Top Tips for Improving Mental Health in the Workplace
written by Amy Forester
Our workplaces can be fulfilling, motivating, exciting and stressful all at the same time. For some people, employment is just a way to earn money, but for others, it’s a chance to do meaningful work that challenges and inspires them. Whichever camp you fall in, almost all of us will feel stressed or overwhelmed at work at some point in our careers – even if you’re well-suited to your role.
For parents of children with special needs, extra precautions must be taken to protect against stress and manage their mental health. Often, with such demanding home lives, work stressors can become overwhelming.
So how can we make sure that we’re taking care of our mental health at work, and moving forward in a way that’s sustainable? Let’s take a look.
Put boundaries in place with yourself and others
Especially if you’re a parent of a child with special needs, you’re likely working flat out in your home life to keep everything running smoothly. From school runs to appointments and hobbies, your children take up a lot of time, and that’s before you’ve considered your own social life. So, make sure that you put boundaries in place and don’t let your work flow into your home time, and vice versa.
With working from home becoming more popular, it’s tempting to try and use this flexibility to do multiple things at once – run a laundry load whilst you’re on a
call, and hang it out in a ten-minute break before your next call. But this means that you’re constantly jumping between tasks, which can be a little chaotic for your brain. If you do need to balance your work and home tasks throughout the day, try and work in dedicated blocks. Focus on a task for a set amount of time, such as 90 minutes, before switching.
If you’re based in an office, make sure that you stick to a set schedule that allows you to be home when you need to be and leave work behind. Avoid having emails on your phone, and clearly communicate your availability with your coworkers to ensure that you get the break you need. Additional support, such as a virtual receptionist service, can help you feel able to step away from the office.
Share your working preferences
Often, conflict and stress at work happens because we have expectations that people don’t meet, or we work in different ways. We’re all unique, and as such don’t go about our days in exactly the same way, but this can be hard to get used to, especially when you’re busy or under pressure.
For parents with an especially full-plate at home, it’s vital to clearly communicate your needs to your colleagues. If your child is sick or needs extra care due to their disability or condition, you shouldn’t feel unable to request additional time to care for them. Whether it’s flexible working hours or an easier week you need, be sure to stay open and clear with your employer.
By sharing your working preferences with your colleagues, and them doing the same, you can try and find a way of working together that suits everyone. So, if you hate morning meetings because that’s when you are most productive, or would rather receive an email unless a call is absolutely necessary, then let your colleagues know.
Work to your strengths
Everyone has parts of their role that they’re better at, and other tasks that they find hard. Whilst pushing yourself out of your comfort zone at work is part of growth and progression, if you’re constantly struggling, then it might be time to reassess if there are any tasks that can be shared around the team. Your weakness might be someone else’s strength, and a team approach can help reduce stress, get work done faster and to a higher standard.
Being a parent of a child, or children, with special needs is an amazing achievement in itself, and it’s sure to be an experience that has given you extra special qualities and strengths. Being able to proudly offer your specialist skills to your team in return for help in areas you struggle should come naturally within a positive working environment – so don’t be afraid to raise the conversation.
Don’t forget to ask for help
If you’re struggling at work, don’t be afraid to reach out and ask for help. Any supportive manager will be happy to look at your workload and help you take back control. Whilst we all have stressful times, no one should constantly feel overwhelmed at work.