Blog: Work and your mental health, where is the balance?

14th May 2019

In support of mental health awareness week, 13-19th May, Medical Negligence Trainee Costs Draftswoman, Sarah McDermott has written about the challenge many of us face succeeding in the professional world whilst looking after our own mental health.

We spend the majority of our lives working and engaging with other people and this has a huge impact on our mental health.

So how can we balance our working lives with our mental health?

Firstly, let’s take a look at some key facts about how our working life effects our mental health: 

  • Statistics show that one third of employees feel unhappy or very unhappy about the time they devote to work.
  • More than 40% of employees are neglecting other aspects of their life because of work, which may increase their vulnerability to mental health problems.
  • When working long hours, more than a quarter of employees feel depressed (27%), one third feel anxious (34%), and more than half feel irritable (58%).

  • The more hours you spend at work, the more hours outside of work you are likely to spend thinking or worrying about it.

  • As a person’s weekly hours increase, so do their feelings of unhappiness.

  • Many more women report unhappiness than men (42% of women compared with 29% of men), which is probably a consequence of competing life roles and more pressure to ‘juggle’.

  • Nearly two thirds of employees have experienced a negative effect on their personal life, including lack of personal development, physical and mental health problems, and poor relationships and poor home life.

So how can we improve our mental health when we spend the majority of our time at work?

Are you struggling to switch off when you’re out of office?

Finding the Balance

It is important to protect your mental health and especially at work. So here are some key tips to help:

  • Take personal responsibility for your work-life balance.
    This includes speaking up when work expectations and demands are too much. Employers need to be aware of where the pressures lie in order to address them.

  • Try to ‘work smart, not long’. This involves tight prioritisation – allowing yourself a certain amount of time per task – and trying not to get caught up in less productive activities, such as unstructured meetings that tend to take up lots of time. 

  • Take proper breaks at work. For example, by taking at least half an hour for lunch and getting out of the workplace if you can.

  • Try to ensure that a line is drawn between work and leisure.
    If you do need to bring work home try to ensure that you only work in a certain area of your home – and can close the door on it. 

  • Take seriously the link between work-related stress and mental ill health. Try to reduce stress. For example, through exercise, relaxation or hobbies. (More information on how to reduce stress will be shown in a further blog on Thursday 16th May 2019).

  • Recognise the importance of protective factors, including exercise, leisure activities and friendships. Try to ensure that these are not sacrificed to working longer hours, or try to ensure that you spend your spare time on these things.

  • Watch out for the cumulative effect of working long hours by keeping track of your working hours over a period of weeks or months rather than days. Take account of hours spent worrying or thinking about work when assessing your work-life balance. These are a legitimate part of work and a good indicator of work-related stress.
    If possible, assess your work-€life balance with your colleagues and with the support and involvement of managerial staff.
    The more visible the process, the more likely it is to have an effect.
Sarah recommends taking time to do the things in life that make you feel better in yourself

How Fletchers Can Help YOU

  • Fletcher’s Solicitors Mental Health Team are promoting the messages about work-life balance to individuals in the workplace by raising awareness though events or blogs like these. Be sure to take notice of them!

  • Identify who is part of the Mental Health Awareness Team at Fletchers and if you feel like you are struggling or just want to talk, be sure to know they are all willing to give you their time at any point throughout the day. Talking is good, don’t keep it stored up inside! We’re here to help. 

  • Fletchers encourage activities that promote good mental health, for example lunchtime exercise or relaxation classes.
    Discounts are even provided for things like gym memberships, be sure to take advantage of these! 

  • Management take time to listen to employees concerns and will always be willing to help and adapt to your specific health needs. 

  • By giving a friendly smile – it doesn’t take anything to treat your colleagues how you would like to be treated.

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  • IIP - Investors in People
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