The Institute of Directors (IoD) has called on the government to work with employers to "start a conversation" on mental health in the workplace as 54% of IoD members reveal they have been approached by staff suffering mental ill-health.
While large companies have been proactive in increasing awareness of mental health and offering support to staff, smaller, more stretched companies do not feel they have the resources to do so and require more guidance, the IoD said.
The majority of business leaders surveyed by the IoD said good mental health is important to the performance of their organisation. However, only 14% have a formal mental health policy in place and fewer than one in five offer line management training.
In the current economic climate, it is sometimes difficult to strike the right work-life balance.
Obstacles to achieving a good work-life balance
Some of the obstacles that may have to be overcome are, the corporate culture encouraging working long hours, feeling the need to ‘prove yourself’ at work, fear of losing your job. Sometimes work can be used as an escape from relationship problems or even as a way of avoiding loneliness.
But by having a poor balance your health and personal relationships may suffer, further increasing the amount of stress you are under. Working on getting the balance right now may save you a lot of heartache and pain in the future, perhaps even avoiding ‘burn out’. The idea is to enjoy life rather than just enduring it.
How to work smarter rather than longer
Less time at work means more time for you and for you to spend with your family and friends! A few ideas to help you are listed below:
- Write a list of the things you really want to have in your life. Remember to include things like relationships and hobbies and having fun as well as work-related issues.
- Look at the amount of time you spend doing each of the things on your list, it may help to draw it as a pie chart for added impact.
- If your work-life balance is not as you would like it to be, you need to take steps to change it.
- Look at the areas you feel you can make small changes in that can have a major impact on your life. When navigating at sea, changing the course by a few degrees can make a difference of hundreds of miles at the end of the journey!
- Small changes are more achievable than radical ones.
- Remember any goal should be SMART
- Improve your time management skills. There are several good books and courses available with this. You may find your employer is willing to assist you with development training in this area
- Pay attention to skills such as delegating, recognising when you are becoming overloaded and developing assertiveness to say no to taking on extra tasks and organising your workload.
- Speak to your manager about your workload and home commitments and ask for their support in improving your work-life balance. If the balance is good you are more likely to be a happy and productive employee.
- Make a list of ‘things to do’ and prioritise working on the most important things first, but do put a time frame on the less important tasks, otherwise, they tend to be put off indefinitely.
- Let go of perfectionism. Prioritise what is vital to include in any piece of work, and work on those first. If time allows you can add things that enhance the work afterwards. Give yourself a certain amount of time for each task – when that time is up, move on to your next task.
- If you have too much to do, ask your manager which tasks they would like you to do first. Ask if any of workload could be given to somebody else or could they allocate an assistant to help you as a temporary measure.
- Decide what time you’d like to leave work. It may help to put a reminder on your phone or computer diary to alert you when that time is approaching.
- If you have concerns about your work performance, ask for feedback from your manager about what you’re doing well and how you could improve. Ask colleagues and friends what they appreciate about you and how you could become more effective at work. Invest in a book on building your confidence.
- Try not to take your work home. Make a list of things to do the next day before you leave work. It may be helpful to keep a note pad near your bed so if you think of something during the night you can jot it down, rather than lying awake worrying that you might have forgotten it by the morning.
- If you find it difficult to leave work behind, try focussing on your plans for the evening and what you can do to relax and reward yourself for all your hard work during the working day. Some people find it helpful to use an object e.g. ‘a tree or gate post’ outside of their home where they can figuratively deposit any work concerns before entering their home. Changing your clothes when you get home can also help you to get out of work mode.
- If you are going through a particularly busy time agree to spend some time with your family when the busy period is over. Ensure you follow through on this promise as children, in particular, do not cope well with broken promises. They may feel you value your job more than them!
- Make sure you take your full holiday allowance and spread the time off equally throughout the year. If you have children, discuss with colleagues a rota so that everyone gets a chance to have to time off during the school holidays.
Working from home
Increasingly people are working from home. Although many people think this would be ideal, in reality, it can present a whole set of other issues that can interfere with your work-life balance.
- Can you separate your work area from your living quarters? It can be difficult to ‘switch off’ if you can see your workstation whilst trying to relax.
- How do separate work hours from ‘off duty’ time? Are you tempted to answer emails to ‘just finish that report’ when you should be relaxing?
- How do you cope with children being present during school holidays etc?
- It may be helpful to set yourself regular hours during which you work, remembering to take regular breaks. Try to get outside to get some fresh air and exercise during your lunch break.
- It can also help to change your clothes when you finish work for the day.
How to make the most of your free time.
It is easy to allow the time to drift by and feel as if you haven’t used it to the best advantage.
- Treat weekends as mini-holidays. If you have to do jobs at home try to get them done first, then you can relax without feeling guilty.
- Make a list of the things you’d enjoy doing together as a family. Allow all family members to put forward ideas, even if it wouldn’t be what you would have chosen to do. Include both major plans e.g. going on a holiday and small trips out and activities e.g. having a picnic or going to feed the ducks. Make sure you actually do the activities otherwise it just becomes a broken promise!
- Consider asking your partner out on a date. Put this in your diary and ensure it is given as much importance as a work appointment. Try to relive the excitement you felt when you first met. Add the little extra touches like making an extra effort with your appearance or buying flowers or chocolates. Don’t forget to compliment them and thank them for spending the time with you.
- Share child-care with a friend or find a regular babysitter.
- Try turning off the television and instead play some board or card games.
- Try to sit down as a family and eat together. Allow each person to share how their day has been and find ways to support one another.
- Turn chores into fun joint ventures e.g. redecorate a room together; make sure you have plenty of dust-sheets if young children are involved!
- Try to turn off your mobile and resist checking your emails.
- Exercising stimulates the body to produce endorphins, which lift your mood. Try to do at least 30 minutes a day, where you feel slightly out of breath.
- Don’t feel pressured to always be doing something – time to relax is also valuable.