Is your job having a negative impact on your mental health?

Tell me if this sounds like you:

  • you promise yourself to be productive from next week, but Monday comes and you procrastinate
  • you constantly think about quiting even though you used to love your job
  • you get Sunday scaries – the feelings of anxiety or dread that many of us experience the day before heading back to work after the weekend.
  • You move meetings as you don’t feel ‘ready’ for them or just can’t stand the idea of talking to people
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If you said yes to at least one of the above, it may mean that your mental health is suffering. Whether it’s anxiety, depression, or burnout – it is worth addressing the root cause of the situation, as left alone it may only get worse.

Personal disclaimer

This article is going to be very personal. As an employee who has experienced issues with mental and physical health during the pandemic and as a person who wants to improve workspace communication, I feel that it is important that I speak up about mental health at work and share advice to support those who struggle. If you have any advice you would like to share, please leave it in the comments so we could all learn.

I am not a mental health professional and if you are experiencing any issues, please follow up with your GP or mental health professional. You can also contact Samaritans, which is a free service.

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Should you leave your job?

A lot of career advice I see is that if you are unsatisfied with your role or your workplace, you should leave your post. People talk about ‘toxic’ workplaces and micromanaging bosses.

I have scanned my experiences and realized that my main motives for leaving my jobs were either insufficient salary or I have exhausted opportunities for growth. But I am sure that a few of the places I worked in some people would consider ‘toxic’. I was bullied, I was micromanaged, I was told ‘but this is how it always been done’, or ‘this is a boy’s conversation’.

Yet, I showed up every day to work, hyped up and ready to smash my goals. So how was I different from others who have been through the same?

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I believe that the difference was my communication skills. Growing them has helped me stand up for myself, create an environment where both my micromanaging boss and I were satisfied and create a women-at-work ally out of the boss who used words like ‘boy’s conversation’.

So if you are struggling in your role right now, and you decide to quit, that’s great. You’re probably going to feel better (at least in the short term), get a higher salary, and have a more responsible job. But if your struggles come from how you deal with work and how you communicate, it may be more beneficial to allow yourself to stop and try to learn. I guarantee that you’re going to prosper in any environment you might encounter in the future.

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What are the elements of a ‘healthy’ job?

Over the years I have discovered that there are elements of my role that help me feel fulfilled at work. Even with the worst manager, I would enjoy my work and not feel overwhelmed by it if:

I clearly understand the three levels of my role: what are the must-do-basics; what will mean ‘doing a good job’ and what would mean that I am smashing it.
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It’s easy to explain with an example: in my previous role, I would have a number of admin tasks that would have to be completed weekly. I was managing a fleet of cars and all the admin tasks around assigning cars, interacting with the lease company about drivers, checking licenses, and training new staff had to be completed. If that wouldn’t be done, not only I would be doing a bad job, but I would also be affecting other people’s experiences at work. As a procurement manager, I was also keeping an eye on contract negotiations and ensuring that all contracts were up to date.

As a next level, doing a good job, was when I delivered an exceptional service or saved money through my negotiations. That was not a make or break in the role, but it was an indication of doing it well. I also felt that I am doing a ‘good job’ when I networked with other people within the company and I learned about how their role was connected to mine.

On several occasions, I have come up with an idea of a project that would revolutionize the way our company was operating and successfully pitch that to the business. Doing this and delivering on said projects was my indication of doing something exceptional. My achievements were mentioned during company townhalls and I was congratulated on several occasions by senior leaders.

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On the contrary, I have been in the role which, on paper, was even more amazing. Instead of managing procurement for a single country, I got to manage multiple territories and interact with top leadership on a daily basis. The role required similar skills as the previous one, so I jumped into it with no hesitation.

I have still received great feedback and was praised for my achievements. But soon I started questioning my ability to deliver the objectives and got hit with a hard imposter syndrome. Why? Because I didn’t have an understanding of what is even the basic level of my role. And when will I know that I moved from basic to a good job?

Having an achievable action plan and seing it’s progress during the year
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Achievable is the key here. Last year I have made a great plan for my role. I looked at what other managers are delivering, which was anywhere between 12 and 20-odd projects, and decided to settle on the minimum number, as they have had more years of experience of implementing procurement in their territories.

The end of the year came, and I have completed maybe three with no real savings (which in procurement usually would be a red flag for me). I felt horrible, I honestly considered quitting as it made me feel that I am not good enough for my role. I stressed *a lot* before my annual review. And guess what? I received *a lot* of praise from my boss and the only direction I have heard was to focus more on analysis next year. I clearly didn’t understand what is required.

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Being able to communicate clearly and openly with my boss

This is something I strongly appreciate. If I can come to my boss and share with him not only my success but also any roadblocks or failures and they support me through them and help me resolve them – I feel like there is growth in my role and even though I couldn’t do something yesterday, I can do it tomorrow. So I am definitely progressing in the role. This gives me a sense of achievement and being proud of what I bring to the table.

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Can you change the impact of your job on your mental health?

I strongly believe you can change the impact your job has on your mental health without quitting.

Ask yourself these three questions:

  • Do I clearly understand the three levels of my role: what are the must-do-basics; what will mean ‘doing a good job’ and what would mean that I am smashing it?
  • Do I have an achievable action plan and am I seeing it’s progress during the year?
  • Am I being able to communicate clearly and openly with my boss?

