How to Improve Your Mental Health at Work

Largely thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic, society is becoming more and more conscious of just how important mental health is to our well-being. When it comes to mental health, we often talk about support from friends and family. However, a lack of consideration at work may sometimes be even more damaging. If your employer doesn’t care about your mental health, there are a few things you can do to protect yourself.

Respect Your Own Privacy

Life sometimes gets in the way of work. Some days it can be extraordinarily difficult to go into the office. Staying home is often unavoidable as many employers won’t respect that you may need personal time.

Remember that privacy is private. If you get interrogated for calling out from work, don’t breach your comfort levels. Your boss might pry, but they don’t need information other than that you’re sick or need personal time.

Work culture in the United States often blurs the distinction between personal and work time. In truth, your company does not own you; it only has access to you for your contracted time. You’re still a person with a life outside of the office, and work is only a thing that you do. Consistently relaxing, bonding with family, and getting mental health treatment when necessary are essential to understanding your value.

Set Firm Work-Life Boundaries

If you have reason to read this article, then it’s likely your boss doesn’t adhere to this ideal. But even if they expect you to put work first in your life, ultimately you get to decide for yourself. A simple action you can take is to limit your work (and work mindset) to paid hours. Your employer is legally allowed to demand overtime, but unless you are in an exempt category, they must pay you for that time.

When you’re off the clock, do your best not to think about work. Give yourself this time and make the most of it; you have a life to live outside of the office. No matter what your boss suggests, if you aren’t on the clock (or on call), you don’t owe them additional time. A good way to separate your downtime from your work hours is to turn off all notifications and work communications.

Communicate Your Needs on the Job

When you are at work, it can be difficult to assert your needs due to the high-pressure environment. Certain tasks may require more time or too much bandwidth, but you should only be as open with those facts as your comfort allows. If you have a problem, try to be honest — even if you feel you aren’t being heard. Your employer might not respectfully consider or even receive that honesty, but that’s not your responsibility.

You are fully justified in seeking this respect. After all, the more your employer listens, the more efficiently you can work. For example, if they consistently ignore their employees and make impossible demands, it can negatively affect the business. From a managerial standpoint, it’s far more beneficial for a boss to consider their employees’ needs than to ignore them. At the very least, they might better understand your perspective.

Don’t Go the Extra Mile If Your Efforts Aren’t Reciprocated

It has long been considered “industrious” or “driven” to go above and beyond at work (and still commonly is). Oftentimes, employees do this with the goal of impressing higher-ups and gaining a raise or promotion. In a healthy and respectful work environment, this is still very much possible. But overworking yourself to exceed expectations also runs the risk of management raising those expectations without likewise improving your benefits.

If your boss doesn’t go “above and beyond” for you and your needs, don’t demand it of yourself. Energy bandwidth is all about balance: more unneeded stress from your boss hinders your capacity to work and vice versa. If you’re not in the right headspace, don’t put too much pressure on yourself to do an exceptional job. Just do your best to get things done amidst your employer’s demands.

Keep in Mind What’s Best for You

In the end, it’s more than reasonable to look out for yourself before anything or anyone else. There is no shame in leaving your job, for instance, if a lack of respect and pay disparities make it a negative experience. If that’s impossible, you might find that other employees share your sentiments — and discussing details like salary can clarify things tremendously. Don’t hesitate to take these steps, even if your employer tries to forbid it.

To reiterate one more time, you are your own person and can make your own decisions! In less serious circumstances, you might consider taking a mental health day to escape for a bit. Even if it’s unpaid, it’s your choice to decide whether you need time. When you return feeling refreshed and reenergized, they’re less likely to question your dedication to the job.

Mental health is nothing to brush aside; it affects every moment of your life. A good employer will understand this and make efforts to lift you up and help you feel valued. Sadly, this isn’t a universal practice, which may have led you to this article in the first place. With some of these tips, you can learn to promote your own well-being in the face of insensitive management.

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