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Don't let work break your back

Rest important for mental health in workplace

Sithisa Magxwalisa,.
Sithisa Magxwalisa,.
Image: Supplied

According to the Our World in Data survey conducted by Oxford University in December 2019, SA is among the countries with the longest working hours – an average of 2,209 hours annually. In essence, those who are fortunate enough to be employed amid the high employment rate spend a significant portion of their lives doing work.

So, whether you’re the CEO of a large corporation or an intern starting out with hopes of climbing the corporate ladder, it is important and beneficial to find a sense of fulfilment in your career and to nurture your mental health. Thus, performing optimally without driving yourself to a point of mental breakdown is imperative.

“Healthy ways to improve your productivity involve routine and discipline. Sounds boring, but it makes a big difference,” said industrial psychologist Sithisa Magxwalisa.

“You can begin by establishing when your personal peak is when it comes to being productive. The key thing here is to understand when that time is and to allocate demanding tasks to it. This way, you can build a routine and be consistent.”

With many employees seeking to make the most of the year, Magxwalisa emphasised the importance of rest. This does not only come in the form of getting enough sleep but also taking regular breaks in-between your work day.

“Not enough is being said about the importance of resting so that you have the capacity to concentrate and exert your energy into your work tasks. Being well rested and energised actually improves productivity and your overall performance.”

She further warned against the trap of presenteeism, which has many employees overworking themselves and filling their personal schedules with work-related tasks.  

Additionally, team work and a toxic work environment can both contribute towards the detriment of one’s mental health. For the times when team work does not seem to make the dream work, Magxwalisa recommends emotional intelligence, understanding and the implementation of boundaries.

“In group contexts, we need to be able to create a sense of psychological safety that will allow us to freely share ideas, be creative and collaborate. And that requires emotional intelligence,” she said.

“A deeper understanding and acceptance of yourself will build the empathy you need to understand others. But you also need to manage your boundaries. All of this is critical to managing your mental health in the workplace.”

Indeed, it’s no secret that doing what you are passionate about is bound to bring fulfilment. While changing careers can be challenging and stressful, a good support system as well as the consideration of the implications involved is highly encouraged.

“Career changing is actually becoming quite common. People are becoming a lot braver about going after what they’re interested in or what they’ve always wanted to do. It is important to plan ahead and consider the cost implications before taking the leap,” said Magxwalisa.

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