Covid 19: Positive and Negative for Mental health and Work? Guest blog by Danielle Strouther

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(image: morefamousquotes.com)

 

For anyone that’s suffering from anxiety, OCD or other mental health conditions, living through a pandemic is not a walk in the park. 

A time of crisis is enough to cause panic in anyone. If you’re already struggling with a ‘normal’ day, the added stress means it’s even more difficult to keep your head above water. 

But, it might not all be bad news. Using mental health data commissioned by Adzooma, there may be some light at the end of this tunnel. 

 

Why we should care about mental health

COVID-19 is a pandemic, with just under 500,000 people affected around the world as of March 26th 2020. 

To put things into perspective, mental health currently affects 676 million people worldwide. It’s not a pandemic, it’s an epidemic.

Mental health isn’t contagious. You don’t contract depression from shaking hands with someone that has it. But it is a crisis that’s often overlooked. In fact, 70-75% of people with mental illness receive no treatment at all, choosing to remain silent. This is particularly true in men, who make up 75% of all suicides. In the UK, men aged 40-49 have the highest suicide rates in the country.

 

Mental health caused 44% of all sick days 

1 in 5 employees have called in sick to avoid work. And no, this wasn’t because they simply didn’t want to go. It’s because their mental health had become too much for them to do their job. 

Rather than be honest, 90% of people lied about it, using another reason for their absence. 

In 2019, there were 602,000 total cases of work-related stress, depression or anxiety in the UK. That’s 44% of all health-related sick days.

The cost of this is projected to be between £39.4 billion to £99 billion each year for businesses. If you break this down, it can cost employers £1,300 per employee if they don’t have the mental health support in place for their staff. 

“My mental health has impacted my work. It’s caused me to leave jobs, to call out some days when it’s just too much for me to do normal day to day activities. I also have tried to go into work on days where I’m not 100% and my quality of work and productivity have suffered.”

Rhea – Via Adzooma. 

 

69% of people say working at home helps with mental health

Here’s the light at the end of the tunnel. According to research, 69% of people believe that working at home improves their mental health.

Around the world, offices are shutting en-masse, sending entire workforces to complete their jobs from the comfort of their own homes. If there’s ever a time that people needed space to focus on their mental health this would be it. 

Its given employees the space they need to recover mentally. Beyond that, it’s showing employers that their business is capable of functioning remotely.

The positive outcome of this is that hopefully after the COVID-19 crisis, we can set up a world where employees aren’t needed in an office every day. A world where employees are free to work at home and care more for their mental health – reducing office-based overheads and the cost of sick days. 

 

Astonishing mental health data

The data on mental health was complied by interviewing employees of a range of digital marketing and technology companies, including Google, Facebook and The Independent. It revealed stark information about the current state of mental health, such as: 

  • 67.9% of people state that their mental health has impacted their work. 
  • 57.5% of people state that work has a negative impact on their mental health. 
  • Only 32.1% of people have told their employer about their mental health. 
  • Of the 67.9% of people staying silent on mental health, 83.3% of them don’t plan on ever telling their employer. 
  • 66% pf people feel that their work is understanding about their mental health. 
  • But 46% of people feel like they don’t have enough mental health support at work. 
  • 90.4% of people believe working flexible hours can help with mental health. 
  • Only 24.4% of people have mental health first-aiders at their work. 
  • 91.7% of people believe there should be more services for mental health.
  • 89.9% of people think the government doesn’t do enough to support mental health. 
  • Only 28.6% of people currently access mental health services. 
  • But if more services were available to them, 66.7% would access them. 

Access the full data here. 

 

A push for positive change 

One of the best things to come of out the COVID-19 pandemic is people working together. 

Communities are being brought closer and we’re showing compassion and offering help in brand new ways. If you’re ever unsure of that, just watch a video of people coming together to applaud everyone who’s working to stop the virus every single night. It’s a wonderful show of camaraderie. 

It’s a global crisis and we’re in it together. Now, hopefully, we can carry on this momentum to help with mental health and continue the fight for better mental health support. 

With support, we can get better. We can push for positive change to help the crisis. Without support, it will only get worse.

Together, let’s take action and break the silence.

