5 Ways Work Can Help You Beat the January Blues

During this stressful time of the year, bosses can take these 5 steps to improve an employee's mental health.

The January blues have set in, and it’s peak month for divorce lawyers and job searching. A new job isn’t necessarily the answer, though. Work, complain though we do, is not all bad.

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Work can be very good for us – it can provide much-needed direction and a sense of purpose.

Work can be very good for us – it can provide much-needed direction and a sense of purpose in otherwise difficult times. And employers have a responsibility to help us maintain our well-being at work.

This is not only the ethical thing to do, but it can also be really beneficial for the employers themselves.

In an ideal scenario, employers would be there for us at difficult times with an understanding ear, offering a culture of mutual support. But equally they would not demand or expect disclosure where an employee did not wish to do so.

I am now carrying out research on the effectiveness of free mental health and well-being tools at work, and there are a number of principles that we already know can positively affect an employee’s well-being.

Here are five ways that your boss can help improve your well-being:

Keep busy but not overloaded

It’s important to have a busy routine that offers purpose but does not overload you with work. The busy bit here is just as important as not overloading you.

Research tells us that it’s important to stay busy, and boredom leads to stress and fatigue. At the same time, we also know that overloading an employee with more work than they can manage is a bad idea.

The key here is balance – we want to be occupied, but we want achievable tasks and goals.

An element of control

Research also tells us that employees maintaining a sense of control in their job is vital for well-being. This is not always easy to achieve, depending of course on the nature of the job – but it is not impossible.

Even where employees can’t control their work – such as in the manufacturing industry – the ability to chose a different part of a factory or a different part of an assembly line or simply the ability to have some say over shifts or when they have their breaks can make a big difference.

Interest and support

It is crucial that a manager shows an interest in the physical and mental well-being of employees. Open conversations with employees and opportunities for development showcase this commitment.

The important point here is that managers are receptive to what an individual employee needs. We are all different, and one-size-fits-all solutions are not always helpful.

At the same time, employers should recognize that mental health and well-being are not solely an individual concern – responsibility should be shared.

A friendly working environment

Supportive colleagues in a friendly working environment really can make all the difference, and the evidence for benefits associated with good colleagues is overwhelming. If your colleagues are the main problem, it may be time to start thinking about your options and what might help improve these relationships.

Encouraging openness

Mental health still carries a big stigma. Mind, the mental health charity, tells us this stigma results in “employers and employees feeling scared and confused about confronting the issue.”

Encouraging open conversations might be the most difficult thing for employers and managers. Open discussions about mental health have not been commonplace historically.

However, if we are to ensure parity between mental and physical health issues, it’s vital that people feel comfortable talking.

This article originally appeared on The Conversation and was republished with permission.

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Michaela Edwards is a lecturer in Organizational Health and Wellbeing at Lancaster University.

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