World Mental Health Day – Monday 10th October

For over 70 years, work has been ongoing to make sure that mental health is treated on a par with physical health. Mental health problems exist in our lives, families, workplaces and communities, impacting everyone. We need to do as much as possible to prevent mental ill-health – as individuals and as a society. Action from national and local government is needed to prioritise reducing the factors known to pose a risk to people’s mental health, enhancing those known to protect it and creating the conditions needed for people to thrive.

World Mental Health Day is also a chance to talk about mental health in general, how we need to look after it, and how important it is to talk about things and get help if you are struggling.

As recruiters, we often talk about a work-life balance and how achieving this can protect your mental health – but this is often easier to talk about than to actually achieve.

A healthy work-life balance will mean different things to us all. It’s not so much about splitting your time 50/50 between work and leisure but making sure you feel fulfilled and content in both areas of your life. A healthy balance could be:

  • meeting your deadlines at work while still having time for friends and hobbies
  • having enough time to sleep properly and eat well
  • not worrying about work when you’re at home.

This can be challenging if, for example, we also have caring responsibilities, a demanding boss or health difficulties.

How do I know if my work-life balance is unhealthy?

It can be easy to normalise working long hours or being under extreme stress, especially if we’ve been doing it for a long time or all our colleagues are in the same boat. Our assumptions and habits around work can become deep-rooted unless we take a step back once in a while.

It’s not always possible to make changes at work: if you’re on a zero-hours contract, you might not feel comfortable speaking up, for instance, or you might need to work long hours to earn enough money to pay your bills. But for those who can make changes, recent research suggests regularly checking your work-life balance by following five steps.

  • Pause. Ask yourself: what’s currently causing me stress or unhappiness? How is that affecting my work and personal life? What am I prioritising? What am I losing out on? We often don’t take the time to reflect on work until there’s a major life event, such as the birth of a child or the loss of someone close to us. But just pausing and thinking about your priorities can help you discover whether the way you’re living and working is right for you
  • Pay attention to your feelings. Now you’re more aware of your current situation, how does it make you feel? Are you fulfilled and happy or angry and resentful? Being aware of your feelings can help you decide which changes you want to make
  • Reprioritise. Think about what needs to change. For example, you might want to ask yourself if working long hours is worth losing out on family time or whether working weekends is worth losing out on your social life
  • Consider your alternatives. Is there anything at work you can change to meet your new priorities?
  • Make changes. Maybe that’s asking for flexible hours, making sure you use all your annual leave or not checking your emails at the weekend, for example

Helping yourself

There are steps you can take to improve your work-life balance.

It can be difficult or impossible to stand up for yourself at work if you’re precariously employed or worried about losing your job. Make sure you know your rights (see below) and see if any of our tips feel safe for you to try.

  • Understand your rights at work. Citizens Advice has information on contracts, working hours, sick pay, parental leave and more. For example, if you have a disability (which can include mental and physical conditions), your employer might have a duty to make reasonable adjustments. This could include changes to your working hours.
  • Speak up when the expectations and demands of work are too much. Your manager and employer need to know where the pressures lie in order to address them.
  • Try to ‘work smart, not long’. This involves prioritising – allowing yourself a certain amount of time per task – and trying not to get caught up in less productive activities such as unstructured meetings. 
  • Take proper breaks at work. For example, take at least half an hour for lunch and get out of the workplace if you can. You’re legally entitled to certain breaks during the day and working week: has more information.
  • Try to draw a line between work and home. If you work from home, try to keep to a routine, make a dedicated workspace and switch off when the working day is over. The NHS website has more tips on working from home.
  • Work-related stress can seriously affect your mental health. Ways to reduce stress include exercise, eating well or supportive friendships.
  • If work makes you feel you don’t have quality time for your partner or friends, read Relate’s tips on realigning your work-life balance. They include scheduling time together, getting help with chores and childcare and making every second count if you don’t have much spare time.
  • Keep track of your working hours over weeks or months rather than days. This will give you a better picture of your work-life balance. Factor in hours spent worrying or thinking about work, too – they’re a good indicator of work-related stress. If possible, assess your work-life balance with your colleagues and management staff. The more visible the process, the more likely it is to have an effect.

How can employers help?

Finding a balance shouldn’t just be down to individual employees. The role of an organisation and their management cannot be underestimated and they should;

  • encourage a culture of openness so you can speak up if you’re under too much pressure
  • train managers to spot stress and poor work-life balance
  • offer flexible and remote working where possible
  • encourage breaks, whether that’s during the working day or by using annual leave
  • regularly review your workload to make sure it’s achievable
  • give you time off to volunteer
  • increase support for parents and carers, so they’re not forced to leave
  • allow you to attend counselling and support services during working hours as they would for other medical appointments 
  • encourage stress-relieving activities such as lunchtime exercise or relaxation classes
  • ask employees what would improve their work-life balance

Posted by Sarah Walker

Sarah Walker

Higher Education


With Spring well and truly sprung (can someone please tell the weather forecast!), we take stock of the current landscape of Senior Recruitment within HE and certainly it has not been without its challenges of late.

Join us as we take a snapshot of the big topics affecting HE Leadership and Talent Acquisition.

Higher Education


The winners of the AUDE Awards for 2024 were announced at the association’s annual conference at Northumbria University on 17 April 2024. As ever the standard of the nominations was so strong, and to find one winner amongst such high quality submissions was extremely tough for our judges. Nevertheless a winner there must be, and in eight categories! Every single participant should be very proud, for the work done as well as the initiative and energy and drive shown, and we hope they will feel boosted for the whole of the coming year by the acknowledgement from their peers of the great work involved. Gold, silver and bronzes prizes were awarded as shown below