 

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This guest blog was written by Danielle Strouther. She is currently writing lots of words about all kinds of unique subjects at Adzooma and searching for a word she likes more than discombobulated. She has a masters in Film and Television, so can tell people she knows what’s good on Netflix.

 

 

The best employee benefits supporting Mental health: by Daniel Tannenbaum

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(image: Policy Bee)

 

In 2020, many startups and companies are implementing strategies or creating employee benefits that put mental health first. This is a welcome change that shows just how far attitudes towards mental health have changed in the past decade, becoming no longer a taboo.

Here are the firms that are supporting mental health amongst staff members best:

Equipsme

The London-based startup Equipsme has created an inexpensive employee benefit that means employees can benefit from comprehensive yet affordable health insurance policies. Whatever the size of the business, companies can insure staff with plans from as little as £7 per month per person.

Customers get 24//7 GP access, online health checks, nurse support and 3 physio sessions as standard with the option to upgrade to stress support for as little as £1.50 per person per month, optical and dental cover for £7.50 per person per month too.

Sweaty Betty

The hugely popular activewear brand strongly promotes to staff a healthy mind and body and keeping stress in the workplace to a minimum. How does the firm do this? Each week, it gives its employees the chance to join lunchtime yoga classes to help them relax. There is also the chance to join running clubs and start later in the day if they so wish, all with the aim of helping with stress management.

Ernst & Young (EY)

Ernst & Young makes mental health a big focus in its organisation, providing not only private healthcare, but also free online health assessments in a counselling service that can be used by not only staff members but also their families. It is completely confidential and available for 24-hours.

yulife

yulife is another exciting London startup that incentivises employees to look after their mental health by promoting healthier lifestyles. The company has radically shaken up the life insurance industry for the better with their insurance package.

For example, businesses who take up yulife insurance policies can reward their employees through earning yucoin. Yucoin is earned by engaging in a healthy lifestyle, tracked by staff in a daily app. This includes doing exercise and meditation.

By accumulating yucoin online, staff can then redeem these for real life rewards at shops, restaurants, and much more.

Innocent smoothies

The company is known for providing a range of employee benefits that puts the needs of its staff first. This is particularly the case when it comes to mental health. For example, the smoothie firm is dedicated to reducing work stresses through the inclusion of a free gym and breakfast to all staff. It also provides a yoga club to its employees and a 100% confidential 24 hour employee assistance programme that means they can talk to someone privately if they need to.

 

This blog was written by writer Daniel Tannenbaum.

Looking to the future: Life and Positivity by Eleanor

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(image: Pinterest)

‘The only thing constant in the world is change‘- India Arie

In the past few weeks, it hasn’t been the easiest of times. My anxiety has come back on some days, leaving me feeling pretty low and unable to do certain tasks. However, as each day passes it is slowly improving and I am looking towards the future, both in my life and career.

I am making the transition again to being self employed. For me, this is difficult to blog about- but as we look towards the Jewish New Year, I am holding on to hope.

Hope that all will improve.

Hope that good things are on their way.

Hope that the light is coming back again.

My book will be published in just over a month’s time and I am so excited to hold the paperback in my hands! Thank you everyone who pre ordered the book and made it into a best seller.

I am grateful for every blessing that has come my way. I also have more writing projects planned, stay tuned for further details :). I know it all will lead to good in the end.

I’m currently looking into therapy and further support- EMDR therapy if possible, which helps to process trauma through rapid eye movements and images.

Everything will work out for the good, just some days it is hard to see. A note to self: keep positive and keep going. Good, happiness and dreams are on it’s way even if temporarily hidden.

 

How to Maintain Mental Health at Work: Guest blog by EM Training Solutions

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(image: EM Training Solutions)

This article written by EM Training Solutions introduces some simple yet effective steps you can take in order to ensure your health and wellbeing remain a priority in the workplace.

There’s no ignoring the fact that as adults, we spend the majority of our time and lives at work. It’s where we make friends, earn our income and spend day to day so it’s no surprise that a massive 89% of workers with mental health problems reported an impact on their working life and nearly half of the people surveyed also admitted that they had considered leaving a job role because it negatively impacted their mental health.

