Mental health and work
You may not choose to discuss your health needs with your manager or colleagues but you may need some support when working.
Many people think of reasonable adjustments as physical -for example installing a ramp for a wheelchair user - but there are many different types of adjustment. There are no definite rules about what is a 'reasonable' adjustment. What may be reasonable for one company may not be for another. A few examples that might be considered are:
- can you work flexibly? - for example, some medication may make you sleepy in the morning so perhaps start your working day a couple of hours later
- can some tasks be given to another employee for the short, medium or long-term?
- is a colleague available to help you? - some people find it useful to talk to a trusted colleague weekly, daily or when needed if work seems difficult
- is there a place where you can take a break if you need to?
Help while in work
Some larger companies offer services like counselling to employees, free-of-charge. This is often run by an outside company who supplies face-to-face or telephone counselling sessions. All conversations or calls are confidential. Your employer can't ask the counselling company what you talk about or how often.
Companies that provide this service will have different procedures for getting this help. For more information ask your Human Resources (HR) department, your union representative or a trusted colleague.
Some HR departments have people who are trained to listen to employees as a counsellor. If you do not have an HR department, your doctor (GP) would be able to advise on counselling services in your area.
Mentoring - support from another employee
Some larger companies have mentoring schemes. This is when you are partnered with a person, usually a senior person in a different part of the company, who can talk to you about aspects of your work.
Companies have different ways of doing this, but you may meet your mentor once a month and talk about any problems or issues you have with staff, working patterns or workload. The mentor will usually be able to advise you on how to deal with these issues without being directly involved.
You may have regular 'catch up' or review meetings with your manager. You could use this time to talk about any difficulties you are having at work.
Family and friends
Don't underestimate the usefulness of talking to family and friends about problems you have at work. They may be able to offer practical solutions.
If you have to take time off
If you take time off, keep in contact with your employer, or ask someone else to do it for you. Let them know how long you are likely to be away from work. You may find some of the points above useful. But when you are ready to return to work, you could also ask your employer if you can:
- work up to your former hours - for example, work a few days a week until you are confident working full-time
- have more feedback to provide reassurance and reduce any anxiety you may have
- meet more frequently to look at your workload and help prioritise and set agreed deadlines
If you feel you have been discriminated against because of your mental health problem you may have a case under the Disability Discrimination Act.