The importance of “Tuning In” at work
There’s no denying mental health has taken a hit during the COVID-19 pandemic, with feelings of stress, anxiety, and isolation dramatically increasing. Many workplaces have faced tumult over the last few months, with the transition to working from home, increased hours for essential workers, lack of security for casuals, and general uncertainty leading the charge. The average person will spend 90,000 hours at work over the course of their life, so supporting your wellbeing while in the workplace is key to leading a healthy and productive life.
Maintaining mental health is a year-round priority, but this Mental Health Month reminds us to “Tune In” with ourselves, our friends, family, and colleagues in whatever ways we can. So, how can Tuning In help you make meaningful connections, healthy choices, and informed decisions about your mental health at work?
Tune In to you
Being mindful and checking in with yourself is super important, not just so you can tell when things are bad, but when they’re good too! Even something as simple as a quick breathing exercise can reduce stress and its impacts.
Try Tuning In with your senses, taking notice of what you can hear, feel, and see around you.
Tune In to your network
Approximately 20% of Australians will experience mental illness in their lifetimes, with many more suffering from the effects of burnout, stress, and sleep problems which can negatively impact their work performance. Tuning In with your colleagues at work can help ensure you are fostering a safe environment where co-workers feel comfortable coming to each other for support or to share experiences.
A great way to help build an environment like this is to take the tenets of R U OK? Day on board; if you notice someone at work seeming a little down, or perhaps not performing their tasks to their usual standards, why not start a conversation and ask how they’re feeling? They might be ready to confide in you and might not, but what matters is that you’re showing up and making sure your workplace is a welcoming and supportive one.
Tune In to your rights
Under Australian legislation, employees’ rights to a private, safe, and discrimination-free workplace are protected. So what are your rights when it comes to mental health at work?
- You have the right to privacy at work. That means if you tell your employer about a mental health condition you have, they can’t disclose this to anyone else without your permission, and can only use that information for the reason you shared it with them (such as adjusting your workload). The right to privacy at work also means you are under no obligation to tell anyone about any mental health conditions if you don’t want to. The ball’s in your court!
- You have the right to protection from discrimination at work. Whether direct or indirect, you cannot be unfairly treated at work due to a mental health condition. Whether it’s out and out harassment or something more insidious like being refused a promotion due to an existing mental health condition, discrimination on the basis of disability is completely unlawful.
- You have the right to a healthy workplace, both physically and mentally. Employers have a responsibility to both ensure their workplace doesn’t negatively affect employees’ mental health, and promote safety and good mental health as much as possible.
Tune In to your toolkit
Asking for help or seeking out resources can be really tough if you’re not feeling mentally well, but it’s an important step to take on the road to feeling better. Here are just some resources you can access:
- At UTS you can access confidential counselling services that will allow you to speak to a professional for free. They help out on a range of issues, from personal to study and work-related. UTS also offers specialised support groups that help support and advocate for students.
- The Headspace app teaches you mindfulness and meditation in bite sized portions. It’s a simple way to incorporate a mindfulness practice into your work day, so just chuck your headphones on and settle in.
- Happify features a range of activities and games that actually make Tuning In feel fun! If you’re feeling particularly stressed or worried, Happify could help you build resilience in a low pressure and enjoyable way.
- And of course if you’re struggling at work and feel comfortable to do so, you can always reach out to your manager or HR for help.
Featured image courtesy of Unsplash
Lily Cameron is a writer and editor based in Sydney. She is a UTS Communications (Creative Writing) graduate, and current Communications Assistant at UTS Careers. She is passionate about telling stories, both hers and others’, and the way digital and social media is changing the literary landscape. Her writing has appeared in Voiceworks, The Brag, and elsewhere.