Burnout, stress, anxiety, ennui, fatigue – whatever you call it, odds are you’ve experienced some form of mental distress at work over the past year. Whether adjusting to working from home or managing customers on the front lines, almost everyone has undergone major changes to their personal and professional routines.

In fact, 84 percent of employees reported at least one workplace factor that negatively impacted their mental health in 2021, according to the latest Mind Share Mental Health at Work Report. Women, younger generations (Millennials and Gen Z), and Black, Indigenous, and people of color (BIPOC) are more likely to experience higher stress levels directly related to their jobs. The same study found that half of all full-time U.S. workers have left previous positions due to mental health reasons, and workers who tried to push through felt they only performed at 72 percent of their usual capacity.

The shared experience of the pandemic and dramatic shift in traditional work dynamics has helped to bring mental well-being to the forefront of professional conversations. Ninety-four percent of U.S. employees, HR professionals, and CEOs said mental health is as important as physical health in the 2021 State of Workplace Empathy Study conducted by Businessolver. 

And while 54 percent of employees said their employers had become more accommodating to their mental health needs due to the pandemic according to the American Psychiatric Association, only 56 percent felt they could discuss the topic openly and honestly with their supervisors and co-workers.

By normalizing conversations about mental health at work, we can begin to destigmatize the experience of anxiety and stress related to our jobs and start to find healthier ways to pursue our careers. Let’s look at some of the ways modern work affects our psychological wellness, as well as some ways to find emotional balance. 

The Two Sides of Remote Work

For many, remote and hybrid schedules offer freedom and flexibility, removing the drain of long commutes and the stress of constantly being “on” for co-workers. Two-thirds of employees reported feeling more productive at home, according to the Businessolver study, and 93 percent of respondents said the ability to work remotely showed their employer’s empathy.

But for others, working from home comes with major trade-offs. Remote employees often put in more hours per week than those in the office, clocking in early and continuing to check emails long after the workday. Sixty-seven percent of those working from home told the American Psychiatric Association they had trouble getting away from work at the end of the day.

In addition, nearly two-thirds of people working from home reported feeling lonely or isolated at least sometimes, and 17 percent said they felt that way all the time. When it came to Gen Z and Millennials, that number jumped to 73 percent of respondents. 

That’s a lot of lonely, overworked people. But all hope is not lost – it’s possible to build a healthy work-life balance in a remote environment.

Finding a Work-Life Balance

When your home is also your place of work, it can be difficult to figure out where one stops and the other begins. Establishing firm dividing lines between your job and your life can help you be more productive at work and happier at home. Here are three types of boundaries you can set to find a better work-life balance:

  1. Social boundaries: Talk to your co-workers and let them know when you’re available and that you may not be able to respond outside of those times. If you’re feeling overwhelmed with meetings, set aside some “focus time” where you can work without interruption. On the other hand, if you’re feeling lonely, try to set up a regular check-in call with a co-worker to get in some much-needed social contact. Teamwork technology allows you to easily connect with colleagues so you won’t feel quite so alone.
  2. Mental boundaries: Try to have steady routines: Get dressed for work every day (it doesn’t have to be fancy, just get out of your pajamas!), make yourself a cup of coffee, and turn off the television. When you’re ready to clock out, shut that computer down and turn off those notifications.
  3. Physical boundaries: If possible, find a place in your home that is just for work. Perhaps you have space for a dedicated office, but even the end of your dining table can work. Tell yourself (and those you live with) that when you’re in your workspace, you need to focus on your job. At the end of your day, physically leave that area and don’t come back until you’re ready to check in again.

Mental Wellness in Customer Support

When it comes to dealing with increased call volumes and difficult customers, call center employees deal with high-pressure situations daily. Nearly four out of five call center workers reported experiencing high or very high personal levels of stress in a study by Cornell; half of the respondents felt burned out or emotionally drained and experienced difficulty sleeping.

High stress levels carry over into every aspect of the job: Customer service representatives with high stress levels are 2.5 times as likely to be absent from work and 5.5 times as likely to look for new employment. Feelings of anxiety and alienation can be further compounded if they work remotely, managing rising numbers of negative interactions all on their own.

Fortunately, there are ways to fight the feeling of being overwhelmed and build strong connections with co-workers. 

Tips for Managing Stress

  1. Take a break: Even five minutes away from a stressful task can help reset your mind. If you only have a few minutes, do some stretches at your desk, download a short meditation, or play a round of solitaire on your computer. When you have a little bit longer, try to get some exercise, meet a friend for lunch, or take a nap. Better yet, make use of your PTO and take a vacation (or even a mini staycation) – just remember to put up your out-of-office alerts!
  2. Find a work buddy: When you’re working from home, it’s easy to imagine you’re the only one feeling the way you do. That’s why it’s important to make connections with the people whose day-to-day experiences are like yours and check in occasionally. Hopping on a video call to brainstorm solutions to tricky scenarios helps you interact with a friendly face and will reassure you that you’re not going through this alone.
  3. Use company resources: It’s in your company’s best interest to make sure you stay healthy and happy, and employers are investing more and more into mental wellness. Familiarize yourself with everything they have to offer and take advantage of the benefits they provide.

Identifying a Mental-Health-Friendly Company

Companies that prioritize employees’ mental health are making a long-term investment in their well-being and professional success. Workers who feel their employers support their mental wellness are 2.5 times more likely to stay with their company and 5.6 times as likely to trust their leadership. That’s great news for everyone.

Employers that provide dedicated mental health resources have higher job satisfaction, longer retention rates, and, most importantly, happier employees. Here are a few examples of how Mitel demonstrates its dedication to employee psychological well-being:

  1. Easily accessible wellness literature and courses to learn about healthy ways to manage stress.
  2. Support programs, such as discussions about how to work from home without feeling lonely and ways to feel safe when returning to the office.
  3. Managers who prioritize their team’s mental health, including holding regular one-on-one check-ins, hosting virtual happy hours to promote camaraderie, and enabling flexible work schedules.

Find your next happy place with a career at Mitel.

Additional Resources

To learn more about mental health, visit MentalHealth.gov

If you or someone you know are experiencing a crisis, please visit the US National Suicide Prevention Lifeline or call them 24/7 at 1-800-273-8255.

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