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How the wrong job can affect your mental health – 7 signs to look out for

As the tally of seemingly meaningless statistics scrolled above my head, the reason we were all there became less clear, yet somehow it all made sense to someone crunching the numbers for management.

If you’ve ever worked in a call centre, you’d understand that call times, uptimes, downtimes, pretty much anytime you spend on or off the phone – even going to the toilet – is all logged and scrutinised. At the end of each pod of desks there’ll be an authoritarian figure (hello, team leader) shouting out the numbers like a charioteer whose task is to ensure we’re galloping along on course with the regional average, a flotilla of headset wearing warriors charged with keep our customers happy.

Completing call centre boot camp – a two week training course prior to our actual start date – those numbers were embedded into each individual customer advisor’s head. If we couldn’t reach the targets, there’d be someone to remind us that sometimes quantity is more important than quality. I felt like I was lost in a sea of numbers – that I myself was just a number.

Here are 7 signs to look out for that indicate you might be struggling:

  • Loss of energy or motivation – not being able to self-motivate or lack of determination to reach your goals
  • Irritability or aggression that is abnormal
  • Lack of sleep
  • Changing in eating habits
  • Strain on relationships in and outside of work
  • A lack of self-confidence that occurred in the timeframe you’ve been employed
  • Increase in sensitivity, and a worry that you’re constantly unfulfilling the needs of your manager

After what seemed like an infinity, I decided I’d had enough and I would change this myself, intrinsically thinking of the end goal in all of this – my happiness! My focus then began to steer towards the customer experience, and how having more of an interpersonal approach would benefit the person on both sides of the headset. I exercised the points listed within this article over the course of a few weeks, and found that in within the first few days my stress began to ease and I was able to really get behind what mattered – my work.

When we look back on our careers, there’s often that one job we can pinpoint, which still to this day makes us shudder. One where we felt overlooked, underappreciated or overworked. Maybe you didn’t get along with a particular colleague or manager, or your values weren’t aligned with the culture of the company. Sometimes in the short-term you just have to get on with the job, but grinning and bearing it shouldn’t be at the determent of your longer-term mental health.

Most of us in professional roles can think of times when we felt worn out and just needed to take a break, but did you know that according to the Australian Human Rights Commission around 25% of workers have taken off days due to stress? Studies show that job pressures can play out in various mental illnesses, such as anxiety or depression. The sad reality is many people who experience this feel trapped or unable to leave due to financial circumstances, which can lead to a feeling of further isolation.

Here’s what can you do to help yourself.

Set realistic boundaries – Reasonable KPIs help us to benchmark our performance, but don’t let them consume you to the point where you are at panic stations the entire day. Speak to your manager or a respected colleague about how you can meet your targets.

Ensure you take your full lunch break – You’ll have enough time to read a book, eat proper food and leave your office or desk. You might even consider reducing your screen time (taking a break from your smartphone) to wind down and regenerate for the afternoon.

Get fit – If you’re going to improve your mental health, you’ll need the energy to do it. Go for walk or a jog in the fresh air at lunchtime, before or after work. Participating in sport and fitness activities as a hobby can be a fun way to end the day on a high.

Maintain a positive image of yourself – If you’re good at identifying the negatives, be better at listing the positives! Maybe you have great conversational skills for network, you’re savvy with technology and computer systems or simply always on time. Everyone has good (and bad) qualities – focusing on your strengths will improve your confidence.

Understand that you’re not on your own – This brings me back to the importance of conversation. Talk to your colleagues, your friends outside of work or family, do not suffer in silence. An HR or recruitment consultant can also offer guidance to help you find work that is a good fit with your knowledge, experience and personal interests.

In my experience it’s been little wins each day that have helped me grow by building my self-confidence. Of course I always knew I was more than a number (more easily realised without those numbers literally hovering above head), so if you’ve had similar thoughts reading this, I would love to hear what tips you might have for better mental health.  

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Posted in Interchange Bench

Lessons from Mother Nature for human nature and Human Resources

Most organisations today are aware of their environmental impact and responsibility. But beyond any legislative requirements, are there lessons from nature that may boost resilience among employees?

And before you cynically dismiss this thought as too ‘touchy-feely’, think of scientist Albert Einstein’s comment “Look deep into nature; then you will understand everything better”. Recruiting and HR professionals appreciate that there have always been (and probably will always be) the darkest of disasters in both Mother Nature and human nature.

Thankfully few of us will ever face tragedy that strikes with the strength and speed of tornadoes and tsunamis, or with the ferocity of floods and forest fires. Yet most of us do indeed confront crises that can instantly change the course of our lives, eclipsing not only our dreams but also our desire to carry on.

I know because I’ve been there.

Misfortune strikes everyone sooner or later. In my case, it was long before I was HR Manager for IBM’s Asia Pacific headquarters in Tokyo. I started life in an orphanage, lost both adopted parents to cancer the year I graduated from university, faced that dreaded disease myself long after my divorce, and fractured a vertebrae to be told I’d never play sport again. Shift happens!

Although the ‘f’ is often omitted, shift happens not only in fault-lines of the Earth but also in the faults and frailties of its inhabitants. Budget cuts, redundancies and takeovers may not be life-threatening for some but rather paradigms shift in both our personal and professional lives. And whether change is referred to as disruption or transformation, it still creates stress that everyone from the CEO to the most junior employee must deal with.

We need to re-charge not just our devices but ourselves.

My own energy always seemed boosted amidst nature. Climbing in the sublime silence of the Antarctic, strolling along a beach or gazing at a beautiful garden all offered their inexplicable breath of fresh air for my soul.

Only while writing my latest book, The Gift of Nature; Inspiring Hope & Resilience, did I discover why. Research from leading universities now offers scientific evidence that time spent in nature does indeed contribute to better mental well-being.

Employees who are mentally and physically healthy are surely happier. And there is little doubt that happy employees yield happier customers, which in turn yield better returns and stronger organisations. And whether you’re a CEO or just joined the organisation yesterday, you can’t take care of others if you don’t take care of yourself!

So here’s a few simple nature-related tips to help cope with that feeling of being overwhelmed those of us working in HR have all felt from time to time:

Don’t make mountains out of molehills, play the blame game or make excuses. It might not be fair and it might not be your fault – but it is still your responsibility to deal with it. For perspective ask yourself this: will this matter in five or 10 years’ time?

Do get moving and stop moping. You don’t need to scale the Himalayas but never underestimate the rejuvenating powers of getting out in nature for a walk on a beach, in a park or in your own garden.

Do re-charge your high tech world amidst the high touch world of nature. We’re so busy being busy that we overlook the importance of balance and unless you’re an emergency worker, you don’t need your phone on 24/7.

Do get eight hours sleep a night and sleep on it before making any major life decision. Take time to breathe in fresh air as you inhale the future and exhale the past.

Do talk to a trusted friend or health care professional. A problem shared can be a problem halved and never be too proud to ask for help.

Do fill your mind with positive thoughts. We are bombarded with the worst aspects of Mother Nature (typhoons, tsunamis, drought etc) and human nature (bullying, abuse, corruption, violence etc). So if a beautiful quote or photo from books, music or art resonates with you, put it on your fridge or bathroom mirror as a daily reminder to soothe your battered soul.

When you’re embroiled in the many faceted and increasingly complex world of recruitment and HR, when you can’t see the forest for the trees, when everything under the sun seems bleak and when you think no one else understands or has been there, think again. And know that lessons from Mother Nature can help you weather the inevitable storms of life. Such is the power of nature amidst the random nature of being alive.

And remember, life does indeed mirror nature – some of its tragic but most of its magic!

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Posted in The world @work