Working can be great for your mental health. It can boost your self-esteem, give you a sense of achievement and help you find friendship and support.
Unfortunately, many people experience stress and anxiety about work-related issues. These can range from working long hours, fear of redundancy, difficult working relationships to bullying and harassment. If you're experiencing difficulties with your mental health, you may also be concerned about being treated unfairly or differently at work. If your manager or work colleagues don't know you may be unsure whether to tell them and be worried about what will happen if you do.
If you have any of these worries or concerns or need help looking for work – support and information is available to help you cope.
What you will learn in this section:
What is work-related stress?
Project deadlines, juggling different demands and dealing with the unexpected - pressure is all around us at work.
Work-related stress is thought to be the second biggest occupational health problem in the UK, after musculoskeletal disorders such as back problems.
The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) defines work-related stress as 'the adverse reaction people have to excessive pressures or other types of demand placed on them at work'.
Employers have a legal responsibility under the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 and Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999 to ensure the health safety and welfare at work of their employees. This duty includes assessing and taking measures to control risks from work-related stress.
Employers also have a duty under common law to take reasonable care to ensure the health and safety of their employees. You can find out more about an employer's responsibilities at work on the HSE website.
The HSE have developed The Management Standards which describe the main causes of work-related stress and how they can be effectively managed within an organisation. You can explore these main causes of work stress in this download:
The following resources can help you to look after your wellbeing at work and help you to find different ways of coping with stress at work.
Leeds Mind have produced a helpful flyer for their 'Have a break, have a chit chat' campaign promoting wellbeing at work.
You can find more information about what causes stress and what you can do to feel better in the Stress section.
What is (mental health) discrimination at work?
Many people with mental health problems have positive experiences at work. Working can help you feel connected, help you learn new skills and give you a sense of purpose.
Unfortunately, people can sometimes be treated unfairly at work because of their mental health problems. This is discrimination. The mental health charity Mind explains how the Equality Act is there to protect you from discrimination.
To be covered by the Equality Act your mental health problem needs to be defined as a disability. 'Disability' has a special legal meaning under the Equality Act, and can include mental health problems - find out more on Mind's disability discrimination information page and the Time to Change website.
If you are considered 'disabled' under the Equality Act you can ask your employer to make 'reasonable adjustments'. Rethink Mental Health has produced a guide about what's reasonable at work. If you think you have been discriminated against at work because of your disability – Mind takes you through your options from raising it informally to following a formal grievance procedure.
If your work problems are not covered by disability discrimination there are other employment rights which may apply to your individual situation including the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 and Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999 which ensure the health safety and welfare of employees at work.
If you are looking for work and are worried that you will be asked about your mental health by a potential employer – you get some help and advice here from Mind.
You can contact ACAS (Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service) on 0300 123 1100 if you are worried about discrimination at work. ACAS provides free and independent information on all aspects of workplace relations and employment law.
Should I tell my manager about my mental health problems?
If you are experiencing mental health problems and your manager doesn't know it can be a very difficult decision whether to tell them. You might be worried about being treated differently. However, to be protected by the Equality Act you will need to tell your manager.
Mind talks you through the issues and gives guidance about how to have this conversation. You can also learn some tips and find out how other people have dealt with this situation on the Time to Change website. You can also read blogs written by people who have mental health problems about their different experiences at work on the Time to Change website.
What help is available to support me at work?
WorkPlace Leeds run a number of services to support people with mental health problems including a Job Retention Service to help people stay in work, an Employment Support Service to support people to find work and courses and workshops to promote positive mental health at work.
If you are experiencing stress or anxiety you can self-refer to Leeds Improving access to Psychological Therapies (IAPT) who deliver a range of talking treatments including a stress control course.
ACAS (Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service) provides information, advice, training, conciliation and other services for employers and employees to help prevent or resolve workplace problems.
Remploy, through the Access to Work scheme, help people whose health or disability is affecting their ability to work or to start a new job. They have supported over 100,000 people since 2010. This is a separate scheme called the Access to work mental health support service.
Fit for Work offers free work-related health advice to help people stay in work and support people who are returning to work. You can contact them to discuss what types of support is available and what types of reasonable adjustments might make it easier for you to return to work and stay in work. Call freephone 0800 032 6235 or access information online.
Returning to work after experiencing mental health problems can feel overwhelming. You may be worrying about how you will cope and how your colleagues will behave towards you. Mind has produced some tips to help you prepare and produced a tool called the Wellness Action Plan which can help you to work with your manager to support your wellbeing at work.
If you're considering working in a different way, such as working remotely, working for yourself or freelancing, Leapers is a community that might be able to offer advice or support. They've created a free resource to help freelancers look after their mental health and set up a freelancers community on Slack.
How can I deal with difficult relationships and bullying at work?
Having a difficult relationship with someone at work can be very upsetting and can make work much more difficult to manage. Mind gives some practical tips for dealing with these situations at work.
If someone behaves in a way towards you which is bullying it can be difficult to know what to do. ACAS (Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service) defines bullying and harassment as 'any unwanted behaviour that makes someone feel intimidated, degraded, humiliated or offended.' You can access information on the ACAS website which will help you take action against bullying behaviour at work or call 0300 123 1100 for free and independent information on all aspects of workplace relations.
You can find out who you can talk to about any work-related issue in the practical help section of I need help now. This includes information about where to find:
- Emotional support.
- Help to find work.
- Support for people with mental health problems to find and stay in work.
- Advice about employment rights.
- Courses for people in work to help build confidence and manage work-place stress.
Leeds Improving Access to Psychological Therapies (IAPT) run a Wellbeing in the Workplace workshop which focuses on the importance of staying well at work. It teaches stress management techniques to use in the workplace and beyond. Attending this two and a half hour workshop will support you to understand more about stress, learn to relax, manage your worries, problem solve and become aware of stressful thinking.
You can find out more and book your place on the Leeds IAPT website
If you are struggling to cope and need to talk to someone now, you can call:
- The Connect helpline on 0808 800 1212 (freephone) which gives emotional support and information to people in Leeds every night of the year (6pm-2am).
- The Samaritans on 116 123 (freephone) - open 24 hours a day.
Tools and apps
Mind have produced a tool called the Wellness Action Plan which can help you to work with your manager to support your wellbeing at work.
The Mindful Employer have produced a Personal Workbook called Feeling Stressed: Keeping Well which can help you gain more control over problems or difficulties which can cause stress at work.