Benefits of work

Working while you have a mental health condition provides a number of benefits, and your job can play a key role in your recovery. Work can:

  • improve quality of life and wellbeing
  • give structure and routine to day-to-day life
  • contribute to a sense of meaning and purpose
  • promote opportunities for social inclusion and support
  • provide financial security.

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Work can play a key role in 
the recovery process

Barriers to working with a mental health condition

Depending on your circumstances, certain factors can make it difficult for you to stay at work or return to work after an absence. These include:

  • reduced self-confidence due to your mental health condition
  • worry that colleagues may find out about your condition without your permission
  • stigma related to depression and anxiety, and fear of possible discrimination
  • uncertainty about the type of assistance available to you
  • concerns that work-related causes of stress have not been addressed.

If you have had some time off there may also be a loss of connection with work and colleagues. For these reasons, it’s important to consult with your managers or HR team to make the process as smooth and simple as possible.

How to manage staying at or returning to work

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Planning your return to work

If you're having some time away from the workplace and planning to return, measures you can take include: 

  • having a regular catch up with your manager or colleagues, to keep you connected with the workplace
  • letting your manager know if you want to receive visits or calls from colleagues
  • allowing your manager to be in touch with your GP for regular updates.
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In the workplace

If you're able to keep working, it can help to:

  • set up regular meetings with your manager to define realistic goals and provide progress updates
  • meet up regularly with a trusted support person to discuss how you’re doing
  • ask for adjustments to your role where necessary, such as flexible hours if you need time off for appointments

Returning to work - Lena's story

In this three-part acted scenario we meet Lena, who has taken some time off work to support her recovery. As she prepares to return to the office, she and her manager, Marika, meet to discuss adjustments to her role and any additional support she might need. Together they develop a plan that clarifies all changes to Lena's role, including time frames and next steps.    

 

 

Making adjustments

It’s important to discuss with your manager how your symptoms or side effects can affect your work and what adjustments may be helpful to minimise their impact.

While depression and anxiety have certain common symptoms, everyone’s experience is different and can change day to day, which means the adjustments required will be specific to your situation.

Think about which tasks or parts of your work day are most stressful, which tasks give you energy, and whether there's anything your manager could do differently – how they give instructions or feedback, for example.

Common adjustments include:

  • work hours – if you need time off work for health appointments, ask about flexible hours
  • work routines – clarify goals and write prompts, reminders and checklists to help establish a regular daily schedule
  • workflow – if you need to take time off work to recover, your manager can help ensure you don’t return to a backlog of work, such as hundreds of emails and an overflowing in-tray.

 

 

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Know your rights

Under anti-discrimination law, employers must make changes to your job (known as ‘reasonable adjustments’), provided you can still fulfil the core or inherent requirements of the role.

If you think you’ve been treated unfairly at work because of a mental health condition or you would like information on your rights, speak to the Australian Human Rights Commission on 1300 656 419.