Students often share their worries about wellbeing during the move to the workplace with the Careers Service. This blog aims to help those needing support with advice and tools that will help you prepare for, and settle into, working life successfully.
Getting the transition into the workplace place right improves subsequent mental wellbeing and reduces subsequent stress
– (Student Minds research and report on the wellbeing of graduates in the transition to work 2017)
The shift from University to working life is a big change. Recent virtual experiences may mean you don’t know what to expect from an in person workplace. For some this transition won’t bring up any issues at all, for others it’s a bit of an adjustment and for some it is quite tough.
Whether or not you’ve had to proactively look after your mental health at University, there is a lot you can do to help this transition go smoothly and to look after your wellbeing in the process.
Preparing for the move to the workplace:
Know your workplace: just as you’d research an organisation/role before applying, now get to know what else that organisation offers. Are there wellbeing networks, or social events to get to know colleagues.
Setting up support in advance and knowing it will be there when you start: University wellbeing support is quite structured (college nurses, DRC, Counselling service, SU Welfare Team) and this often isn’t the case outside Uni. Some large corporate firms do have in house counselling, wellbeing centres etc. though this is unusual. Smaller organisations probably won’t have structured support. Think ahead to where support that you might need could come from:
- Decide in advance whether, or not, you want to discuss your mental health with your new employer. And if you do, when you want to do that and what you want to say. It can be helpful to discuss mental health difficulties early so that they can help you avoid triggering a downward spiral. Remember they can only give you the individual support that you need if they know that you need it. (see Careers Service website and YouTube on Talking about disability and mental health with employers)
- Think about any adjustments you have at University which might transfer to the workplace. You can discuss this with a Careers Consultant at the Careers Service if you need to.
- Discuss this transition with any professional mental health support that you have, they may be able to help you think through your concerns in a healthy way.
- Friends and family – make sure your positive supporters are in regular contact while you settle into your new job. You might decide it would benefit your mental health to put some social activities and interactions on hold while you focus your energy on settling into your new routines.
Create a Wellness Action and Recovery Plan (WRAP) – This is really helpful to write in advance to refer to should your mental health take a dip, it includes prompts to check in with yourself and evaluate your mental health regularly. This means you can recognise when things start to get hard and take action early. Think this through when you’re feeling mentally healthy, as when you aren’t coming up with a clear plan of action can be difficult. See the free MIND Wellness Action and Recovery Plan guides for more about how to do this.
The Careers Service will continue to be available to you throughout the transition to work if you need us.
When you get to work:
The following points were recognised as important for mental wellbeing in the workplace (Student Minds Graduate Wellbeing in the workplace report 2017)
1. Having a manager who is interested in your personal development
The role of your Uni Personal Tutor has some similarities to your Line Manager at work. Their job is to help you manage your workload and understand any personal challenges you have. They’ll be involved in putting in place any adjustments as well as other training or support. Developing a good relationship with your line manager is important in maintaining wellbeing at work.
Right from your first 121 meeting with your manager make sure that checking in about wellbeing is on the agenda for your other 121’s. You don’t have to tell them why in detail just “In future 121’s could we add wellbeing and workload to our regular 121 meetings?”. Most of the time all will be well, it just means that if you do need to discuss it in the future you don’t have to make a big thing of it, you know there’ll be an opportunity to talk coming up soon.
You might choose to talk to your line manager about your mental health and share the parts of your Wellness Recovery and Action Plan (WRAP) that are about what they can do to support your wellbeing at work, or during a recovery period should it be needed.
2. Having someone you feel confident contacting if you’re struggling with your wellbeing
A work buddy is often part of your induction. They are there to help you settle in, understand the structure and systems at work and also to answer all those little questions that everyone has at the start of a job. You needn’t feel silly asking a question for the 5th time – no one remembers everything they’re told in a work induction, it’s a bit like the information overload you get in Freshers Week! They’ll be someone else that can check in with you regularly about your wellbeing but in a less formal way than a 121 with a manager.
3. Knowing that taking breaks during the workday is fine.
Breaks are hugely important – be kind to yourself. It’s so easy to get involved focussing on a project and forget to take breaks. Make sure you get regular time away from your desk – definitely lunchtime and also a shorter break mid morning and afternoon.
Also make sure you’re getting enough sleep and eating/drinking enough. If you look after your physical self you’re also looking after your mental self.
4. Knowing that your organisation is proactive about promoting wellbeing
Find out if there are wellbeing initiatives at work – these might be wellbeing networks, newsletters, regular communications about wellbeing etc. If your organisation doesn’t already have one think about being the person to start one. It doesn’t take much – maybe send a weekly message round your team reminding them to take walk in the sunshine at lunchtime, notice if colleagues are struggling with something – take other ideas from the Action for Happiness calendars. You’ll find your fellow team-mates appreciate it.
5. Feeling included in work-related social activities.
You might be tired at the end of a working day and not really feel like it but getting to know your colleagues out of the work context is important for your wellbeing. If there are work drinks, cinema trips, anything really its worth going along even if it’s just for half an hour. If you don’t want to go it can be enough just to be invited and to know that you’re included as part of the team.
Just under 15% of adults in the workplace are struggling with their mental health at any one time. Understanding and support for wellbeing is improving all the time. You may well never need it but if you do, remember that you don’t have to struggle on your own.
Careers Service Resources for Mental Health:
Mental Health support and advice outside University: