During the span of a person’s career, it’s not unusual to experience at least a few substantial changes at the workplace. These changes might look like corporate restructuring, layoffs, departure of key staff, rapid growth of programming/services, adoption of new systems/processes etc. These types of changes are often associated with increased stress and workload, new challenges and expectations and potentially inter-office conflict. During transitions like this it can be increasingly difficult, however important to manage your mental health. Doing so will help ensure you make it through this taxing period more successfully. Below is a list of tips for preserving your mental health during workplace changes:
TIP 1: Establish Boundaries: Maximum 20 minutes of work talk, outside of work, a day
It can feel cathartic to discuss changes at the workplace with friends, family and/or spouses, but before you know it you can be investing a lot of your free time and emotional energy talking about work. Try and set some boundaries around how you talk about work outside of the office and preferably set a time limit. 20 minutes a day should be more than enough time to discuss key points and keep the important people in your life up to date. If possible, on days that are particularly stressful refrain altogether from talking about work as your brain will already be doing a lot of processing of the days events.
TIP 2: Seek Out Relevant Educational Material: Find reference material on specific organizational changes
Most changes at the workplace have happened to someone else at another point in time, enough to have developed a perspective on the topic. Seek out relevant educational material such as books, courses, videos, etc. It can be incredibly helpful to have a removed perspective on the change and can improve your outlook as it will assist you in stepping back from the day-to-day and view things from an over-arching perspective.
TIP 3: Create a List of Workplace Tasks and Prioritize: Dedicate 30 minutes a week to list-making/prioritizing
Changes at the workplace often come with a lot of change management. When your days are already packed with work, it can be quite taxing to take on more tasks/activities, especially if that work is different than your typical routine or pushes you outside of your skillset and experience. This can be a great time to either start or rededicate yourself to list-making / goal setting. Set aside 30 mins at the beginning of the week to jot down your to-do’s and use that list throughout the week to revisit what needs to get done and how you might need to re-prioritize your goals. It can feel validating to look back over that list and what you have achieved at the end of the week.
TIP 4: Utilize External Resources: Access a professional to help you navigate the professional challenge of a change
While it might seem daunting to take on any extra activities outside of what you already need to do during a change at the workplace, it can be helpful to hit pause and utilize an external resource to process through the situation. This external resource may be a career counselor, mental health counselor, professional mentor, consultant etc. An hour long apt, once every two weeks can help you refocus on how you want to conduct yourself through the change/transition, tackle complex problems, and provide you an outlet that is impartial, professional and one-sided. Be selfish, use professional resources that don’t require you to give any of your energy back to them. Go into an appointment, commit to the work and leave.
TIP 5: Define and Track Health Habits: Download a Habit Tracker like “Strides” or “Momentum”
Healthy habits can be challenging to maintain at the best of times, let alone when you are taxed and stressed at work. However, maintaining your healthy habits is even more important during these times if you want to preserve your physical and mental health. Try being more intentional about your healthy habits that you know are important to your happiness. Install a habit tracker app on your phone and include habits that you want to prioritize (e.g., exercise, meditation, drinking water, playing with your kids) that may otherwise be overlooked in the midst of chaos.
TIP 6: Detach Yourself from the Changes: Remind yourself that your value is not attached to the success/failure of change
It can be challenging to distance yourself from changes at the workplace when you are deeply involved in them. These changes often require a lot of mental energy and time and when things don’t necessarily improve, get worse, or don’t go the way that you want them to, it can be hard not to take this personally. Try to detach yourself and your sense of value from these changes/transitions as they are often beyond one person’s control and take time.
TIP 7: Talk to People in your Personal Support Network: Make sure people that matter in your life know your time and energy is taxed
Utilize your support network where possible to lessen your load at home and in your personal life, so that you have more mental energy to deal with the changes at work. Request that your spouse take on some of additional at home responsibilities temporarily, ask more professionally experienced family members for advice, or have a discussion with important people in your life about how you won’t be able to dedicate as much energy into those relationship for a few months. Changes at the workplace can temporarily demand a great deal of your time. Telling people in your life that these changes are going on will help them understand why you’re not able to give as much to those relationships at the moment.
– Cheri Cleyn, EA & Agency Project Lead; Senior Leadership Team, CASS
For more resources on workplace wellness check out the ‘Not Myself Today’ Campaign and the Mental Health Commission of Canada – Workplace Mental Health.