How Job Insecurity Affects Mental Health and How To Cope


As countless businesses have had to shut down, countless people have lost their jobs and countless more have suffered pay decreases. 

As a result, even those people whose income hasn’t changed are worried about losing their jobs, which can have a huge negative impact on mental health, which is already at an all time low as a result of the feelings of isolation and hopelessness many people have been struggling with.

The stress of changes in the work environment are contributing to this, too, as businesses across the globe have had to make hasty changes with how they operate as a result of stay-at-home orders.

Work Environment

It’s long been known that a stressful work environment can have a negative effect on mental health, and this is for a variety of reasons.

Depending on the nature of the tasks you perform at work, if you’re not being challenged enough it can feel repetitive and like your career is stagnant, whereas you’ll also be stressed if you’re being challenged too much, especially under the current circumstances.

High-intensity work environments can cause high levels of stress that persist outside of the workplace, and if your work is very low-difficulty then you may start to grow frustrated or impatient with the lack of effort needed to complete your job. 

It’s very important to strike a balance so you are not overworked, but also not bored by the tasks you must complete.

And now, as a result of COVID-19, many peoples’ work environments have become their home. It can be difficult to motivate yourself to do work when surrounded by people who may not be working, or even when just in your own space as opposed to an office one.

An image of a woman leaning on her arms and looking upset as she stares at the screen of a laptop in front of her.
As a result of the coronavirus, businesses everywhere shut down due to stay-at-home orders, and many offices are still closed and empty even as the state of the world improves with people still doing their work at home or over Zoom. The sudden change was hard on many people’s mental health, and it can also be difficult to do work while at home.

The lack of separation of home and work in your mind, as well, can be harmful.

Not only the work itself, however, but also your interactions with coworkers and your boss can impact your mental health. Feeling like your coworkers— or worse, your superiors —are ignoring or disrespecting you can be very detrimental. This is known as workplace incivility.

In addition, studies have found that people tend to ruminate on negative interactions in the workplace and let it consume their thoughts. This can lead to lack of sleep, as with most kinds of overly negative thoughts, which will in turn make the workplace even less bearable.

Businesses should work to ensure they limit these kinds of interactions in the workplace, and individual employees should try to make sure they’re psychologically removed from their work and that they have good methods of coping or relaxation.

However, though these practices can limit the toxicity of a work environment, they won’t do much to help with the job insecurity that employees may be facing, now more than ever.

Job Insecurity

As a result of COVID-19, unemployment rates are incredibly high and a lot of people are struggling financially due to decreased hours or wages. This instability in the workplace has led to job insecurity for many, or worry about one’s continued employment.

These feelings of job insecurity can be incredibly damaging to mental health, and not just because of the financial concerns associated with losing your job. Work provides structure, purpose, and reasons for social interaction that can be invaluable especially in the current circumstances where you can’t get those things from much else.

Losing these staples of everyday life along with losing one’s source of income can also have a negative impact on mental health. It can also put a strain on relationships with loved ones.

An image of a woman carrying a cardboard box full of office supplies, including a notebook, binders, and a pencil cup.
Being fired can be incredibly detrimental to mental health, often because people tend to blame themselves for it happening when in reality countless people are losing their jobs simply as a result of the global pandemic. In fact, because of the pandemic itself, losing one’s job has become more of a stressor than ever.

Studies have found that those without employment are more likely to feel distressed and report mental health problems as well as a lack of satisfaction with their lives. The longer the period of unemployment lasts the greater the effects will be.

Unemployment is of a particular concern for older employees in their 50s and 60s, who may lose their health insurance along with their job, particularly when you consider the ongoing presence of COVID-19— even as vaccines become more and more available each day —and the higher risk to those of old age.

COVID-19 complicates matters in the job market for younger potential employees as well, however, as there is less opportunity for those graduating college to find employment and become financially independent, which can also have a negative effect on mental health.

An image of a muted-colored office space full of identical computers in identical cubicles. All of the people sitting at their desks are wearing masks.
COVID-19 isn’t just affecting the job market itself, but the circumstances of the jobs within it. Even for those who are able to attend their offices the circumstances are radically changed, which can also contribute to a negative mental health impact.

Low self-esteem can be one common result of unemployment, especially if someone blames their job loss on themself. Psychologists hope to discourage this practice of self-blame and in so doing help to reduce the stigma around unemployment.

There is also reportedly not much comfort to be had in the fact that many people are losing their jobs during this time. While securing a job can improve upon mental health, job insecurity and instability even if one is employed can be very damaging, especially if these emotions persist for a long period of time.

However, mental health professionals are looking for ways to remedy the unprecedented state of the job market.

Coping Methods

Despite the devastating negative effect that job insecurity can have on mental health, there are plenty of ways of reducing this impact.

For example, the first step to finding a solution for any problem is admitting that there is a problem in the first place. The same is true for those struggling with mental health— they first need to recognize that they’re struggling if they want to improve upon the negative emotions they may be experiencing.

In addition, it’s important to not overwork yourself even if fear of losing your job is what’s contributing to or outright causing your anxiety or depression. This can actually cause your mental health to worsen even further.

Instead, take breaks when you need them and don’t take on too many responsibilities. Make sure the goals you set for yourself in the workplace are small and attainable, because unrealistic expectations for yourself will do more harm than good.

An image of a woman leaning back and stretching in her office chair, her arms in the air and her legs propped up on the desk.
Taking breaks is important in any work environment, and especially now as a result of Zoom fatigue and other negative attributes associated with being on your computer for extended periods of time. Not only is it important for your mental health, but employees are legally entitled to break time.

If you’re having trouble doing this, making a to-do list may help you to manage your duties in a more effective way.

A small thing that might help is adding some personal items to your workspace to improve your mood while you’re there. Focus on the positives rather than the negative things, such as workplace arguments and gossip. If you’re already having trouble, there’s no need to involve yourself in activities that will promote negativity.

To that end, try to be aware of what triggers you at work. It may be big reports made to your boss, and it may also be company social events. If there’s a way to avoid these types of stressful activities, definitely do so, and talk to your boss or Human Resources about it if you’re unsure.

You should also be very considerate of not just your mental health but your physical wellbeing, so be sure to stay hydrated and get a good night’s sleep. You’ll be more productive at work if you’re taking care of yourself!

And speaking of taking care of yourself, don’t be embarrassed to ask for help if you need it. Many people struggle with mental health as a result of their jobs— you’re not the only one. If you find yourself really struggling, talk to Human Resources at your work or a mental health professional about what you can do to change this.

Ultimately, your mental health should be just as if not more important to consider as the responsibilities that you face at work. And if your responsibilities at work or lack thereof are the reason you’re struggling with your mental health, it’s definitely time to take some sort of action to fix this.

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