Working with a mental health condition can be challenging, and with our work and home lives becoming more intertwined than ever, the difficulties are becoming more prevalent for a growing number of Australians. However, maintaining a positive work-life balance can be very beneficial for people living with a mental health condition; allowing interaction with a support network while keeping a routine and active mind. Although, work-life-balance can still be overwhelming and bring on anxiety, thus there are some simple steps to follow that will allow you to feel more in control.

 

The Benefits of Working with a Mental Health Condition.

The workplace is a significant environment that contributes to our mental wellbeing and health. For people with mental health conditions, finding work or returning to work and retaining a job is often a challenge. Over the last decade, the dialogue in the workplace around mental health has become more frequent and open, allowing the stigmas that surround those with mental health experiences to be more understood[1]. Many organisations now appreciate that mental wellbeing in the workplace is as important as physical health when it comes to efficiency and productivity of employees. Although effective mental health services are multidimensional, the workplace is a suitable environment to promote good mental health practices and provide needed support to employees.

Research shows that steady employment can:

  1. Give structure and routine to one’s day-to-day life;
  2. Contribute to one’s sense of meaning and purpose;
  3. Provide a support network and opportunity for social inclusion;
  4. Provide financial security; and
  5. Provide regular activity in organising one’s daily life[2].

Additionally, the workplace can promote good mental health practices and provide tools for recognition and early identification of issues. Many Australian organisations have an Employee Assistance Program (EAP) provider or can establish links with local mental health services for referral, treatment and rehabilitation.

 

Barriers to Working with a Mental Health Condition.

It can be overwhelming if the way you’re feeling is starting to impact your work. With many mental health conditions, there are barriers that seem impossible to overcome and getting up everyday to go to work can be a huge challenge; and, if you’re having trouble with a challenging manager or boss, the challenge can be even greater. Global studies reveal that 79% of employees[3] will quit a job because of their managers. However, the journey to get to the point of leaving can induce “really painful feelings that just won’t go away” says Aimee Barr, a Brooklyn, NY-based psychotherapist[4].

Depending on your circumstances, certain factors can make it difficult for you to stay at work or return to work after an absence. It’s important to consult with your managers or HR team to make the process as smooth and simple as possible and discuss what options are available to you. For example, many Australian business offer Employee Assistance Programs that provide access to psychologists free of charge to the employee. It may also be appropriate to discuss contacting a Disability Employment Service to understand options available.

 

How to work with someone with depression?

It takes little effort to work with someone who lives with a mental health condition; not to mention that maintaining a positive, relatively stress-free work environment will be beneficial to everyone in the workplace. With over 300 million people worldwide affected by depression and anxiety, and one in five Australians living with a mental health condition, chances are you know or work with someone who experiences the illness daily. Understanding how to work with someone who has depression can greatly increase overall productivity while maintaining a more pleasant work environment[5]. Overall, get to know people as individuals without letting stereotypes interfere; treat people with dignity, kindness and compassion. Consider the following:

 

TOXIC POSITIVITY GENUINE OPTIMISM
Being negative won’t help you It’s important to let it out. Is there anything I can do to make this easier for you?
Good vibes only I care about you through all your emotional states
You’ll get over it You are so resilient and your strength will get you through
Other people have it a lot worse You are not alone and there is support to help you
Smile, crying won’t help It’s okay to cry, we all do. What can I do to support you?
Just stay positive Things are tough right now. Do you want to talk about it or do something light-hearted?

Making reasonable adjustments

Reasonable adjustments are changes to a work role / place that help someone with a mental health condition to keep working or return to the workplace if they’ve taken time off. JobAccess can support employers to make reasonable adjustments to support people living with disability, including a mental health condition. They can be temporary or permanent and should be reviewed regularly.

Some reasonable adjustments include:

  1. Changes to work hours or location;
  2. Adjustment to workload; and
  3. Training and support[6].

 

Why you should go home at a normal time every day

With our homes becoming our offices over the last year, the lines between where home life starts, and work life stops, are very blurred. However, as we begin to make our way back into the office, it’s important to maintain the positive work-life-balance habits that we picked up. First and foremost, this means going home at a normal time every day now that commuting time needs to be factored in again. Although it is not always possible to leave work on time when you’re juggling tight deadlines, regularly committing to long hours can have great detrimental effects on mental and physical health. Fatigue and stress can increase, while wellbeing and sleep will decrease and can commonly lead to severe burn out.

Research shows that working more than 48 hours a week is linked with significant declines in productivity, more errors, and an increased risk of mental health conditions such as anxiety and depression.

To help you leave at a normal time every day, consider implementing the following:

  1. Plan ahead;
  2. Realistic deadlines;
  3. Say NO;
  4. Switch off; and
  5. Be flexible[7].

 

Conclusion

There are a many stereotypes surrounding mental health conditions and there are still stigmas associate with physical and mental disabilities. However, the more we start conversations, the more successful we will be in breaking down barriers.

If you’re feeling like your mental health is impacting your work and hindering relationships with co-workers, consider the following strategies:

  1. Start by talking to a professional;
  2. Talk to your manager or Human Resources;
  3. Create coping mechanisms – breathing exercises throughout the day, go for a walk, stretch, get a coffee/tea. Additionally, maintain healthy habits such as eating well, exercising, getting enough sleep, keeping in contact with friends;
  4. Find a more supportive work environment – if your boss or co-workers are contributing to your depression at work it may not make sense to stick it out; and
  5. Consider seeking support from a Disability Employment Service[8].

Having a positive work environment with a strong social network plays a constructive role in your wellbeing, thus it is worth engaging in a dialogue with your employer to find a way to adjust your work routine to support your mental and physical health.

 

 

[1] https://www.who.int/mental_health/media/en/712.pdf

[2] https://www.headsup.org.au/your-mental-health/working-with-a-mental-health-condition

[3] https://www.octanner.com/content/dam/oc-tanner/documents/global-research/White_Paper_Performance_Accelerated.pdf

[4] https://www.monster.com/career-advice/article/depression-at-work

[5] https://anzmh.asn.au/mental-health/work-with-someone-with-depression/

[6] https://www.headsup.org.au/your-mental-health/working-with-a-mental-health-condition#:~:text=Under%20the%20Disability%20Discrimination%20Act,are%20usually%20free%20or%20inexpensive

[7] https://www.beyondblue.org.au/personal-best/pillar/wellbeing/why-you-should-go-home-on-time-every-day

[8] https://www.monster.com/career-advice/article/depression-at-work