Blog

Exam Season Strategies to Maintain Your Mental Health

With the first semester of the school year coming to a close, there’s one final obstacle that remains, separating you from a peaceful holiday respite with family or friends: the dreaded exam season.

Depending on your major, you might find yourself facing a series of multiple-choice exams or a number of essays with daunting word count requirements.

Don’t fear: if this is your first pass through the gauntlet, know that with a bit of hard work and organization, you’ll emerge victorious. If it’s not your first, even more reason to be rest assured: you’ve conquered the syllabi before and can do so again.

It’s no secret that exam season can be overwhelming for students, including those that haven’t reached post-secondary education yet. Many schools have begun adopting approaches to planning increased mental health service availability based on their arrival. Take advantage of these resources if you need them – they’ll help make sure that you get through your exams and be stronger for it. Here are some other tips and tricks that’ll make sure you can head into your post-exam holiday with some swagger in your step:

Healthy Body = Healthy Mind

In the quest to conquer our exams, we sometimes take a single-minded approach to studying and neglect the thing that matters most: our health. Late-night cram sessions, fueled by Red Bull and Snickers Bars isn’t a recipe for success, it’s a recipe for sleeping in past your exam time with a stomach ache, to boot.

Structure your exam studying schedule so that it accommodates meal times and short breaks for a workout.  Consider getting even a bit of exercise right before the exam: a study has shown that 20 minutes of activity beforehand can boost test scores. Similarly, there’s a link between food quality and student test scores. So trade in that chocolate bar for some baby carrots. Your body will thank you and your mind will too.

Don’t Go it Alone: Get a Study Buddy

When exams are upon us, it’s easy to transition into a survival mode where we’re so focused on getting ourselves through this that we forget that there are dozens of others in our classes in the same spot as us. There’s strength (and smarts) in numbers: recruit a classmate or organize/find a study group to boost your chances of acing the test.

Some of the benefits: you both can motivate the other to stay on top of studying, you can divide and conquer different parts of the course materials and teach it to each other, they can more objectively judge whether your answer is right or wrong and you can rely on each other to make sure you don’t miss the exam! Not to mention, the isolation of studying alone can be stressful. With a study buddy, you’ve got a partner to fight the loneliness and perhaps, a new friend.

Find Your Zen Place

You know that person that claims they’re constantly studying but when you find them at the library, they’re either on Facebook or chatting away to someone across from them? That’s not a model that you want to emulate. When it comes to studying, channel your Zen focus by finding a good place to study, ignoring distractions and avoiding multitasking. In a study from the University of Connecticut, students that multitasked while doing homework ultimately did their work for longer and achieved lower grades.

Responding to a new notification on your phone might seem harmless but distractions can really hurt your studying regime. Once distracted, on average, your brain needs 25 minutes to get back to the task at hand.

Your best bet is to put your phone on silent, find a quiet place to study and if you lack the discipline to police yourself, consider installing an app to block you from browsing the web while in study mode.

All Work and No Play is No Fun

From the immortal words of Park and Recreation’s Donna, its important to “treat yo self”. In this case, treating yourself doesn’t necessarily mean rampant consumerism but instead, giving yourself permission to take a break and enjoy yourself, whether that’s going out with friends, playing a video game, watching a movie or taking a nap. According to the Atlantic, the optimal formula for productivity is 52 minutes of work and 17 minutes for break. Obviously, not all activities can be accomplished in 17 minutes but budget your time responsibly and you’ll achieve a good study/life balance.

Try also saving your social media consumption for your breaks – it’ll help you keep your Zen-mind for studying and you’ll feel better with that many more notifications to respond to.

Your Mental Health is More Important than the Exam

We’ve saved the most important tip for last: never think that this exam matters more than your wellbeing. It’s tragic that suicides tend to spike in exam periods and good, young lives are lost to the stress of questions on a paper. Yes, they can determine your academic success but they’re by no means definitive or final. You can always retake a class, seek an exemption or work with your school’s mental health services to find an accommodation. If you’re feeling overwhelmed, talk to someone, whether that’s your professor, classmate or mental health service provider and develop a plan to take control of your mental health.

