Mental Health in the workplace is frequently written about, and increasingly becoming part of wellbeing initiatives in many organisations.
Starting out your career, either in an internship or your first job, can sometimes present challenges to mental health. Change in a variety form is never easy and uncertainty can manifest itself in a number of ways, from mild to severe. We’ve put together some suggestions on how you can prioritise your wellbeing and mental health when starting a new opportunity, whether something fixed term like a summer internship, or more permanent like your first role after graduation.
Plan out your basic routine for the first couple of weeks
Starting a new role will likely mean some changes to your normal daily routine. You might be waking up earlier, travelling to a new location and more than likely meeting a whole range of new people in a short space of time.
Planning out a routine and doing a dry run a couple of times before might help with this. In particular, getting a decent amount of sleep might mean an earlier night than usual to begin with to make up for the earlier start. Get familiar with how you’re travelling to work as well, and if you’re relying on public transport, have a plan B figured out.
We’d also recommend taking your own lunch and a couple of snacks for the first few days as you’re settling in to your new role. This is just in case you get stuck for food options or find yourself rushing around and not getting a decent break to begin with.
Prioritise time to collate your thoughts
When you first start a new role, you’ll be adapting to a variety of factors. Getting to know new colleagues, the workplace, the local area and the workplace jargon will take time. Giving yourself the time to take it all in is important.
Whether you taking lists and notes to memorise everything you’re learning or if you use other methods, take the time to reflect on what you learn as well. If you’re able to block out short amounts of time to review your notes and think through your interactions, you’ll hopefully assemble a sense of who does what, and how their roles relate to you. This might also help you to plan out any projects or tasks that you’re anticipating, so you know who to go to.
Whilst you might feel conscious about not knowing everything, the truth is nobody knows everything about their workplace. Asking for support or to find out information is a normal part of every job. If you don’t know who to speak to, ask a colleague with more experience to see who they would recommend. It can feel quite isolated if you have a lot of questions that are hindering your first couple of weeks in a new job, but engaging with your team will hopefully help you to feel more comfortable in the workplace.
Make time for your own wellbeing
Having a new job can be a fantastic experience. There can however be a number of times when through various pressures of the role, you have less time for everything you need to get done. Whilst this isn’t unusual, first and foremost you should always prioritise your own wellbeing.
Alongside the examples we’ve highlighted, we would also suggest the following:
Make time to be active – Physical activity has been proven to have positive effects on mental health and wellbeing. Whether it’s a walk at lunchtime, a run at some point in the day, cycling to work or taking up something new like kayaking or rock climbing, there are a variety of ways to keep active. Your new employer might even have staff teams for football, rugby, netball or societies for tennis, badminton etc. Other than the physical and health benefits, there’s also the opportunity to enhance your social life through sports and related activities.
Get enough sleep – Various studies in the last 10 years have highlighted the need for around 7-8 hours of sleep to help the body recover. If you find that you are struggling to sleep, try to work out what’s keeping you awake. This might require a conversation with your doctor if there are serious reasons for a lack of sleep.
Socialise – It’s important to spend time with other people that help you to feel positive and energised. Whether that’s going out with your new colleagues, catching up with friends and family, making time for your social life can be an important factor in maintaining your own wellbeing.
Disclosure of mental health in the workplace
Deciding on what to disclose to your workplace, manager(s) and colleagues is a personal choice. Depending on the nature of any challenges that you have with your mental health, you may feel more or less inclined to share your challenges.
Time-to-change.org have some helpful tips that may help to guide you through your decisions.
Further information about managing your mental health and wellbeing can be found from the following links:
Jai Shah, Careers Consultant