Managing Physical and Mental Health at Work

Managing Physical and Mental Health at Work

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Whatever faces you, you are entitled to work where capable – and it should not affect how managers and colleagues treat you. Here’s how to acknowledge a health condition with your employer, and work through it positively.

For too long, people with long-term physical health problems or those people with mental health issues have been discriminated against in the workplace. Mental health issues were stigmatised, with conditions little understood.

Thankfully, attitudes are changing with employers now looking to support and help their employees. With mental and overall health of employees high up the agenda, most employers are seeking to actively work and engage with employees on such issues. There are even mental health courses that you can take online to boost your awareness and understanding.

But when you have a health condition, mental or physical (or both) how can you manage your health alongside giving your employer the best you have to offer?

Starting the conversation

Although many employers are taking proactive steps to help employees manage their health better, as well as providing an improved atmosphere in which to work, they won’t know to provide extra support or make changes to accommodate your health issues if they don’t know you are unwell.

Effectively, you need to start a conversation about being unwell or the mental health issues you are facing. Clearly, for someone in the midst of some kind of health crises, this can seem like a gigantic step.

Here are some suggestions for taking this important first step;

  • Enlist help of a work colleague

Many people find that with the support of a trusted work colleague, they are able to start the conversation about what is happening to them.

  • Appointment

We all know how busy work can be and with something so important, snatching a few moments with your boss in the corridor is not a great way to start discussing something as personal as your health. You need to ask to make a time for you to meet to discuss something important.

  • Consider an email first

For many people, opening the conversation about your mental health or discussing an ongoing illness is the most daunting step. Some people send an email first, before meeting their boss. This takes away that initial opening line of ‘I have been diagnosed with…’ etc. It also gives your boss time to think about how best they can support you.

Ask what support is available

Employers are now taking the health and well-being of their works more seriously, and look to offer support that allows people to deal with health issues but carry on working in a way and at times that suit them.

But it is a balancing act and, as an employee, you must also realise that your boss needs to ensure that the business is also moving forward, with responsibilities and so on being met.

This doesn’t mean they can dismiss you for being ill: they can’t as there are employment laws that prevent this.

Employees also worry about ‘triggers’ when they take time off. Some companies and public-sector employers monitor when people are off. If a pattern emerges, it is the employer’s responsibility to work with the employee to see why this is, and what they can do to make things better for their workers.

Be prepared to work with your employer

Your boss won’t always get it right. Many people still struggle to work with and deal with health issues, especially mental health. The point is that they try to work with you, but they are not always going to say the right thing and the right time.

And, if you stay home from work, your boss is entitled to maintain contact with you. You may perceive this as pressure to return but remember, your boss or supervisor is more than likely trying to help you. There are guidelines, however, on how contact is made and what this should achieve.

Consider raising awareness with your colleagues

Employers are now offering training to supervisors and managers on how to work with employees with health and mental health issues. There are many avenues to explore with your employer about raising awareness of various health issues with your colleagues and management.

How is your wellbeing?

From feeling a little low in spirit to depression and anxiety, there are many organisations who can help with your mental health issues. They can provide you with help about how to deal with your health issues at work too, what you can expect from your employer and so on. But there is no doubt, sharing your worries and concerns helps.

Nick Cooper
Nick is NCC's resident blog author and covers a range of subjects, including teaching and health & social care. NCC is an international learning provider with over 20 years’ experience offering learning solutions. To date, NCC has engaged with over 20,000 employers, and delivered quality training to over half a million learners.
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