Wellbeing at work

Now you’ve got the job, it will be important to develop a plan to help you stay well. You may also find it useful to plan what you’d like your employer to do if you become unwell at work.

This page will give you some tips on managing your health and wellbeing at work. You can also find these in the CNWL Surviving and Thriving at Work booklet, developed by Disability Rights UK.

Your employment specialist (ES) will help you plan your return to work and the support you will need to make it as easy as possible. They will also help you think about how you can look after your health and make your work manageable. Your ES will meet you regularly to discuss any difficulties you may have – and share what’s going well.

Talk to your employment specialist and/or health professional about completing your own health and wellbeing ‘toolkit’ before you start work. Remember that your ES will go on supporting you once you have started your job.

Your ES and your manager will want you to be as healthy as possible, so they will benefit from being involved in the development of your health and wellbeing plan.

Tips for managing your health at work:

Every day or week, make sure you put aside time to do the things that help you feel good, for example:

  • Get up in time to have a proper breakfast
  • Make sure you always have a proper break at lunch-time and if possible go for a walk
  • Spend time with family or friends outside work
  • Sports or hobbies
  • Plan your work to make it manageable - and ask for help when you need it
  • Some people find making time for exercise and/or relaxation or meditation helps

Your manager can help you  with your work-life balance by doing things like:

  • Helping you prioritise when you have too much to do
  • Saying ‘thank you’ when you have finished a task
  • Supporting any training and development needs you may have in your role
  • Letting you have time off for medical appointments

What your health team and employment specialist (ES) can do to help you to stay well at work:

  • Your health team can support you in managing stress and symptoms at work
  • Your ES can meet you regularly to talk about how things are going at work. They can also talk to your employer to sort out any concerns that you have

You can make yourself a mental health first aid toolkit. Here are some examples of what you can do when you feel upset, angry, anxious or stressed:

  • Get out of the situation for a quick break, even if it is just going to the toilet
  • Make or buy a cup of tea or coffee
  • Talk to a friend at lunchtime
  • Think about something you are looking forward to
  • Do something relaxing when you get home
  • Try out other things that can help with stress management, such as meditation or exercise

If people at work or home do things that make you feel stressed, you can:

  • Talk to your colleagues or manager about how you are feeling
  • Tell yourself that other people have bad days too, so if they’ve been unfriendly or cross they did not really mean to upset you

It’s helpful to spot the signs that you’re having a bad day as early as possible. You can nip it in the bud by using your first aid toolkit, or by letting others know in advance that you’re having an off day. Some thoughts, feelings and behaviours that warn you that you’re not yourself could include:

  • Finding it unusually hard to get up or get going in the morning
  • Thinking over and over about something that has happened
  • Getting irritable and oversensitive
  • Not being able to relax
  • Disturbed sleep patterns
  • Eating too little – or too much (comfort eating)
  • Drinking too much or using drugs to relax
  • Getting a lot of colds or minor infections
  • Bursting into tears or losing your temper over small things
  • Thinking that there’s no point in what you’re doing

Here’s one simple tip for de-stressing that you can do at any time, anywhere, and no-one will notice. It’s a well-known relaxation technique: breathe in slowly through your nose to a count of five, then breathe out slowly through your mouth to a count of five. Doing this for a few minutes should help you feel less anxious.

At tough times like these, asking for help can be hard. But it is worth doing, because sometimes we just cannot cope alone. Here are some things you can take out of your mental first aid kit to start putting things right:

  • Confide in your family and friends and ask for help
  • Try to get some regular exercise, even just a bit. Exercise releases feel-good chemicals into your blood
  • Talk to your manager about how you’re feeling and ask for your responsibilities to be lighter for a while
  • See your GP or another health professional
  • Ask for some leave

Your manager can help you get back on top of things by doing things like:

  • Noticing when you’re not yourself and asking if there’s anything they can do to help
  • Encouraging you to speak to them when you’re having problems
  • Responding when you ask for help
  • Some employers also have an occupational health service that may be able to offer counselling and stress management support

Help from your employment specialist:

If you feel you can’t cope, talk to your ES as soon as possible. Don’t be afraid or ashamed; it could happen to anybody. If you have a good relationship with your line manager, talk to them. You'll have a plan worked out already, and that will tell you what help your boss can give. Your ES can come in and see you and your manager and talk about how to improve things. Some changes can be as simple as having more breaks, modifying your workload or making it easier for you to ask for help.

What your employer should do if you become unwell at work:

You may find it helpful to plan in advance what you would like your employer to do if you become unwell at work. It could cover issues such as:

  • Who will be informed at work and what they will be told
  • Who will be contacted in your personal network
  • Being clear about which hospital you are happy to be admitted to

What should I do if I haven’t got a CNWL employment specialist and I’m struggling to manage my mental health at work?

Some companies have an occupational health service which can provide support to you and your employer.

Remploy offers a free, confidential workplace support service. One of their trained advisors can help you manage your health, either when you first go back to work, or if you are starting to experience difficulties at work and need support.

To find out more ring Access to Work on 0345 2688 489 or go to Remploy’s website.

CNWL also works with a range of employment, volunteering, training and education services in each of the boroughs we cover.

For more information about wellbeing at work, see:

The Equality Act

Work, health and wellbeing

 Helping people to find and stay in work

Health and Safety at work

Guides and factsheets about mental health at work