These shocking statistics show that there is a clear correlation between mental health and our working lives, making it crucial that we take the necessary steps to maintain our mental health and wellbeing in the workplace. Here are some tips on keeping a positive and healthy mental attitude in work:

Keep Organised

One of the simplest things you can do to help you remain focused and stress-free in work is to try and be as organised as possible. When you feel on top of your tasks and are working in an organised environment, this make you feel calm and in control.

When you’re in control, you’re much less likely to panic or feel overwhelmed. Keeping your diary up to date with commitments and important reminders will allow for your days to run smoothly. Also try taking small steps such as arriving to work 15 minutes early to give yourself plenty of time to set up for the day ahead, make yourself a hot drink and tidy your email inbox.  Having this head start can help you clearly plan out your day and it also gives you a few extra minutes to yourself.

Speak up

Communication is key in any working environment. Whether it’s voicing your opinion on a situation that is negatively impacting you, or admitting when your workload is too much; speaking up to someone that is able to offer help and support is a great way to deal with any form of stress before it builds up into an even bigger issue. Although this may be daunting, especially if you suffer from anxiety it will bring a great sense of relief once you have got your feelings and thoughts off your chest. Your employer should also respect you for your honesty and will be able to come up with a plan on how to help you.

Practise Self Care

Self care comes in many different forms, and it can be something as little as taking your full lunch break and spending it alone in your favourite coffee shop in order to get some time to yourself. If you suffer from anxiety or depression in general, then recognising your limits and when you need a day off is also incredibly important.

Having a day off work to focus on your mental health is just as valid as having a day off when you have a sickness bug. Both require time to rest and recover and you don’t need to feel guilty for putting yourself and your mental health first.

Be Realistic

Constant demands, deadlines and pressure in the workplace can leave us feeling overwhelmed and stressed to say the least. Try your best to be realistic about the work you can cope with and don’t try and take on more than you can handle.

If your boss is giving you ridiculous amounts of work to do in a short space of time, or is asking too much from you then try and speak with them, or if they aren’t approachable book in a chat with a member of the HR team to explain and try to find a solution. You will feel better for being honest and getting the extra support you need.

 

This article was written by: 

EM Training Solutions are a Pearson Vue approved training provider for a number of different compliance and health and safety courses. They boast over 10 years of experience within the industry and specialise in first aid training as well as traffic and fire marshal courses.

How to Manage Bipolar Disorder in the Workplace: Guest blog by Ralph Macey

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(image: bphope.com)

People with bipolar disorder face a major problem in maintaining a good job performance at work due to frequent mood shifts (from high moods to extremely low moods). High moods are characterised by mania and hypomania. On the other hand, low moods are characterised by depression. These mood shifts create several types of challenges in the social, professional, and personal life of the people.

Bipolar disorder can make it very difficult for a person to get or keep a job especially if the symptoms are hampering day-to-day functioning, and if they also have anxiety.

In a recent survey, it has been found that 88% of the individuals with bipolar disorder face problems in maintaining a decent work performance. Around 58% of the people have stopped working altogether.

It’s a fact that bipolar disorder brings many challenges that can hamper work productivity. However, qualified psychiatrists specialising in bipolar disorder say that it’s possible to get and maintain a job while having a bipolar disorder by following a few tips. Let’s talk about them today.

 

How to get and maintain a job with bipolar disorder

1. Don’t volunteer to disclose your medical information to the employer during the interview. Employers have full right to decide if you can do the job properly. But they can’t ask confidential questions to you.

2. As per the Americans with Disabilities Act, (and other disability legislation around the world like her in the UK), employers can’t force you to give a medical exam or check your medical records. They also can’t ask you questions regarding your medical history. Moreover, this Act forbids any kind of discrimination on the basis of perceived or actual disability. So it’s better you read the rules and regulations of this Act before going for a job interview.

3. Try to avoid talking about your past. Instead, talk about your current capability of doing a job properly.

4. Ask about health insurance after getting a job. Just review the benefits information before accepting the job officially.

5. If your mental illness becomes an issue for the employer once in the job, then bring a letter from your psychiatrist that gives a general outline of the treatment you’re undergoing. Request that the psychiatrist issues a letter where it’s clearly written how much you can cope with at work. You can read the letter before giving it to the employer. 

How to keep a job with bipolar disorder

It’s a myth that you can’t be successful at work with a bipolar disorder. There are several things you can do to control your mood swings and manage your work. Let’s talk about them in detail now.

