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4 ways to look after your mental health as a temp worker

24 Mar 2021

Hays’ Tim James highlights some of the ways temporary workers, who often have to deal with irregular working hours and changes, can manage their wellbeing.

Maintaining good mental health is, of course, a challenge for all of us. However, a study from McGill University in Canada found that people who were engaged in temporary, contract or casual fixed-term positions were more susceptible to poor mental health than those in long-term, stable employment.

This may be due to a number of factors, including a perception of being treated differently to permanent employees, inconsistent working arrangements and hours, constant change and a lack of career progression opportunities.

So how can you look after your mental health as a temp worker?

1. Make connections

It’s crucial to prepare so that you are in the best possible position to make a success of your temp assignment from day one. It’ll probably be easier to achieve this if you look to make friends and contacts at your new workplace in the same way you would if you were expecting to be there for years.

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If introductions to each team member aren’t already organised for you, take the initiative. Reach out to find out about the role of each member of the team and how your role fits with theirs. Don’t be afraid to ask questions if you feel the need to and to offer assistance to others. This will help you to be clear from the outset about where your responsibilities start and end, to prevent you feeling stretched.

Requesting to shadow an established member of the team might help further ease you into the company, team and role. Participate in the social side of life at the organisation as much as you can, even if Covid-19 restrictions mean this takes place over Zoom or Skype rather than in person.

Having a productive and respectful relationship with your manager is also important for a temp worker in much the same way as it is for a permanent employee – for future career progression, but also for morale. So, be sure to take the initiative to arrange meetings with your boss often. But also aim to maintain an open line of communication with them at other times.

2. Strive for a good work-life balance

Keeping your habits and routines outside work as consistent and healthy as they can be will help you feel less stressed. Achieving the right balance between your professional and other parts of your life will help to boost your all-round wellbeing and build up your psychological resilience against the setbacks temp work can bring.

Put in place clear boundaries and rules, such as only working your official hours and not checking work emails outside these hours. Also set time aside for hobbies, interests and other things you enjoy, and learn to say no to assignments if you feel you are at risk of being overworked.

3. Invest in your learning

Instil a growth mindset that is all about taking responsibility for building on your present abilities. Regularly upskilling and reskilling, both during and between roles, will help give you a feeling of greater control over your own development and, therefore, your mental health. To this end, you may seek out a mentor at your new workplace who will be able to impart important knowledge.

If you feel that any additional training is needed for you to succeed, don’t be afraid to ask for it. Take on any learning opportunities available within the company and when you’re away from work, enrol in relevant seminars and listen to industry-related podcasts.

Treat each temp job as an opportunity to learn new skills. Again, it’s all about embracing the opportunities for growth and fulfilment that might be right under your nose, instead of presuming you can’t possibly learn much simply because your latest job is a temp one.

Don’t just see your current temp role as a source of short-term income – also try to get the maximum value from it as a learning experience. Keep a lookout for opportunities to take on special projects or assignments that other employees may shy away from, but which could allow you to acquire the skills needed to advance your career in the longer term.

This will help you to feel like you’re always moving forward in your development as a professional, instead of simply bouncing from job to job with no broader sense of direction. Above all else, see any periods of unemployment as projects in and of themselves – not periods of limbo, but instead times when you’ll be doing a different kind of work.

4. Talk to others

Not all of us are used to talking about our mental health with others. But if you’re finding it hard to cope with day-to-day life stresses, it’s important to be able to speak up about it. This could be with trusted friends and family and your manager if you feel comfortable doing so.

So, don’t be afraid to ask to arrange a one-on-one meeting with your boss. Prepare what you will say to your manager in that meeting and try to be honest about the specifics of how you feel, while expressing your appreciation of the positives of your job.

Have proposed solutions ready to talk to your boss about, but also be open-minded to their own suggestions, which may differ slightly from yours.

If you feel you need further support, consider asking for a referral from your doctor to speak to a clinical psychologist or psychiatrist.

By Tim James

Tim James is a regional managing director at Hays Australia. A version of this article previously appeared on the Hays Viewpoint blog.

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