Wellbeing in the work place is incredibly important, to highlight this, I will tell you my story.
I was working in a fast-paced office environment, constantly juggling various aspects of my job. It was the sort of job where the more work you do the more you get. I don’t like having huge piles of work in front of me, I find it quite stressful, luckily, I had a really good manager. At one point in my working life here we came to the agreement that I would mention when I felt overwhelmed with work and she would give me space to catch up. It worked really well under this system and I felt that I had complete control over my work and was able to help others out at times also. A win all round really.
Unfortunately, everything changed. I was asked to move to another team, a team where my new manager had a bit of a reputation. At first it was fine, I got through the work quickly and in addition I had a designated trainer and training time which I hadn’t had before. I thought everything would be ok. Then the workload started to pile up. I told my manager that I just had too much work on my desk. She agreed to not give me new work so that I could catch up only to continue to give me new work anyway! This continued for a while, my stress levels soared. I didn’t notice it at first, the feelings of stress became my new normal and I started to get physically ill. As soon as I had gotten over one illness I’d have another straight away.
I couldn’t take sick leave because I was expected to be a “team player” and was given work that others needed help with when they went on holiday. I was so busy that I didn’t notice that no one was helping me. I increased my hours to try and catch up. By the end I would consistently have had 3 weeks worth of urgent work on my desk and phone calls on a regular basis chasing for updates and completion dates.
I had no choice but to see my doctor. I had told my manager several times that I had too much work and my colleagues had also spoken to her about my stress levels. The doctor signed me off sick. I went from working almost 10 hour days to having nothing to do for 3 weeks. I hated it, I did not know what to do with myself. Because I had been working so much I had no work life balance so no hobbies to fill my time.
I went straight back to work after the sick leave ended. It was difficult because the slightest thing would make me cry and I did not want others to see this. Managers were supposed to provide reasonable adjustments so that you could work, my manager took this to the extreme. I was told that I must tell her what sort of day I was having every single day (no thanks) and pressure was put on me to take medication. I was sent on a stress course, it was a good course but after speaking to the person running the course I realised I had no other option than to take more time off sick.
During this time of leave I met with some of my colleagues and had some meetings with others in the organisation and managed to get moved to a different team on my return. I did really well in this team for a while, but then my personal life got rather difficult. My resilience was low after my experience at work and I had even more time off sick. I had requested a reduction in hours but didn’t get any advice of how to go about this since I had no children, flexible working was apparently not available for me as it was officially only for families!
Eventually I left this job and struggled to put my life together. The effects of poor wellbeing at work do not end when you leave a job, they impact your entire life. Thankfully I realised that I’m rather strong and the life I have now is so much better than before. The experience allowed me to evaluate what was important and I started many hobbies, I learned about wellbeing, managing emotion and, most importantly, self- respect. I am no longer fighting for my career, I have qualifications that may no longer have any use to me, but I’ve learnt that there are more important things in life. I fulfilled many dreams, I learnt to sew, play the clarinet and met some wonderful people that I wouldn’t otherwise have met. I do believe that if my managers had worked together with me rather than against me that I would have continued to be a valued employee, I would not have needed time off, putting even more pressure on those around me.