How to Have an Honest Mental Health Conversation With Your Boss?

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Smriti
Smriti Rajan comes from a political science and literature background, having an immense passion for writing across varied topics. She has written several articles and blogs for diverse audiences worldwide. She has produced several research publications, policy frameworks, and opinion pieces for think tanks, government institutions and corporates. Alongside this, she writes for a large Fortune 500 clientele and is a key contributing writer for Wikistrat on their EMEA desk. Currently, she resides in India.

The global pandemic has stress levels running high these days. Since the pandemic, workers spending a whole extra hour each day sending emails, according to research from the National Bureau of Economic Research.  “One of the first things on everyone’s mind is the uncertainty around us. Uncertainty in our jobs, kids going to school, or just going to the grocery store. There is a lot of weight on us,” said Benjamin Miller, a psychologist and chief strategy officer for Well Being Trust, a national foundation focusing on mental and social health.

It’s no wonder employees are feeling burned out. Nearly half of Americans are stressed about the possibility of getting coronavirus, and many worry about a loved one contracting the disease, a survey by the American Psychiatric Association reveals. Employees are working longer hours.

Breaking the stigma around mental health in the workplace is important. And breaking this stigma starts with leadership.

It is still a tough conversation to have with your boss. Here are some tips to help you get the conversation going:

Understand where you are

Discussing mental health is a sensitive issue. 

What you decide to do varies depending on one’s conditions, symptoms, and comfort level in addition to the dynamics and culture of the workplace.” On the other hand, for some people, it is hard to disclose their condition, when work begins to suffer. That’s because they worry they might have to explain their condition, and it could go against them. Well, whatever you decide to do, make sure you are at a comfortable place when it comes to disclosure. If you feel you’re going to get more anxiety by telling your boss, then think about it and take a call. 

Don’t overshare information about your medication or therapist. In a professional environment, keep the conversation simple and short, without divulging too many details. 

Consider going to HR first

If you are suffering from depression and anxiety, industrial-organizational psychology practitioner Amy Cooper Hakim suggests going to your Human Resources department first to learn about possible accommodations.

Employee Assistance Programs (EAP) can offer professional help for workers. Many companies have increased their mental health benefits since the pandemic started, like adding free meditation apps and providing additional paid time off.

If you are feeling overwhelmed and stressed out and need a few extra days on a deadline, that is a conversation to have with your boss first.

Stay solution-focused

Bringing up a topic you find stressful with your boss is never easy. When it comes to your mental health, it can be hard to know where to start. 

Bringing solutions to the conversation makes it more productive. Remember knowledge is power. When you decide to talk about your mental health to your boss, come with a list of specific priorities, outline what you are able to handle and where you need additional support.

For instance, if the mornings are overwhelming you as you’re trying to get your kids onto their online classes, then suggest starting your workday later. Other options can include requesting additional resources to help finish a project, a more flexible schedule, or help with prioritizing tasks and deadlines to streamline your responsibilities.

Set the right time to discuss with your boss

Once you have decided to talk about it, you can approach your boss and speak about your anxiety affecting your work. In case you feel the workplace environment is not the most conducive, make sure to bring it up. 

You could also bring in some points that show you’ve been excelling in some departments. This could help you have a balanced conversation. On the other hand, if you think talking to your boss will make matters worse (but you still want to disclose your mental health condition), then it’s best to approach the HR department.

Talk about your own efforts towards mental wellbeing

Beyond speaking with your employer, there are things in your control that can help you better manage this challenging period. Take part in activities that promote stress management and relaxation, such as exercise, yoga, and meditation. Do your best to eat healthy, well-balanced meals, and aim to get seven to eight hours of sleep at night. Allocate time toward building and nurturing real-life, social connections where you can be open about your struggles. That will make it easier to reflect on any positive experiences with gratitude. Lastly, it’s critical that you draw clear lines between work time and relaxation time.

ALSO READ: 8 Tips for WFH Productivity in 2021

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