Yes, you really can have THAT conversation in the office!
Have you been struggling with anxiety at work, motivation and stress levels and are wondering if you might be getting ‘bad enough’ to see a psychologist or counsellor about it? Or do you have an employee you suspect might need some help? Here are some ideas on managing mental health in the workplace.
Firstly, how do you know if your mental health is affecting your work?
Some cues you might be starting to struggle with work stress include:
- Feeling anxiety at work or beforehand
- Feeling really flat/ ‘burnt out’ and struggling to get going in the morning (more than usual!)
- Having difficulty concentrating and making more mistakes than usual
- Being more easily irritated/upset by co-workers/customers/changes to your routine.
- Worrying a lot about work outside of work
- Feeling time pressure yet struggling to act
- Difficulties getting to sleep at night
- Less confidence in your skills
Any of these signs can be a flag that you need to take time out to work on your mental health.
Mental health is personal. When do I need to tell my boss about what I’m going through?
You need to raise the issue with your boss if your mental health is affecting your ability to do your job, even if that feels scary. Most workplaces have become more supportive and aware of work stress. Telling your boss you know you’re struggling shows them you’re committed to the job – rather than your actions and mood being interpreted as being related to not liking or valuing your job anymore.
Do I really need to go talk to someone?
Please see a professional early on! Let the GP/Psychologist/ Counsellor you choose decide if you’re ‘bad enough’ to need some form of therapy/medication. Like physical problems or illnesses, early intervention makes for an easier fix.
Plus, if you can work to improve your mental health before it really impacts your work, you can avoid that intensely personal conversation with your boss too! (totally worth it now, right?)
What if I’m the boss? What do I say to an employee I think isn’t coping?
If you’re the boss and you’ve seen some of the above symptoms in one of your employees, then it’s worth having a conversation with them.
Make a time to talk one on one. Make sure they know it’s a confidential conversation. Then try asking questions like:
- ‘You seem different at work during the last few months, has something changed for you?’
- ‘I know I’ve been feeling the pressure recently and others have too. How’s the stress here been affecting you?’
Try not to just focus on where their performance has suffered as this won’t lead to an open, honest conversation. Instead aim to be caring and to listen to what they have to say. Thank them for being honest and for their good work in general and then set up another meeting to talk through any changes that need to occur. This stops you from feeling pressured to do something right away.
And do remember to emphasise that you’d like to support them to be happy in the workplace and highlight any policies/assistance your company might have/you can offer (e.g. time off for specialist appointments, reduced work hours, change in role) while the person works on taking care of their mental health.
Managing mental health is just as much a part of physical health and more and more workplaces are recognising this and providing support for their employees. But even if your workplace doesn’t, it doesn’t mean you can’t prioritise your own mental health. Make sure to take action to fix up any changes you notice early on. Prevention is better (and easier and cheaper too) than cure!