Loving what you do is essential for a fulfilling career, but in order to do so you’ll likely have to figure out how to find resilience in the workplace. From the location of the office, factory or lab to decent lunch breaks and opportunities to interact with others, a range of factors could influence what makes a workday feel healthy, valuable, and fulfilling – and it’s likely to differ for everyone. At some stage in your career, you may also face a range of pressures, or even a toxic environment. Knowing how to face a bad experience and make the situation work for you will help you ensure you’re getting the most out of your career.
At the Food Matters Live Inspiring Careers in Food event in November 2022, we heard from Pier Bellini, Head of Wellbeing at University of Roehampton and Peter Wareing, Food Consultant and Director, who shared their advice on finding a healthy workplace, responding to work pressures, identifying a toxic work environment, and knowing when it’s time to move onto a new role or company in the food industry.
Finding a healthy workplace
It’s difficult to know whether a working environment will be right for you before you start working there. “You are not meant to know in the first week or first month of induction if you’re the perfect match for the job,” says Pier. “You won’t know your manager or colleagues and won’t be able to assess if this is the right place for you to work.”
While you can’t predict how you’ll get on with your co-workers, there are other things that may influence your compatibility with the role. This could include what you might be required to do day-to-day, as well the location of the workplace and the length of the commute.
When you are invited for an interview, see if it’s possible for one of the rounds to take place at the company headquarters or offices to try and get a feel for where you might be working, says Peter. Working in an open plan office setting for example might work for some but not for others, the same could be said for a closed office layout. In person interviews mightn’t be possible with every company however, especially if you’re not in the same city or region as its headquarters.
Responding to pressure and identifying a toxic environment
The best way to assess whether you’re working in a healthy or unhealthy environment is to speak with your co-workers when you start your role, especially speaking with those who have been there longer than you, says Pier.
“If you see someone like you who doesn’t enjoy their day to day at the beginning, take that as a red flag,” he says, “filter in those experiences through someone who is close you.” The same principle applies for when you’re facing a stressful situation at work. You should make sure there is someone at work which you can speak to when you feel a building level of stress. “This person may not be your manager, but someone else you’re close with in the office,” says Pier. “Remember that you should feel comfortable and confident to speak to your manager when something becomes a bit overwhelming. If it is preventing you from doing the job well it’s important to bring it up.”
A good manager will help you deal with your stress, and should be able to help you tackle your projects in a different way to make sure you can carry them out as successfully as possible.
How to know when it’s time to move on
People stay at jobs for different periods of time, and just because your co-worker may decide to move on doesn’t mean the role suddenly isn’t right for you. “Some people want to move on but some people are very happy where they are,” says Peter. “They might head to a managerial role and hate it but some jobs you cannot be promoted on technical ability and management of people and resources. People might be good at managing technical resources and not people.” A company should have opportunities to move up into a managerial as well as a technical capacity, meaning you won’t be limited it comes to progression, he adds. “A good company will allow people to become a solo expert in their area, leading to excellence without the anxiety of managing people and saying what is good and bad about a person.”
At some stage, you may reach a point where you feel you have reached your peak in your role. When this happens, it’s worth mulling over your overall career aspirations. In addition to this, it’s also important to think about how you live outside of work. “If a job is a good fit, there might be something else that gives you a boost,” says Pier, “what activities give you joy or make your day better?” Such activities could include a sport or cooking class, book club or simply meeting up with friends. While you shouldn’t ignore the feeling that you feel you have peaked in your career, it’s always good to consider that this feeling could also be coming to the fore because something else in your life needs a shift.