Charity begins at home, and self-awareness must too

Mental health terms (Jewish News)
Mental health terms (Jewish News)

Something I’ve come across increasingly in recent years within the community is people whose mental health is suffering in the workplace.

For employees, longer hours, extra workloads, the threat of furlough and redundancy due to the pandemic and an increasing need to balance work and home life (and home schooling) can be a toxic mix.

For those who run their own business, this time of Covid may have exacerbated existing problems such as finding clients, irregular income and the blurring of boundaries between home and work, and without the safety nets that can be offered by a big employer.

Indeed, Work Avenue’s recent survey of British Jews found that more than half of those taking part had suffered mental health worries due to job stress over the last year.

What we are seeing reflects wider trends in society at large, where poor mental health costs employers in the UK up to £42 billion a year and mental health difficulties are the biggest cause of sickness absence in the country.

If you’re struggling then please know you are not alone and there are many places you can seek help, whether by talking to friends and family or seeking advice in one of our many supportive communal organisations.

Speaking with my team at Work Avenue, we have put together these five tips that have helped many of our clients who have been struggling.

1) Redefine your work/life balance

Working from home has many advantages – for example lower travel costs and less time away from the family – but when your home is your office it can cause issues.

How many of us check and respond to work emails late at night? Or ignore a loved one because we’re still caught up in ‘work mode’?

If possible, now is a good time to redefine that work/life balance.

For example, using a different login and device for personal and work emails is a great way to separate the two – especially if you try and avoid taking your work device to bed with you.

Taking a proper lunch break and eating it in a different space to where you work is also a good way to keep things separate.

Finally, many clients have found that regular walks during the day – and especially one after work to make it feel like you are ‘coming home’ – can do the world of good.

2) Stay in touch with friends and colleagues

The mental health charity MIND found that the loss of social interaction/structure that comes through work has been one of the leading causes of depression during the pandemic.

Talking and laughing, chatting about the weekend’s football or last night’s TV, and those memorable water-cooler moments are vital to us all.

Even though our water-coolers are now virtual, it’s important to still find ways to connect with others and share experiences.

We can’t physically meet up for a coffee, or something stronger, but try doing it via Zoom or FaceTime. It may feel strange at first, but it’s soon just like old times.

3) Don’t let your physical health slide

In the UK, we sit for an average of 8.9 hours each day. Research indicates this poses a health risk at the best of times, let alone when the gyms are closed and it’s snowing outside.

And working from home, with all those delicious sweet treats around, also isn’t great for our physical wellbeing.

While physical and mental health may once have been seen as separate, the link is now proven. Poor physical health can lead to an increased risk of developing mental health problems.

So try to walk each day and maybe put on an exercise video at home, while also eating healthily when you can and avoiding snacking during the day.

If you’re an employer, then allow your colleagues some time out during the working day to exercise, walk the dog or whatever else it is that’s required to give them the time and space they need.

4) Work on your general wellbeing

I cannot stress enough how important this is. You may feel your problems are simply due to work – maybe a job loss or a project that’s going wrong – but they are usually part of a wider context.

These times are so hard for everyone – being away from colleagues and friends, not being able to exercise as much as we might like and a fear of what is happening in the wider world.

Try not to become obsessed with the news, especially the daily ups and downs of fighting the pandemic. And when you do check in with what’s going, make sure to get your information directly from primary news sources – not scare stories on social media or sent to you via WhatsApp.

5) Set yourself realistic goals

When the first lockdown started, how many of us decided we were going to learn a new language, take up guitar or create a world-beating business?

While it’s great to have dreams to strive for, for your daily work life it’s best to set realistic goals and only make choices over things that you can control.

And when you have those successes, no matter how small they may seem, please do celebrate them and yourself.

  • Debbie Sheldon is CEO of Work Avenue, the Jewish community’s leading employment and business support organisation. They are holding a Wellness @ Work event on the morning of Wednesday 24 February. To find out more please visit
About the Author
Debbie Sheldon is CEO of Work Avenue