 


Work Holiday Parties: How to Navigate the Season Like a Professional

With this year coming soon to a close and 2019 waiting in the wings, the season of the work holiday party is upon us. It’s a time to unwind and celebrate your achievements together, all usually at your employer’s expense.

On average, we spend 40 hours a week with our colleagues, for a grand total of 2,087 hours a year. Compare that number to a British study of 2,000 families that found the average time spent with family, “undistracted”, weekly, was just over 6 hours and you’ll start to wonder if the concept of the “work family” is really such a stretch.

With all that considered, how we present ourselves – and how we’re perceived by our coworkers – matters. This is especially true of holiday celebrations, where a lowering of workplace formalities and the introduction of alcohol into the mix can either be great for office or shop morale or a recipe for poor decisions.

In today’s blog, we’ll provide you with some helpful tips that’ll help you plan and/or navigate your workplace holiday festivities like a professional.

Celebrate Diversity

For many employers, the end of the year party is often billed as the “Christmas Party”. While there’s nothing wrong with celebrating the holiday, it’s important to be mindful of your workplace’s diversity of cultures and religions in doing so.

That means making sure the party doesn’t focus on religious elements associated with the holiday that could make your colleagues from different backgrounds uncomfortable. Stick to decorations and themes that celebrate the seasonal and secular elements and substitute the nativity scene for a nutcracker. This will help ensure that your party is inclusive and doesn’t alienate anyone in attendance.

At the same time, make sure that your catering options accommodate different dietary restrictions. Include vegetarian, vegan, kosher, halal options and make sure to also accommodate those with allergy restrictions as well.

Alcohol: Keep Within Your Limit

The cliché of one-too-many drinks at the office holiday party is one because it’s a mistake committed far-too-often. There’s no easier way to tarnish a good year and reputation with colleagues than to imbibe past your limit and to say things that you may not remember but will most certainly regret. There are a number of strategies to handling libations, including imposing a two-drink limit, subbing in water every other drink or most effective, leave the drinking for another time. That way, you’ll wake up with a clear head and an unburdened mind.

Another important alcohol related note to consider: if you’re drinking at the party, don’t drive. There’s no better way to ruin your career, your life and potentially, someone else’s than by getting a DUI and not showing up for work the next morning. Many employers today offer taxi-chits for employees to get home. Besides looking after their employees, there’s a good reason to do so: employers could be held liable for overserving employees at parties.

 

Keep Conversation Light and Cheery

One of the joys of the workplace holiday party is enjoying a holiday party with a minimal focus on the workplace. You have the next day or the Monday after to discuss the finer points of the new report or project – this is a time to connect with your colleagues and learn more about them and let them know about what you’re passionate about.

Keeping things light and cheery also means avoiding meanspirited gossip. Avoid talking negatively about another colleague, the party or something related to your job. Not only will this keep people merry and in festive spirits, but you’ll also be able to steer clear being labelled a holiday Grinch and have it come back to haunt you like it did to Mr. Scrooge.

Show Up and Know When to Leave

You might be thinking, “I could avoid all of these potential pitfalls and problems if I just skip the party”. While you could stay home, you might want to think again about whether you’re really playing it safe. Many companies look at events like these as mandatory – unless you have a valid reason, like a religious holiday conflict or a prior obligation, you’ll miss out on establishing stronger bonds with your bosses and colleagues. In turn, this could potentially affect your social relationships and ultimately, your career.

In terms of timing, don’t arrive too early or party too late.  Too early and you might aggravate those setting up (or get enlisted into doing the job yourself) and too late and you might overstay your welcome and running afoul of tip #2. Stay for the speeches and toasts and find an appropriate time to leave after you say your goodbyes.

Conclusion

There are plenty of other strategies to handling the holidays gracefully. Employ them so that you stay employed, just the same!


Seasonal Affective Disorder: Stay Cheery This Holiday Season and Light Up Your Life

You might’ve noticed but something is afoot: the air is crisper; the trees a little bare and the sun doesn’t shine as it used too. It’s that time of the year again – winter is soon around the corner.

