applicable in other aspects of your life too – particularly those you might be struggling in.
At SThree, we are committed to ensuring our clients and candidates have the best experience possible in the workplace, and that’s why discussing topical issues like mental health is so important to us.
Interested in a career with us? Please don’t hesitate to get in touch with Christian at the following contact details –
02 9285 1005