Four ways your career can negatively impact your mental health

A job is about more than just earning money – it’s part of our identity and where we spend most of our waking hours. Discover four ways your career can impact your mental health.

Your career is likely to represent a significant part of your life. From a time perspective alone, the average worker spends around a third of their life on the job. It’s no wonder, then, that your career and your mental health are closely aligned. 

Unfortunately, this can also mean that when there are issues in your job, your psychological and emotional wellness may be impacted. This may be the direct result of operating in a high-stress environment. Though there can also be issues with your workplace or employer that can be negative contributors.

Let’s take a closer look at four ways your mental health and career intersect, and what solutions you can implement to improve your wellbeing.

1) Poor communication

Communication can be a significant part of any career. It helps reduce errors on individual tasks. It can also empower you to network effectively.

However, poor communication can also contribute to disrupted mental wellness. When your managers aren’t interacting effectively with you, this can be both frustrating and stressful. Not to mention the resulting errors from poor messaging can negatively impact your self-esteem and sense of professionalism.

As such, it’s important to prioritize solid communication throughout your career and build your knowledge of this skill. This should certainly include learning how to communicate your needs and challenges to supervisors or members of management.

2) A long commute

Most people spend significant time each day in the workplace. However, there are also some for whom the hours spent in the office don’t represent their entire period away from home. Commuting back and forth each day can also pile on the time commitment and the stress.

This isn’t just an anecdotal experience either. Long commutes have been found to have a negative effect on mental and physical wellness. While some research suggests spending under 45 minutes traveling is fine, many Americans experience commutes of more than an hour each way. The stress of this can also be magnified by congested traffic or the potential for violence on public transport.

It is, therefore, vital to be mindful of your commuting practices. Wherever possible, avoid positions that see you traveling for long periods or in high-pressure conditions. If this is unavoidable, it’s worth talking to your employer about the possibility of working from home a few days a week.

3) Inadequate health policies

One of the areas careers and mental health intersect is company wellness policies. Businesses have a duty of care for their employees. Too many companies have inadequate health policies that contribute to mental unwellness.

Often, companies consider their duties served by health insurance contributions. But businesses should also provide workers with resources that support daily wellness. This could include subsidized therapy and gym memberships. These not only have a direct impact on mental health, but they also help reduce physical health-related stress.   

If your workplace has inadequate health policies, it’s certainly worth addressing this with members of human resources (HR). However, you may need to take personal responsibility here. Adopting a range of preventative healthcare practices improves your long-term wellness and mitigates stress. This should include attending health screenings concerning your mental well-being, physical condition, and eye health.

4) Workplace discrimination and harassment

You certainly have the right to expect your workplace to be a safe space to cultivate your career within. This doesn’t just apply to physical safety. Your mental wellness shouldn’t be disrupted by experiences of discrimination or harassment. However, this can be a common point in which mental health and careers intersect — employees naturally suffer in a toxic work environment. 

A toxic workplace can be an extremely stressful experience. Particularly if you depend on your current job, the bullying and harassment you live with can feel inescapable, which adds to the pressure. Even microaggressions that are applied consistently can wear on your self-worth and happiness over time.  

As such, it is important to address these issues as early as possible. Depending on the issue, it can be effective to confront workplace bullies directly and explain how their behavior is problematic.

In some circumstances, it’s better to go directly to HR or upper management to officially outline the issues. In either case, it’s vital to fully document the process for your own protection. Importantly, remember that discrimination or harassment is not the result of any failure on your part.

You need to dentify challenges and implement safeguards

There are various areas in which mental health and careers intersect. Issues such as poor communication, workplace health policies, and harassment can contribute to stress. Even commutes that are too long can have a cumulative psychological impact.

It’s important to identify these challenges in your working life and implement effective safeguards against negative impacts. It’s not always easy, but you’ll find your career and your quality of life benefit from taking action.

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