Three in five employees have experienced mental health issues in the past year because of work, according to a recent study. So, if you’re strung out, stressed and still at your desk, you’re not the only one.
And parents and carers, who are walking the tightrope of childcare and office hours, can face added mental strain. Many feel obliged to work far more than their contracted hours due to increasingly intense workloads and yet they’re also coping with the demands of family life.
In fact, research shows that a third of parents putting in extra hours said they did an extra seven hours a week: the equivalent to a working day. So, if you feel you’re at breaking point, what can you do?
Since 2014, all employees have had the right to request flexible working for any reason and this can include switching your shifts, working different hours and sometimes working from home. So, if skipping the commute or getting to the office at more varied times would help ease the pressure, try applying for flexible hours. Take a look at your employer’s flexible working policy (if it has one), as this will set out how requests should be made. Make sure you follow the guidelines carefully, as legally employees can only make one formal flexible working request every 12 months.
Your employer has a duty of care towards you as an employee and it should make reasonable adjustments to help an employees’ mental health. However, the company or organisation only has to do this if they know or could be reasonably expected to know about the problem.
In the first instance, it can help to speak to your line manager and work together to find solutions, such as delegating work to other members of staff, and seeing where changes can be made. If that doesn’t work, you could raise the issue more formally with the HR department (putting requests in writing) and asking for adjustments to be made.
However, unfortunately, there’s still a stigma to mental health issues. Research by Business in the Community found that 15% of employees face dismissal, disciplinary action or demotion after disclosing a mental health issue at work. If that’s the case, speak to an employment solicitor, as it you may have an unfair dismissal or discrimination case and the solicitor can help you to manage it.
There’s no quick fix for burnout and mental health problems can be complex. So, no, doing a bit of yoga – paid for by the company or not – isn’t a cure-all for stress. But that’s not to say that classes like yoga, mindfulness and even just getting out for a walk at lunchtime aren’t helpful.
It may also be worth asking to move to a desk in a brighter, lighter part of the office, sitting nearer friendly colleagues and making sure you take regular breaks. Some organisations have mental health first aiders (colleagues trained to help each other talk about stress and depression), which some people might find useful, and confidential sessions with a qualified counsellor.
*Joanne O’Connell is editor of www.settlementagreement.co.uk.