1. Take medicines as instructed: Even if you’re extremely productive during a manic high, don’t skip your medicines. That is not advisable as you can become unwell too with your mania.  Don’t stop taking medicines even when you feel well for several months. Remember, medicines keep all your symptoms under control. When you stop taking medicines, your symptoms can reappear and aggravate your mental illness.

Bipolar disorder medications have some side effects. Some medications cause drowsiness. This makes it quite difficult to focus on work. Speak to a psychiatrist specialising in bipolar disorder about this issue if you feel too sleepy at work. Ask if you can change the time you take the medication. Learn about the various strategies to combat drowsiness so that you can give your 100% at work.

2. Relax a little bit: Take short breaks between work regularly. Take a short walk during the lunch break. Listen to music that uplifts your mood. Take deep breathing. All these things help you to relax, especially if you are low or have anxiety .

3. Lead a healthy lifestyle: Exercise regularly to keep your mind and body fit. Eat healthy and nutritious food. Have adequate sleep at night. If possible, try to sleep for 8-12 hours at home. Try to avoid eating unhealthy food. A healthy lifestyle can help you manage bipolar disorder both at home and work, by making you feel at your best.

4. Organise your tasks:   Bipolar can at times interfere with work functioning.This means your mind may not cooperate with you on a regular basis. Try to organise your tasks. I

Create a ‘to-do’ list on the Google calendar and check if each task has been completed. Whenever you fail to finish a particular task on a specific date, move it to the next date on the calendar. This way you’ll remember about the unfinished task. Divide big projects into small tasks. It will be easier for you to manage them.

If you are struggling, you can speak to your work HR if they are understanding.

 

Should you inform your employer? The eternal dilemma

Let’s accept it. There is a social stigma attached to mental health, however many employers are becoming more understanding and the stigma is lessening. Your medical information is something confidential and private. Obviously, you may not want to share it with everyone. You don’t need to talk about your mental health openly at work if you don’t want.

However, if your boss or line manager is cooperative and a good human being, then you can have a conversation with him or her. When you need to take leave for doctor appointments, your boss will understand and give you a day off without issue.

 

Conclusion

Don’t panic. Don’t feel that you’re less than anyone because of your bipolar. Your mental disorder doesn’t define you. Your work is not the only thing you have in your life. Spend quality time with your friends and family and volunteer to help others.

If you have a good conversation with your employers and/or your doctor/ occupational health, you may be able to manage at work.

Mental health, work and the realities of freelancing: by Eleanor

 

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This article was voted for on my Facebook group last month but as always, there has been a lot going on and I wanted to give this one the time it deserved.

Mental health and work is a huge topic. Mental ill health affects peoples ability to work at times- depression, anxiety, panic attacks and other symptoms can stop us from working and disrupt careers. It is one of the biggest causes of sickness, with people being signed off work by their doctors- from stress or other mental health issues. However, some  people are able to manage their health symptoms and work through it. For me, and many others, I had to switch to self employment, in order to work more effectively.

I started off at uni studying English Literature and Drama at Goldsmiths here in London, got a 2:1 degree and then worked for a year as a teaching assistant in a primary school. I decided then that it may not be for me and I applied to study a masters degree in Applied Theatre at the Royal Central drama school. This was amazing and eye opening- but I was suffering from anxiety and panic attacks (possibly part of my bipolar disorder or just general..).

The anxiety attacks were debilitating for me at times- but I managed to get my Masters. However, I have often found that certain work places are far less forgiving of people with mental health issues- if they are still symptomatic.

I always thought that I would work as a teaching assistant and become a Reception teacher. I worked in several schools and I loved working with the children. I also tried working for a mental health charity. However, I found that my anxiety was getting worse and worse (despite taking medication and having therapy) and that the career just wasn’t working for my health.

So,  I decided to go self employed and become a freelance writer. The perils of freelancing can include: late payment of invoices from clients, having articles pulled at the last minute because the editor changes their mind, clients wanting you to write for free, waiting months for work to be published and some clients only paying on publication- so you don’t get a regular ‘salary’. Income is less stable, its harder to trust people and that you are often sending out pitch emails for writing work- only to get ignored, as editors are often busy with their in house team and work.