And while it’s a time for celebration, from winter sports, to family time and social occasions, you might find that your energy is waning and your holiday cheer isn’t in full festive force.

You’re not alone: it’s estimated that 4-6% of people feel this way during the winter. The culprit? Seasonal Affective Disorder (or SAD for short) is a form of depression tied to environmental changes, most often related to the arrival of the fall or winter. SAD can be a depressive disorder on its own or it can also exacerbate pre-existing depression or other mood disorders.

If you’re a woman, you’re also much more likely to experience SAD: four out of five people who experience it are female. You’re also much more likely to experience SAD if you’re between the ages of 20 to 30. Researchers aren’t exactly sure why those of advanced age are at less risk.

While the exact mechanism behind SAD isn’t entirely understood, there is a consensus that reduced sunlight is part of the reason why this happens. For one, serotonin – a mood regulating chemical that the human body produces – is produced in greater quantities when sunshine is more plentiful.

Melatonin is also understood to be play a prominent role in SAD’s development. With the shorter period of daylight, our circadian rhythm (think of it is as the body’s internal clock) is disrupted and the body overproduces melatonin, a naturally occurring hormone that helps us sleep; explaining why SAD can make you feel lethargic.

For these reasons, one of the most popular treatments for SAD are light therapy lamps, designed to replicate sunlight by producing a very bright light that can “trick” your body into optimizing its serotonin and melatonin production. The experts typically recommend a 10,000-lux light box with 30 minutes of exposure upon waking to start your day off right.

It’s also important to note that you need to have your eyes open while using a SAD lamp, otherwise it won’t be effective. However, due to the potential for eye damage from staring directly into the bright light, you should position the light above you or off to the side. Try reading a book or doing some journaling while using the light to make the most off your time.

Just like any mood disorder, SAD’s severity can differ significantly from person to person and light therapy may not be effective enough on its own to help you handle the winter blues. Talk to your doctor about medical treatments for SAD, including antidepressants; especially if you’re experiencing significant disruption in your day-to-day life.

In previous blogposts, we’ve already shared the benefits of exercise for regulating mood as well the importance of a full night’s rest. These are both critical components to any self-directed approach to addressing SAD.

If you’re waiting for the sounds of spring on a cold morning as an indication that your gloom may soon be gone, try giving these SAD treatments a try and you might find yourself merrier and full of holiday cheer.


EAP Expert V3 Release notes

As of November 1, 2018 we have updated EAP Expert with the following new features and bug fixes.

If you want to learn more or see some of these in action, register for our webinar on Nov 1st where we will be previewing the new features and discussing some of the other key bug fixes. Click here to register.

Features Added 

  • Added ability to restrict New options in the Scheduler Context Menu. 
  • Added a second type of attachment called Secure Attachments to allow for different kinds of attachments with different kinds of security permissions. 
  • Added option to restrict some administrators from using the Edit Model under the Tools Menu 
  • Added ability to manually import Call Center called via CSV file, as well as allowing CSV filetypes to be automatically imported from an FTP 
  • Added check for duplicate office locations when creating new clinical office locations 
  • Users are now unable to delete a file if it has an Authorization that is pushed to Provider Files 
  • Added ability to disable to Primary Counselor prompt when creating an Authorization 

Issues Resolved  

  • Updates SFTP client tool to allow for larger encryption keys to be used 
  • Fixed error when selecting Information Call in the Service Request window 
  • Fixed error when trying to add a contact to an Organizational Service 
  • Fixed error with Work/Life Service Request 
  • Fixed issue with Work/Life files not being included with the Subsidiary Report 
  • Fixed error when trying to add a new file to an existing file that isn’t saved and is missing a required field. 
  • Fixed issue where the system was not showing the error message when a required field was missing 
  • Fixed error that can occur after customizing a layout 
  • Fixed issue with Provider Claims entry not showing column values correctly, remembering the previous authorization number, or changing column values after updating the authorization number 
  • Updates syncing with Provider Files to reduce errors 
  • Improved syncing process and speed with Provider Files 
  • Improved syncing process and speed with Customer Portal 
  • Various improvements on screen loading times throughout the system 
  • Fixed issues with Activity and Session times not calculating correctly 

