Mental health at work – a working revolution

Survey shows that half of us won’t tell employers about mental health at work


When it comes to discussing our mental health at work, half of us would rather keep things under wraps, a recent survey has shown. Given that the workplace is where most of us spend the majority of our time, its concerning that we are still a long way off from giving mental well-being the time and attention it deserves.

In my previous career as a lawyer, I noticed that stress and anxiety was rife both for myself and my colleagues. The culture of most law firms is self-critical, where perfectionism is celebrated and mistakes are magnified. Working hours can be unduly long and even when you’re on holiday you’re “not really”. It’s not particularly surprising that 95% of lawyers experience ‘negative stress’ at work and I’m sure many other professions can cite similar statistics.

A culture change

Well-being initiatives are springing up in employers all around the country which, at least on the surface, appears to be a positive thing. There is, however, a danger of  well-being courses being offered to sweeten the pill of an over-worked, under-resourced workplace. Any credible training in well-being and resilience should:

  1. empower both employees to take responsibility for their own mental health; and
  2. highlight the best working practices for employees to thrive.

Both worker and employer have their respective roles to play to encourage a culture of openness and dialogue about mental health issues. As employers have the upper hand in the relationship, the onus falls on them more heavily to take action. Initiatives like the Time to Change employer pledge reflect a growing movement by employers to address mental health issues. Ultimately this benefits everyone: a happier workforce is more productive, more creative, makes better decisions and will want to stay with their employer for longer

Power to you: are you suffering from stress at work?

Here are my top tips if you are struggling with stress at work:

  1. If you feel comfortable doing so, tell a colleague or your manager. Your manager should be best placed to make any changes to your work that could support you better. If they don’t know, they can’t help. If you are confident that your manager will be unsympathetic or unsupportive stick to a friendly colleague. Sharing your troubles in an understanding context can go a long way in helping you feel better. If you are at the top of the tree in your workplace consider who you can confide in either within or outside your workplace. It must be someone you trust.
  2. Be mindful of your work habits. Are you taking regular screen breaks? Are you staying hydrated? Are you taking your lunch break? Remember 10 minutes of focused work trumps an hour of fatigued, unfocused work every time. Breaks help you maintain your focus and regain perspective.
  3. Remember what you can and cannot control. You cannot control the behaviour of your boss, colleagues, clients or the people you manage. You can’t change the fire alarm going off when you have urgent work to do. Try to take a deep breath and let those things go. They will only waste your energy. Focus on what you CAN change like your attitude, actions and the way you communicate.
  4. If you start feeling stressed, try 7/11 breathing to help you feel calmer. Your mind can be led to a more resourceful state by your body. Experiment with standing straighter, loosen your shoulders and holding your head high. How do you feel differently?

Life is too short

Ultimately you may be stressed at work because you know you are not suited to your role. Whilst we can always change our mindset at work to improve it, some of us know deep down that we want to move in a different direction.  Many people seem to think hating your job is the norm, but it does not have to be that way. It is absolutely possible to create a working life that fulfills and satisfies you.

If you want to explore how to improve your quality of life at work or a career change, why not drop me a line today and we can explore what’s possible for you.


5 May 2017