Stepping into the unknown of a new workplace can be overwhelming.
Beginning a new job requires you to enter an established culture with new people, new ways of operating and new requirements, according to Dr. Kristi Cannon, director of counseling programs at Southern New Hampshire University (SNHU).
“There can often be an internal battle of knowing that acclimating to a new job takes time and fearing that not doing well or not quickly building effective working relationships equates to failure of some kind,” she said.
Major life changes, like starting a new job, can make you more vulnerable to stress, according to the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI). Cannon said the stress of a new job also might trigger your symptoms if you have an existing anxiety disorder or another mental health condition.
Over time, your confidence will likely improve, and your stress levels should decrease. But taking care of your mental health when starting a new job can be vital to your well-being — and your professional success.
Does Mental Health Affect Your Job Performance?
Mental health can affect job performance in many ways, including your productivity, ability to network and connect with coworkers or stakeholders and the overall quality of your work, according to Alysia Perron, well-being program administrator and health instructor at SNHU.
Perron said if you have a significant stressor in your life without a positive stress management tool, it can slowly take over your thoughts. “This can lead to detachment (from) coworkers and workplace culture, which can result in a feeling of isolation and may further negatively impact one’s mental health,” Perron said.
The National Library of Medicine also noted stress in the workplace can lead to burnout, which affects your ability to engage with your work and personal life.
Conversely, good mental health in the workplace can have a positive effect on your job performance.
“When people have good self-care practices and effectively manage their mental health, they are better positioned to ask for help when they need it and do not interpret the steepness of a learning curve with internal failure,” Cannon said.
Do Employers Care About Your Mental Health?
A survey in Mental Health America’s Mind the Workplace 2022 Report found 60% of employees feel their manager cares about their well-being.
“In my experience, employers do care about employees’ mental health and overall well-being,” said Perron. She said the problem comes when managers don’t know how to help, which often leads employees to believe they don’t care.
“Many companies offer comprehensive wellness benefits; the main issue I see is an overall lack of awareness in these offerings,” Perron said. She recommended learning what mental health resources and policies exist at your place of work, as well as where and how to access them.
Ultimately, caring about employee well-being is mutually beneficial. Gallup noted prioritizing mental health in the workplace makes the most business sense for employers, too.
How Long Does New Job Anxiety Last?
Perron said some people may never feel new job anxiety, while others may experience it weeks before they begin their first day.
“For those who do experience the stress and anxiety that comes with starting a new position, it will typically wear off after your first few weeks, once you’ve become a bit more settled,” she said.
Cannon noted the time it takes to gain comfortability in different aspects of your new role can vary.
“There is the time it takes to learn the skills and operations of a job, and then there is the time you need to integrate and develop workplace relationships,” Cannon said. “Depending on where a person is with both of these and how they manage individual and workplace stressors, this can range from a couple of months to over a year.”
How Can You Improve Your Mental Health in the Workplace?
If you're facing challenges with mental health in your new role, there are steps you can take to improve your situation. Cannon and Perron recommended the following:
Ask for Help
According to Cannon, new job anxiety can depend on the level of support you’re offered in a new position. She said strong mentorship, regular communication and a supportive environment can go a long way in ensuring your needs are met in a new working environment.
If you realize your mental health is suffering, Perron suggested talking to your manager to advocate for yourself.
“Many employees are afraid to mention mental concerns to their employer due to the stigma, but managers are there to help,” she said. “Maybe they simply don’t realize how much is on your plate. Perhaps you can create a more flexible work schedule or set certain boundaries that will allow you to feel more in control of your workday.”
Manage Your Expectations
It’s important to be realistic when entering a new role. Cannon noted people with good mental health can recognize these three facts when starting a new job:,
- Relationships take time to create
- You need time to observe and integrate with your new workplace culture
- In a new environment, learning is natural and necessary
“Employees want to be able to show up for the job they were hired for and often don’t give themselves the grace or time needed to learn and slowly settle into their role,” said Perron. “It is impossible to start a brand-new job and work as though you’ve been there for a year,” she said.
“One of the absolute best ways to improve your mental health in both the workplace and in your personal life is through awareness,” Perron said. She stressed the need to regularly check in with yourself, reflect on how you’re feeling and evaluate your overall wellness.
According to Cannon, you also need to be aware of your strengths and challenges in the workplace so you can address them.
“This also requires a level of comfort in acknowledging your needs and self-advocating when you find yourself in a space of struggle or — better yet — before,” she said.
Prioritizing self-care — in whatever capacity that means for you — is also an important part of establishing workplace balance," Cannon said.
Perron said her own lunch break is non-negotiable, especially when she’s working from home. While some workers might be tempted to work through their breaks, Perron said she always prioritizes her own mental health by using her entire break for herself. “I always come back feeling refreshed," she said.
Why Should You Put Your Mental Health First?
No matter what comes second, your mental health needs to be prioritized first. This is especially true when you’re starting a new job.
“If you don’t show up for yourself, it is impossible to show up for others long term,” Perron said. “As the saying goes, you can’t pour from an empty cup, and when people are relying on you — coworkers, spouse, children, etc. — it’s imperative that you have the time and energy needed to give to them without neglecting yourself.”
“If you don’t prioritize your mental health and attend to how you are thinking and feeling, your work will ultimately pay the price,” she said. “The old airplane adage of ‘putting your mask on first’ sounds cliché, but it really is true. Nothing good can come from a lack of oxygen. And nothing good can come from overtaxed or poor mental health.”
Southern New Hampshire University
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