Items Changed  

  • Updated Email and Website validation throughout the system to be more inclusive and consistent 
  • Changed Authorization Number criteria in the client file search to be a text field instead of a drop down 
  • Changed label on empty search grids to be larger, and suggest reasons why there might not be any results 
  • Action items in toolbars will no longer show up as a dropdown if only one action is available 
  • Sorted the Tools Menu items to be Alphabetical

Creating a new account in EAP Expert Service Desk

Effective Dec 1st, EAP Expert will be officially launching our new Service Desk for all our customer support inquiries and tickets. The current EAP Expert support email (support@eapexpert.com) will no longer work for clients after Dec 1st. All users will receive an autoresponder email asking you to go to support.eapexpert.com to access our new Service Desk after Dec 1st.

We started the process of introducing a new software system for our support team back in June of this year. Many processes needed considering and adjusting to ensure a seamless transition from the old support email to the new Service Desk. Effective immediately, we are very pleased to announce the upcoming launch of our brand-new support ticketing system available today.

Whenever a ticket is required, the improved workflow will enable us to help our users more quickly and more specifically. Also, references to existing helpful entries in our knowledge-base will be easier to provide for our support members under the new system.

Internally, our software development team has been working with a system called “Jira” since June, and the new customer support system is now also based on the same solution. The move away from email driven support towards the “Jira ServiceDesk“ will make many things easier in the future. Ideas and problems can be exchanged more uniformly between end users, developers, and admins. Similarly, we will have a standardized channel of communication between the various units that may be involved in solving a problem.

To prepare for Dec 1st,  all clients should go to our new dedicated web portal at https://support.eapexpert.com and setup an account if you have not already done so.

To setup a new account follow these steps;

  1. Goto https://support.eapexpert.com and click on the sign up as noted below

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

2) In the new window, insert your email address and click “send link”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

3) Check your email for the link to complete the setup transaction

 

 

 

 

 

4) Click on the link provided to you via email and complete the sign process as noted below. Once you have filled in your full name and chosen a password, click sign up and you should be good to go.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

If you have any trouble with any of these steps, please reach out to your account manager or call us directly at 1-855-327-9778


Mitigating your carbon footprint in the workplace

Last month, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change released a major report on the state of climate change across the globe. It was bleak. The panel, composed of scientists tapped to guide world leaders, concluded that catastrophic natural events caused by climate change would begin occurring with more frequency and severity much sooner than previously anticipated. The report predicted that by 2040, food shortages and wildfires—among other disasters—would exact a devastating cost on nations around the world. The main instigator of these disasters? Greenhouse gas emissions.

The report’s prescription for damage-control was (as it has always been) simple: reduce our reliance on greenhouse gases immediately. The report concedes that while this is politically unlikely, it is technically possible. And while the lion’s share of carbon emissions are from just a handful of companies, that doesn’t negate the importance of smaller-scale changes in combating climate change. After all, the persistence of greenhouse gases and our global reliance on them is driven by profits. If the demand for these materials begins to decline, carbon-emitting juggernauts will be forced to explore greener alternatives.

Though baby steps towards better consumption practices can feel futile in the face of such daunting circumstances, implementing these changes is vital—especially if, as scientists predict, we are going to be forced to radically shift our ways of life to adapt to the threats we face. Getting ahead of this shift isn’t just ethically sound, it’s smart business practice. Here are a few tips for preparing yourself and your office to reduce your carbon footprints.

Encourage Meatless Mondays

The name is sure to prompt a chuckle, but the practice is sound: switching to one vegetarian meal a week is a gentle transition to rely less on industrial farming operations that use an incredible amount of natural resources and generate huge carbon outputs. Try implementing Meatless Mondays at the office to get people on board with the idea. This can be a fun one, too; perhaps each employee brings in a veggie dish for an herbivorous buffet. Incentivizing positive behaviours is always a useful tool, so consider offering a small prize for the best meal. This will also drive your colleagues to get more creative with their meatless meals—chances are once they see how simple, affordable, and delicious vegetarian dishes can be, they’ll want to make more. Progress begets progress!

