How to be mentally healthy at work

Explains how you can be mentally healthy at work, giving practical suggestions for what you can do and where you can go for support.

Types of work

Figuring out what type of work suits your needs can help you feel better able to manage your mental health while working. When deciding what sort of work would suit you, you might want to think about:

  • how many hours you can work – do you have other commitments that take up your time?
  • when you can work them – do you need time during the day to go to appointments, or evenings free for child care?
  • where you work – how long do you want to commute?
  • who you work with – do you prefer to work on your own, or with other people?

"I find it useful to create spaces in the day when I can stop, reflect and address some of the difficulties in the day."

There are lots of different types of work, with different advantages and disadvantages:

"My employer gives me the chance to [do a] more flexible working hour schedule, as long as the work is done."

Flexible working

With flexible working, you work a set number of hours (possibly full or part-time) but have greater control over when you work. You may have to be in work for certain 'core hours' (for example, 10am to 4pm) but can vary the times you start and finish work outside these hours.

Possible advantages of flexible working

  • greater control over hours worked
  • better work-life balance
  • chance to avoid rush-hour crowds and peak travel costs
  • availability to attend medical appointments

Possible disadvantages of flexible working

  • not always possible – for example, some roles require you to work set hours
  • can be challenging if you struggle with creating structure for yourself

Everyone has the right to request flexible working once they have worked for the same employer for 26 weeks or more. For information on how to request this, see the government's website on flexible working.

Part-time work

Part-time work is where you work fewer hours a day or fewer days a week.

Possible advantages of part-time work

  • better work-life balance
  • time in the day to attend medical appointments, study part-time, look after your wellbeing

Possible disadvantages of part-time work

  • lower income
  • less time to get to know your colleagues
  • less time for training and development

Shift work

Shift work takes place on a schedule outside the traditional nine-to-five day. It can involve working evenings, nights, mornings and weekends.

Possible advantages of shift work

  • greater flexibility
  • time in the day to attend medical appointments, study part-time, look after your wellbeing
  • working late may suit someone who takes medication in the morning that makes them drowsy in the day

Possible disadvantages of shift work

  • less stability
  • working evenings and night shifts are linked with sleep problems
  • impact on your social life

Casual work

Casual work (or zero-hour contracts) is where you can choose whether to work the hours that are available to you.

Possible advantages of casual work

  • greater choice of hours of work
  • can usually end employment without serving a notice period

Possible disadvantages of casual

  • no guaranteed hours of work
  • not always entitled to statutory benefits (sick pay, annual leave, maternity pay etc)

Remote working

Remote working is where you can do some or all of your work from home or anywhere else other than the normal workplace.

Possible advantages of working from home

  • the option to work in a quieter environment with fewer distractions
  • no or limited travel
  • fewer social interactions (this may be positive for some people – for example, if you have social anxiety)

Possible disadvantages of working from home

  • less support available from your employer
  • isolation and fewer social interactions (this may be a negative experience for some people)
  • difficulty switching off from work

Self-employed

Being self-employed or freelancing involves working for yourself.

Possible advantages of self-employment

  • flexibility to choose the hours you work
  • ability to work from home or wherever suits you
  • greater choice over who you work with
  • greater autonomy

Possible disadvantages of self-employment

  • unreliable workload and uncertain income
  • less stability
  • fewer employment rights. See the government website on self-employment rights

This information was published in April 2016. We will revise it in 2019.

References are available on request. If you would like to reproduce any of this information, see our page on permissions and licensing.

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