If you answered any of these questions ‘no’ – this is a great moment to start working on improving these areas. Learning how to talk at work will help you improve your communication with your boss. That has a direct impact on how you set your goals and objectives for the year, as clear communication will help you understand what is achievable. And last but not least, clear communication can help you and your boss evaluate your role requirements and agree on minimum / good job / exceptional performance standards.

Let me know in the comments if this resonated with you.

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How to ask your boss to work from home after the pandemic?

Can you ask your boss to work from home?

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Have you been enjoying working from home for the last year and a half but your company started talking about going back to the office? Or maybe you’re already back and dreading the daily commute?

Asking your boss to continue working from home can be a scary idea (I’ve been there!), but if you don’t ask – you won’t get it! You can always ask the question – there are really no bad sides to it – and even if you receive a negative answer, you won’t keep thinking ‘What if?’.

Plan it

This is the most crucial thing to do before asking your boss to work from home after the official return to the office. Ask yourself the below questions before you get into the process:

  • Is my boss generally ok with working from home? – some people sill have the outdated idea that if you are working from home, you are not working at all. Try to find out discreetly what your boss’ opinion is and if they are generally open to let people have more freedom.
  • Is my boss the decision maker? – in many cases, especially in big corporations, your boss or even your boss’ boss might not be able to make this decision. It may be down to HR, country manager or someone else setting up the rules and deciding the faith of employees.
  • What are the benefits? – list the benefits for yourself, your boss and the business. Exhaust the list as much as you can. You don’t have to use all the points when you actually request the change to your working arrangement, but it’s good to be prepared for any pushback.
  • What could be the objections? – prepare a list of objections that you expect to receive and address your solutions to them. Presenting the objections upfront by yourself, shows that you really thought this through and it will support your case.
  • How will you report your performance? – in the last year and a half we all have had a challenging time, adjusting to the work from home and having to learn to communicate in different ways to make sure our work is still recognised and appreciated. Think how you could enrich this going forward. What would be your KPIs? Milestones in the near future? How will you report your success to your boss?
  • What would be the arrangement? – suggest a number of days when you could come to the office if absolutely necessary (for example once or twice a month). You can also suggest a trial basis to ease the business into the idea.

Start introducing the idea

Once you have exhausted the above topics, you can start introducing the idea to your boss. Start mentioning during your catch-ups that you enjoy working from home, you can even mention that you would love to continue doing so, but just throw it into the conversation and don’t expect any answer. You can mention that your stakeholders are planning to continue video meetings or that it’s easier to focus in the quiet environment of your own home.

This is not a must-do step, but it is the way I like to approach it. This gives me a chance to ease my boss into thinking about it and getting them on board in a gentle way. It is also a great opportunity to spot if they are keen on the idea or are a bit hesitant.

When I requested to continue work from home the last time this is exactly what I did. I slowly introduced the idea, poked here and there to see how my boss is reacting. I also took his personal experiences with WFH to show that I understand the challenges and that we are on the same page in the end.

Once I saw that my boss is open to the idea (he was not at the beginning!) I moved on to the next step.

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Ask during a catch up

A good option before officially asking to work from home is to advise your boss that you will be making the request. If your work environment is a bit more formal, you can send an official email, but if it is more relaxed you can just say during your regular catch up ‘Hey, X, I would like to discuss working from home after we return to the office during our next catch up. Let’s have a chat if we could make this work’.

If you were introducing this idea slowly, your boss will not be surprised that you want to officially ask for this and it might be easier to move this forward.

Before the next meeting, make sure you read through the list that you made during the planning phase.

  • Pick 3 benefits to the company (and your boss if there is a good one),
  • bring up 1-2 objections and show the solutions for them,
  • give a high level idea of reporting your performance
  • and suggest the working schedule – here a little tip. If you are ok with working few times a month from the office, suggest only once or completely remote. You can then get to the desired outcome during the negotiations. I wouldn’t start with giving up all your leverage and suggesting more days in the office, as it is quite likely your company will want to increase the number of days you suggest.

Follow up with an official email

After the catch-up and the conversation with your boss – even if they are negative about the idea or even say no initially, make sure that you follow up with an official email. Regardless of if your work environment is official or relaxed, this is a good practice as helps you document what was said and gives your boss a tool – they can forward your email to the decision-makers without having to come out with their own explanation, why should you work from home.

Keep the email simple and repeat the same key messages that you mentioned in your conversation. If your boss has raised any objections, make sure that you address them here as well.

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What if they say no?

That’s a risk, but what if they say yes? There is nothing wrong with asking questions.

Just remember that negative answer doesn’t mean that you can’t negotiate well or that you didn’t prepare well enough. Very often these decisions have nothing to do with your ‘pitch’, but more with internal policies.

If it’s still a remote role that you want, but the company said no? There is plenty remote or more flexible roles right now on the market, as companies realise that this is the way to recruit the best talent. Don’t be afraid to reach out outside of your company and see what’s available!

Have you asked your boss to work from home yet?

If this is the type of work conditions you want – make sure you follow the steps and actually ask the question!

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Let me know in the comments if you have done it, how it felt and if you got your request approved!

Rooting for you!