About 25 per cent of the Australian workforce is classed as casual workers.
As a casual employee, there’s a certain degree of irregularity to your work. You may perform your duties in off-peak hours, have stints of unemployment between contracts, or frequently navigate new workplaces. With so many changes it’s important your mental health is a constant priority.
Here we discuss why the mental health of a casual worker is more at risk than permanent employees, as well as three tips you can implement to look after your mental health.
Mental health and casual employment
About 25 per cent of the Australian workforce is classed as casual workers. That’s 2.4 million people who experience job insecurity, with no paid leave entitlements.
However, despite casual workers making up ¼ of the total Australian workforce, it was only earlier this year that insecure work was finally recognised as a health hazard for Australian employees.
Unsurprisingly, insecure work has been on the radar of the World Health Organisation for several years.
According to WHO, there are 10 psychosocial hazards in the workplace. If you are exposed to these over a long period of time, this will affect your mental health. Many of those on the list are characteristic of casual employment.
- Job content – fragmented work, high uncertainty, continuous exposure to people through work.
- Work schedule – shift working, inflexible or unpredictable hours.
- Control – lack of participation in decision-making.
- Organisational culture – lack of support or workplace inclusion.
- Interpersonal relationships – lack of social support.
- Career development – job insecurity.
So, how can you safeguard your mental health as a casual employee?
Three ways to safeguard your mental health as a casual employee
Communicate and connect
In new workplaces, it’s important to work on building relationships with your team members. After all, this is what helps make a new job comfortable and enjoyable. If introductions have not been formally set up for you, go out of your way to say hello to those you work with. If you work odd hours, but have email correspondence with the team, consider sending out a brief but friendly email introducing yourself.
As part of your onboarding, you may also be shadowing a team member. This will give you ample opportunity to deepen interpersonal relationships in your workplace. Remember — don’t be afraid to ask questions or offer suggestions.
Once you have these connections, it also means you have a support system in place. If you feel overwhelmed or underused, talk to your team members.
Focus on learning
Treat each new casual role as an opportunity to increase your skill set. If the role is short-term, think about how you can get the maximum out of your time there. How can you make the best impression? How can you achieve a personal goal or contribute to the business’s success? Shining, even in a short-term assignment, can help advance your career. It might even provide you with the opportunity for another special short-term assignment.
If you are experiencing a longer wait between casual gigs, focus on reskilling or upskilling. It’s a great way to curb any despondency you may be feeling and it will look great on your resume.
Maintain a work-life balance
Outside of the workplace ensure you maintain healthy habits that promote your overall well-being. For some, this might be the gym or adequate family time. For others, it might be sports, cooking or meditation. If you are having a particularly tough time entering a new contract or workplace, you will be able to lean on the other parts of your life for respite. If you don’t place equal importance on things outside of work, any setbacks at work will have you feeling twice as helpless.
Another important factor with casual work is having clear boundaries with your work. Be clear with your manager about when you are contactable and firm that you will not respond to work queries outside of your set hours. If you feel you are being overworked, don’t be afraid to establish your boundaries and say no to an additional assignment or extending the contract. (See: The how and why of workplace wellness.)