In modern society, conversations about mental health are becoming more frequent as the stigma around the subject continues to diminish. If you have felt your mental health suffer recently, you’re not alone, with one in five American adults experiencing a mental health illness every year. Whether you’re stressed about job security and workload or are suffering from feelings of isolation, it’s important not to sweep these issues under the carpet.
For many, it’s still a difficult conversation to have, especially with an employer. Concerns about how you might be treated can make keeping your feelings to yourself seem like the better option.
Rates of workplace burnout are increasing worldwide, and it’s harder to strike a healthy work-life balance since the COVID-19 pandemic forced millions of us to work from home. While many people prefer to work from home, Cotswold Co. reports that 57% of people surveyed found working from home stressful, showing there is no one-size-fits-all solution.
Although many will have developed their own coping mechanisms, addressing these problems with your employer can be difficult. However, it could be the most effective way to get help. So how do you approach such sensitive and personal topics in the workplace? Here are a few things you should consider.
How can an employer help?
Before having the initial conversation, take some time to think about why you’re bringing it up in the first place and how you think your employer can help.
On top of concerns about job security, many people who are struggling with their mental health may have reservations about opening up to their employers since they don’t believe that anything will change. Both on a human and professional level, it is in your manager’s best interest to look after employees’ wellbeing of their staff to optimize productivity and quality of work.
Whether or not your job role directly affects your mental health, think about ways your working arrangements could be altered to improve your situation. For example, perhaps commuting during rush hour evokes feelings of anxiety, particularly with the COVID-19 virus still in circulation. It might help to change your working hours to avoid peak times travel.
Talking with supervisors about actionable ideas to improve work arrangements makes it possible for them to help not just you but your co-workers.
Think about what you want them to know
Telling your employer about your mental health is a personal choice. You’re not legally obligated to disclose this information. If you decide to inform your boss, how much detail you go into is also entirely up to you, so don’t feel like you have to talk about personal circumstances if you don’t feel comfortable doing so.
Ask yourself whether your job is contributing to your mental health problems, or are external factors negatively affecting your work performance? If it’s the former, you may need to go into more detail to help your boss better understand how and why the working conditions have made you feel this way. Try not to make it personal. Say, ‘I find it difficult when I am given last-minute tasks’ rather than blaming a specific employee.
When you open up to employers about your mental health, it will likely be an ongoing conversation. If your mental health directly relates to your job, chances are your manager will want to check in to monitor how any changes to the working environment have or haven’t helped. Your supervisor may also help you create a plan to manage anything you’re struggling with on the job.
Who do I tell and when
If your relationship with your boss is such that you wouldn’t feel comfortable breaching the subject with him or her, the HR department should be your next point of contact.
Another consideration is the best time to raise this with your employer. It can be easy to put the conversation off until the situation is no longer tenable. Consider having the chat when you’re feeling less burdened by the issue. Approaching it from a calmer, happier place will enable you to articulate your thoughts better to bring about change.
Before the conversation, practice how it may go, and note down any thoughts or feelings about what to improve. Finally, it can also be helpful to have a doctor’s note handy to help your boss understand the problem if you feel that’s appropriate.
About the Author: James Ritter is a digital consultant with a particular interest in employee welfare. James has advocated for content about the wellbeing of employees. He majored in creative writing in university and is always eager to expand his knowledge around different subjects.
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