Elizabeth Doughty: Work can cause stress but it can also be a way out of it

Published on: 29th May 2018

Stress is increasingly becoming a part of everyday life. But when we feel overwhelmed by it, stress may lead to mental health problems, or make existing problems worse.

I am an employment advisor and through my work at steps2change talking therapies service I come in contact with many people who are affected by stress. I support clients who may be struggling at work due to mental health problems or are not able to attend work because of mental ill health.

Employment advisors offer specific support which goes alongside therapy. This dual approach can provide the best way of helping employees to regain their health and remain at work. Offering employment advice at the earliest stage possible can help clients to avoid having to take sick leave. When someone is off work, we help them to successfully return to their job, or if that’s not possible, to have a fair and reasonable termination of their employment.

Over the years I have helped many people whose mental health problems were affecting their work life. In fact, our service has a very high success rate with about 90 percent of clients retaining their employment.

I used to support a delivery driver who was finding that his role as a relief driver was affecting his wellbeing. He had to remember many different routes in different towns and he didn’t know which route he would have to cover from day to day. He wanted to apply for a different role within his company with a set route. He was worried that he would not be allowed to transfer because his experience of knowing all of the routes and the flexibility that went with it was something that the company valued. With the permission from the client, I spoke with the company to explain the situation and we arranged a meeting between the driver, his manager and the HR manager to have an open conversation about the gentleman’s concerns. When a suitable opportunity came up he applied for it and was successfully appointed.

Many people with mental health problems fear that, no matter how good a recovery they have made, their symptoms will be made worse by going back to work. I always explain to my clients that indeed work can be a source of stress but retaining employment can play a vital role in their recovery. And while it’s not always possible to return to a current post, I work with my clients and their employers to see if there is a different role or a different department within the company that is more appropriate. Sometimes returning to a current employer isn’t the right thing but we all have skills that can be transferred to a new job. I have supported people in the past to move to different roles in other organisations, sometimes more senior ones. If they weren’t able to find an alternative job straight away, we’ve discussed what options they had in terms of appropriate benefits and support until they can return to work.

Employment is beneficial to health and wellbeing.  The right kind of job can improve mental health and protect against relapse. I’m proud to be able to help my clients to overcome their challenges and maintain their lifestyle in a job that is right for them.