Reduce waste in the office

This seems like a no-brainer, and great strides have likely been made in this department over the past few decades. Plastic cups and unsorted garbage and recycling have thankfully gone out of vogue, but if you take a step back to observe your office’s practices, you’ll likely find wasteful practices that could be eliminated. Basic waste-reduction strategies are easy to implement: stock reusable mugs and dishware in the office to discourage folks from using disposable ones. Remove bottled water in favour of a Brita-filter jug. Make sure your office has a green bin for compost and food waste. Use paper products with high post-consumer waste content.

Cut down on business trips

This might be the toughest challenge for workplaces, but it’s also the most crucial. Transportation accounts for roughly 27% of greenhouse gas emissions in the United States. In 2017, Americans took 462 million one-person business trips. Cutting down on travel means cutting down on greenhouse gas emissions. Business trips are an engrained and normalized part of most workplaces, even though technology has advanced such that the majority of these trips are unnecessary. Take a hard-line on these: unless it is absolutely critical that someone be present at an event, replace trips with video calls. Strides in virtual reality are making video calls even more immersive, so consider investing in those alternatives to save both money and emissions.


Celebrating Movember the healthy way

Each November since 2004, countries around the world have gradually begun marking a new month-long event: Movember. The movement gained international traction around 2007, when it spread across Europe and North America. Now, it’s an institution: men across the world grow and fashion moustaches to raise both awareness and money for men’s health issues like prostate cancer, testicular cancer, and suicide. By 2012, Movember was listed as one of the top 100 non-government organizations in the world.

 

The stated goal of Movember is to “change the face of men’s health.” The campaign seeks to address the compartmentalized and stigmatized nature of men’s health issues, and a key part of this conversation is the role that masculinity plays in stigmatizing these issues. Masculinity has, to some extent, made it difficult for men to express weakness; perhaps more accurately, it’s made it difficult for men to express anything at all besides stoicness.

 

This performed toughness claims lives. Men are less likely to go see a doctor about health concerns than women, which results in unresolved health issues. In some cases, this means a cancer has more time to develop. In others, it might mean depression, gone untreated, culminates in suicide. These are extreme examples, but examples nonetheless: stigma rooted in masculinity directly impacts the wellbeing of men. These issues are compounded in racialized, gay, and transgender men.

If Movember is to be successful in its mission of changing the face of men’s health, it has to be rooted in open, progressive dialogue with men and masculinity. Growing a moustache is a good start, but the real goal is to change the way that men interact with themselves and their health. In order for that to happen, it’s important to approach Movember the right way.

That means letting each man celebrate the month in their own way. Movember is certainly famous for its reinvigoration of the thick upper lip, but even this is rooted in a somewhat sensitive issue. Many men simply can’t grow a moustache, or if they can, it’s an unfortunate, transparent peach fuzz. A thick crop of facial hair has been traditionally associated with the image of a virile, masculine man, so for those that can’t grow sufficient facial hair, the association of manhood and men’s health with facial hair production can be alienating. If someone you know isn’t growing a moustache, don’t badger them about it—there are other ways to further the conversation around men’s health. To borrow a Hallmark-ish platitude: remember the reason for the season!

 

Another way to forward the spirit of Movember is to simply talk to the men in your life about more than the weather. Opening up the floor for men to discuss how they feel is a key facet of improving men’s health. This doesn’t have to be a grand gesture or a drawn-out process; it can (and arguably should) be an effortless, routine conversation. Pop a question like, ‘How are you feeling?’ or ‘Is there anything you want to talk about?’ The inverse approach is to bring up a personal issue you’re dealing with, to signal that there is space for that sort of discussion. The routinization of these chats can help others to feel more comfortable in confronting and addressing their own problems.


Take a break from upsetting news cycles

There’s a new, sardonic joke cropping up more and more on social media. It has developed in response to an increasingly-concentrated news cycle which has been reliably upsetting. For many, exposure to this cycle is draining and tiring. The joke, which takes different forms or structures, is always a configuration of this formula: “Wow, this day has lasted for a year.”

