Alongside flexi-work and diverse talent benefits packages, mental health in the workplace is a top concern for many employees. Factors such as overwhelming workload, unnecessary overtime and unreasonable bosses and colleagues can exacerbate poor mental health.
To achieve a healthy work-life balance, it’s important to prioritise your needs and wants while pursuing your personal and professional growth.
Checking work emails first thing in the morning can negatively impact your mood even before your day starts, particularly for those managing large teams or working across different time zones.
Ad-hoc requests can also derail work plans and lead to unfulfilled tasks and feelings of dissatisfaction. To avoid these issues, it's recommended to manage one's workday by understanding what energises and motivates us while still being kind and compassionate towards ourselves.
This article offers four steps to manage mental health throughout the workday and take control of personal life and perhaps help you manage your stress and survive a toxic workplace as well.
6 tips to transform your workday for better mental health and productivity
1. set your boundaries at work
Setting boundaries at work is essential to maintaining a healthy work-life balance and improve your mental health. Learn to disconnect during your alone time to avoid burnout and mental exhaustion.
Know your priorities and communicate them with your colleagues and managers. Learn to say no to tasks that can set you back or may pile up your workload. Set realistic goals and avoid overworking by taking regular breaks and delegating tasks when possible. If delegating is not an option, talk to your boss about it.
2. predict your challenges to identify what you might need
Confronting a never-ending list of tasks, meeting with a difficult teammate or client, or taking up a challenging project are all stressful things that we have to deal with at work. It’s not uncommon to feel overwhelmed by the work that we stop taking care of ourselves and start letting the stress consume us.
Rather than have your stress control you, manage it by first acknowledging the challenges you may face in your journey. These predictions would help to manage your expectations so that you know when you should take a pause or ask for help in the future.
Even if you’re unable to pinpoint a specific issue, take some deliberate action to remove the incessant voice of worry from your mind so that you have the space to find out what you need.
Journal your emotions and reactions along the way to check if they are connected to your work. You may realise that you are feeling overwhelmed by the unpredictability of your job because you are used to structure and processes. You may also feel disappointed when you receive negative feedback especially after you’ve put in the hours and are expecting better outcomes.
3. plan a flexible work scheduling system
Although it has been some time, not every employee has necessarily adapted fully to hybrid working arrangements, especially if work schedules are as hectic as always.
When home becomes the workplace, and when you have multiple responsibilities weighing down on your energy, it’s extremely important to form a task system around your productivity levels of the day.
Spend your most productive hours working on your most important tasks, so that you can spend the rest of your day on research, learning and meetings.
To be better prepared for workdays, list down your tasks and label each of their levels of urgency and the estimated duration that you will take to complete it. Leave some room and extra time for flexibility in case you need to focus on an urgent task in the middle of the day.
It may also help to break down each task into smaller key actions, so that it’s easier to start and reach your objectives at a more manageable pace. This prevents yourself from getting daunted by the thought of starting something from scratch.
Creating a schedule establishes greater certainty as to how your workday might appear, and more importantly, the mental preparation you need for each task.
During the day, ticking off each task can help you worry less about it and direct your attention to the next one on your list.
4. set and maintain a routine
Your mental environment can change how much interest and passion you take in your work.
When you’re caught up with work, it’s easy to forget about your physiological needs like eating on time or following a regular sleep schedule. If you don’t keep track of them, you’ll develop poor lifestyle habits which can worsen your mood. Sleep deprivation can affect your overall work productivity as well.
Besides waiting for the caffeinated adrenaline to kick in, having a daily morning routine associated with calmness instead of stress can set you up for a more energising, creative day ahead at work:
- Don’t check your phone immediately after waking up. This golden rule prevents unnecessary stress and the unwillingness to get up, and you’ll get to have a short ‘me-time’ before the day starts.
- Meditate. Mind exercises exert consciousness of your breathing and relaxes you. Allowing yourself to let go of cluttered thoughts puts you in a calm, stable state of mind and positive emotions which can carry you through an eventful day. Practise deep breathing exercises that can help to reduce stress and anxiety.
- Stretching. It’s a simple but important way to release muscle tension when you have been sitting for hours. Stretch, even for a little bit, every time you get up from your chair.
- Physical activity. When you exercise, your brain releases dopamine that brings you pleasure, as well as endorphins and serotonin, which give you a sense of accomplishment and satisfaction. Daily exercise, be it a simple walk, yoga, or a set of sit-ups - you’re getting your heart rate up for a good reason. You'll feel better with more mental clarity when you maintain a healthy mental and physical health.
You should also prepare your mind to wind down after a long day at work for a more peaceful sleep.
- Stick to a regular bedtime. Going to bed earlier than your scheduled bedtime helps your body and mind relax so that you can fall asleep easily. Some of the mental health benefits of getting enough sleep include improved mood and the ability to think more clearly during the day. Fostering good habits can improve your sleep hygiene.
- Turn on night mode on your devices. Blue light is probably the reason why you cannot sleep as it blocks melatonin which can make you sleepy. So schedule night mode on all your devices so that you can subconsciously prepare your mind for a good night sleep.
- Journal. Writing down the things which made you feel happy or appreciative of today, will significantly help your mind focus on the positive aspects of your life.
5. seek support from your team and manager
It’s always a much-appreciated benefit to have a connected support system with the people you work with every day.
It may sound intimidating at first to address intimate concerns to a coworker depending on your team’s dynamics. But reaching out to an understanding team member can help to create a stronger, more transparent communication.
Not having to deliberately hide your feelings also allows you to feel more relaxed around your coworker. In turn, they’ll also feel more at ease to share their own feelings with you. Getting through tough times with someone else by your side will remind you that you are not alone. Nonetheless, take special care to be respectful of each other’s privacy, and not over-divulge information if they are not comfortable or reciprocative.
Communicate when needed with the people you trust in the workplace. Having a boss who is accepting and respectful of your mental health would work in your favour, as they are more likely to actively work out a solution with you to help alleviate your work-related stress.
6. take a mental health day
Self-care is of the utmost importance. If you are feeling over-stressed and burnt out, taking a day from work can help you get the break you need.
If you are feeling overwhelmed by work-related activities, it’s especially important to honestly communicate to your manager about your needs and ability to produce quality work. Taking a day off to focus on your mental health would help you regroup, refocus, and come back to work energised.
Sometimes you just need a breather and don’t need the entire day off. Taking the afternoon off can also help you disengage from work and have some personal time for yourself. You can take the opportunity to run some errands or go for an exercise class to take your mind off from work. Participate in activities that you enjoy to fill you with positive energy. Just make sure that you switch off your phone notifications so that you don’t get distracted by work demands.
find a career that supports your priorities
Juggling your work responsibilities and mental health takes time and care. However, if you feel stuck with no end in sight, you might consider exploring other career options that are more fulfilling. The effects of stress for an extended period of time can take a toll on both your mental and physical health.
If you’re looking for more rewarding job opportunities, speak with our specialised talent recruiters who are able to connect you with supportive employers and companies that implement people strategy and prioritise employee wellbeing. Alternatively, if you feel personally interested in a certain job field, you can browse our latest job listings to discover the opportunities which you can potentially start a new path in.