The pluses of freelancing: some regular gigs (Thank you Metro!), being featured in Glamour UK is a huge honour and in Happiful and Cosmopolitan/ Elle. I have written a lot this year and I am grateful every day for the editors who have taken a chance on me and commissioned my work.

However, its a balance. Yes working from home is great. Yes setting own hours is good. But, it means that income is less stable for sure. I have far less anxiety and panic working like this. Thats a major plus.

I often feel bad for not earning enough. Or because you have to develop a thick skin to deal with rejection.

In terms of mental health at work- there is SO much that needs to be done. Sickness records mean employees are still penalised, despite their genuine need for a mental health day. Each work place should be trained in signs to spot and have a mental health first aider. Some work places are disability friendly, but many just see you as a worker and if you have a mental illness, will only tolerate so much time off.

I don’t really know what to suggest if you are also in my position. In the UK, we have the benefits system which has been very important for me due to my illness. However, I would love to get to a stage where I can earn enough not to need it.

If you are struggling with your mental health at work, speak to a trusted colleague. HR will not always be supportive – it depends on the organisation, but don’t suffer alone. Just be aware that if you are off sick a lot, some companies will see you as unreliable. This may be 2018, but outdated attitudes at work still exist unfortunately.

There are positives and its important to know  there are good, wonderful people out there. I have met many. 

What is your experience?

Eleanor x

Guest Post by UnitedMind Laughter Yoga: How to get the most out of your Job and Wellbeing.

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(image:health.com)

Being unhappy at work isn’t just ‘one of those things’ you need to put up with, even in today’s society where hating your job can seem to be glorified. You don’t have to be incredibly passionate about your industry or role to still enjoy coming in (although it helps if you do love it!) , and there are a few tips and tricks that can help transform that negative outlook into a positive one.

Have a carrot at the end of a stick

Spending your time at a job you don’t like is always going to be stressful, so we recommend thinking about the carrot at the end of your stick when you’re staying late or having a busy day. What are you saving for? What are you looking forward to? You might not care about the company you’re doing the work for, but you will care about the dream you’re putting the money towards.

There’s nothing wrong with working a job for the pay check; we all need a roof and food. However, if you really want to start genuinely enjoying your job more, we recommend trying to get more out of it than just a pay slip at the end of the month; or at least get more out of that pay slip.

Get pleasure out of purpose

In Happiness by Design, Paul Dolan speaks about how we derive pleasure from purpose, and this is directly important to how we should approach work. Doing the bare minimum isn’t great for the company or team you work in, and “just enough” will start to mentally make you feel inadequate. Inadequacy usually leads to anxiety,  and sometimes you feel awful. You  then a cocktail for a terrible working environment and for your own wellbeing.

Instead, you should try hard at your job , as long as it is not affecting your health. Positive peer reviews and promotions can reward the work you put in, which will make you feel more positive, and that positivity can snowball from there into something considerable.

Hard work and happiness breed confidence, so even if you still don’t like the place where you work, there’s nothing stopping you from taking this new found conviction to go and land a job you will love. Sometimes a fresh start is all you need.

Turn your co-workers into friends

Walking in to an office full of people that you don’t know and aren’t friendly with can make work a lonely experience. However, if you socialise with your co-workers and make an effort to speak to them, then you might even start looking forward to work because you’ve got Emma that you can speak to about the match at the weekend or David who you can chat with about the latest episode of your favourite show.

We recommend, even if it means leaving your comfort zone, that you go to as many work outings as you can. Drinks after work are always good at making everyone feel more comfortable around each other, but even going to something like a light yoga session at lunch could be the start of a routine to bring you and your colleagues closer together.

A nod and smile in the hallway is, relatively speaking, a small gesture – but it can make a workplace seem so much more welcoming.

You and your space

If you have a desk, something as small as tidying it can do a lot to change your mind set. If you have papers and rubbish all over your work space, you will start to feel cluttered and swamped; physically and mentally. The process of throwing away everything you don’t need can feel very relieving and almost like a detox.

Personalising your work space can also help make work more enjoyable. A picture of a loved one, a little happy picture/ object or even a plant you can look after all help make your area feel yours; we can forget how important individuality is sometimes.

This article was provided by the team at United Mind, who provide laughter yoga for those that want to have a little fun while improving their mental and physical health. Thanks also to Jack Bird.

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