 

It’s given to hyperbole, which is part of both the fun and the point—it’s risen in step with an increasingly severe deluge of concerning news stories. But it also articulates a very real and serious issue: citizens who are engaged with national and international news are being exhausted by it.

This is distressing not least of all because the goal is in fact to have an entire citizenry that is informed about and, ideally, involved with their nation’s top news events. But staying constantly attuned to this news can be traumatic, especially when the news revolves around allegations of sexual assault like those put forth against Brett Kavanaugh, or the Environmental Protection Agency’s relaxing of radiation protections. These are patently troubling topics for all, but for those who have personal associations with them, these news stories—which are hard to avoid—can be especially triggering for feelings of depression, anxiety, and hopelessness.

In light of this, folks across the world have begun to formulate coping strategies to insulate themselves from this omnipresent content. These include tools to curate what we’re exposed to online, to stepping away from the web altogether. Here are a few tips to try if you feel like taking a break from the troubles of the moment.

 

Use Keyword Blocks On Social Media

If you’re someone who often uses Twitter, Facebook, or other social media that expose you to news, you should consider employing the various keyword-blocking mechanisms that each of these platforms offers. Facebook recently installed their Keyword Snooze feature, which allows users to block content that contains certain words for a set amount of time. Twitter’s Mute function is pretty much the same in practice. It’s explained well here, and, like Keyword Snooze, will prevent tweets with specific words from entering your feed. You can use these tools to block triggering content from mucking up your timeline.

 

Decline Conversations About Tough Topics

An important note on these issues is that they will affect people differently. For example, someone who is a survivor of sexual assault is more likely to be upset by discussions of Bill Cosby’s trial than someone who isn’t. It’s important to remember that we aren’t obligated to participate in conversations that cause us discomfort. Feel free to say, ‘I’d rather not talk about that right now,’ or excuse yourself from the discussion.

 

 

 

Step Away From Your Screen

Even with keyword-blocking features on social media, unexpected bad news can still find its way to us through our computer, our phone, or our TV. It’s more important than ever to step away from these screens and center ourselves in our world with physical surroundings. Try going for a short (or long!) walk, or doing something else that requires simple motor skills. These tasks can help alleviate stress and help to calm senses.


Columbus Day in The Workplace

October brings with it a number of notable holidays. Candy and costumes reign on Halloween, an undeniably fun, if somewhat objectively absurd, celebration. International Day Of The Girl, observed on October 11th, celebrates girls and women across the world, and seeks to address the unique challenges they face. October 1st marks perhaps the one holiday that every human on the planet could agree to participate in: International Coffee Day.

In the United States, as well as countries in Central and South America, Columbus Day has been observed for over a century. Under President Franklin Roosevelt, it became a federal holiday in 1934; in 1971, it was officially attached to the second Monday in October. As its name suggests, the holiday is dedicated to Italian explorer Christopher Columbus’ ‘discovery’ of North America.

 

The word discovery is placed between quotation marks because, as we can now factually assert, Columbus did not discover North America. It had already been discovered, and in fact was home to thriving populations of Indigenous peoples across the continent—estimates put pre-contact population at around 10 million. Columbus is, through the holiday, credited with founding modern North American civilization. But he is also now credited with beginning the enslavement and destruction of another, one which has struggled to thrive post-contact.

 

This is where Columbus Day becomes an issue: it means different things to different people, but not in the innocuous, ‘I don’t celebrate that’ way. To Indigenous people on this continent, it is a celebration of a man who committed genocide against their populations; in a 2015 article, Washington Post asserted, “Did genocide directly result from [Columbus’] decrees and his family’s commercial aims? Yes.” In recent years, this information has been widely-platformed across the United States, where Columbus Day is most prominent. It’s resulted in states and cities across the nation rejecting Columbus Day, instead choosing to replace it with holidays that honor their native populations.

 

In South Dakota, it’s known as Native American Day; in Oregon, Indigenous Peoples’ Day. This phrasing, originated in the states by the municipality of Berkeley, California in 1992, has been picking up by other cities: Seattle, Los Angeles, Denver, Austin, Salt Lake City, Cambridge, and more observe Indigenous Peoples’ Day.

 

Given that Columbus Day is a contentious and potentially offensive occasion, it’s important to plan alternatives for your workplace—perhaps celebrations like those modeled by the aforementioned municipalities. Consider educating your staff on the histories of Columbus’ violent campaigns in the Americas, or the past and present issues visited upon Indigenous populations by colonial campaigns. Education and understanding are key tenets of a healthy, inclusive workplace, and altering how Columbus Day is celebrated in the workplace is a step towards a healthier work environment.


Why the Gig Economy Is Affecting Worker’s Mental Health

Since the Industrial Revolution started nearly three centuries ago to this current day, the nature of employment has been in constant flux. From the hard-earned victories of organized labor to the efficiencies gained from mechanization and automation, people have straightened their ties and laced up their work boots to get things done and build a better and bigger world.

We’ve adapted to these changes and for the most part, the trends have moved to provide greater work/life balance.

But if you read the headlines these days, it seems something is amiss: for some, postsecondary degrees don’t go as far as they used to in the job market, increased globalization has led to increased offshoring of once dependable jobs, automation is threatening to replace workers. And then there’s the arrival of the gig economy.

Wait – what’s the gig economy?

While in the U.S., the unemployment rate is at a 17-year low, nearly 1 in 4 workers now earn money from the digital platform economy. For the most part, the gig economy arrived early with temp labor and has been popularized in the context of digital age employers, like Uber, Jiffy and other task-based services, that have led to more and more workers employed on a per job basis – sometimes without the prospect of vacation, sick leave, health benefits or employment certainty.

By jumping from gig to gig, workers could be taking on significant stress, isolation and physical ailments while pursuing precarious work. Another identified impact: struggling to find an authentic work identity when trying to fulfill multiple roles that require different personas.

Another hazard: going it alone can mean you’re at a greater risk of injury, especially when trying to maximize the number of “gigs” you’re doing to earn a greater pay-off. As the Financial Times references, demand for food delivery is often highest when conditions are hazardous, creating a lucrative lure for bike couriers that could lead to injury.

Yet with all the troubling effects that the gig economy could be afflicting on workers, there’s a reason why this article’s title refers to “affecting” instead of “hurting”.  The gig economy has freed some workers from the confines of the set 9 to 5 workday and allowed them to work when it’s convenient for their schedules.

Especially for those within a creative sector, the gig economy gives them the opportunity to be able to manage their work by choosing the jobs they want to do; helping avoid the burnout of fulfilling orders passed down by a manager.

So if you’re a worker who is either working “full-time” in the gig economy or moonlighting to earn a few extra dollars on the side, how can you ensure that you’re staying on top of your mental and physical health?

  1. Budget your time and salary accordingly: given that flexibility is one of the key draws of working in the gig economy, managing your day so you have more personal time is a huge plus. But financial insecurity at the end of the month can cause significant stress. Plan how much you need to earn, stick to a budget and track your progress regularly to keep going strong.
  2. Know when to rest: maximizing your earnings by working constantly can be alluring but can lead to serious physical and mental health risks. Try to stick to an eight-hour work day at most – there’s a reason why this has become the standard for most developed nations. If you’re stressed, sick or need a break, take it: resting now could save you from burnout and ultimately more necessary time-off down the line.

 

  1. Stay social: for many jobs in the gig economy, the work is often independent, which can lead to isolation and its detrimental impacts on mental health. Find ways to engage with those around you, whether they’re clients, other gig workers and even strangers on the street. Take time out of your day to visit or have a phone call with a friend or family member. You’ll feel happier and more connected to the world around you.

 

We can’t say for sure whether the gig economy is definitively the way of the future. For sure, it’s significantly changed the shape of today’s workforce. In just a few decades, we went from stories of workers that spent their entire careers at one place of employment to those juggling several jobs at once. If you are working in the gig economy, make sure you take the time to take care of yourself and ensure that you’ll be ready to tackle the next gig that comes along.