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By Bayside Group

Aug 21, 2020

Looking after your employee’s mental health as COVID-19 continues

The COVID-19 pandemic has drastically changed the way we live, socialise and work. Not only is it a challenging time for us individually, it is a challenging time for the workforce; many workplaces have completely change the way in which they work, and employers are being increasingly called on to manage the wellbeing of their workforce in these uncertain times.

A recent survey showed 87% of respondents reported a significant change to their workplace since the crisis began, and 63% agreed these changes have had an impact on their mental health. The sudden loss of work structure and the uncertainty around our freedom, jobs and health, has undoubtedly caused increased stress to employees.

The 10th September 2020 is R U OK? Day, which is an important reminder to ask the people around you, “Are you ok?”. Asking this simple yet important question can make a real difference to your team and colleagues, who may be going through a difficult time. Starting this conversation will help to create a culture where employees feel as though their health and wellbeing is important and worthy of discussion.

Though restrictions currently vary from state to state, as an employer, it is now more important than ever to implement measures that help to identify and support those employers who may be struggling with poor mental health.

Here are some practical steps employers can take to support employees’ mental health and wellbeing during and after lockdown.

                                                                                                                               

Maintain regular communication

While restrictions may be lifting in your state, many workplaces have been working from home for over three months. This is a prolonged period of time away from the workplace and colleagues, so it’s not unusual that staff may be experiencing greater feelings of social isolation. That is why it’s extremely important you maintain regular communication with your employees, especially those who are working remotely, whether over the phone or through video calls.

Schedule in team meetings on a weekly basis, and encourage your team to stay connected through online chat systems (e.g. Slack, Microsoft Teams) or via emails. It can even be beneficial to schedule a monthly gathering that is more focused on socialising, rather than work. This will give employees time to catch up and connect with one another, just as they might over their lunch breaks or outside of work hours.

 

Check in with your employees

While group meetings provide those peer interactions, it’s just as important to have one-on-one meetings with your employees. This will give you the opportunity to ask “Are you ok?” or “How are you going?” which might encourage them to talk about how they are feeling or bring up any issues they have.  

Some people may not feel comfortable opening up in a group setting, or may struggle to make the first move to contact you. Picking up the phone once a week to check in with your staff, can help to spark conversation and prevent any feelings of isolation.

It is important to note that everyone manages stress and anxiety differently, so while someone may appear to be doing ok, that is not necessarily the case. Asking everyone in your team how they are faring will make sure everyone has a chance to talk about how they are feeling.

 

Encourage breaks

Combining your personal home and work space has seen many people working longer hours, taking less breaks, and answering work calls even after they’ve signed off. Make an effort to remind your employees that they aren’t expected to be working 24/7 and to take some time for exercise, rest and relaxation outside of their regular work hours.

This may sound like common sense, but many people get so caught up in their workload, they do forget. And when they are working, encourage them to get some fresh air at lunch, or walk away from their screen at least once an hour, so they are regularly moving their body.

 

Be honest and keep employees up to date

Recent research has shown that 82% of workers are anxious about coronavirus, and 91% are anxious about the economic downturn. It is a challenging time for everyone, and the greatest mistake you can make as an employer is leaving your employees in the dark.

Be honest with your staff about the impacts COVID-19 is having on your organisation, and what your business is doing to minimise those impacts. Whether this information is provided through weekly email updates, or weekly discussions with your team, keeping staff up to date about the organisation’s activities will help them feel more secure and reduce their uncertainty.

 

Provide support services

While the first step is communicating and checking in with your employees, it is also important to remind them of the resources and external support services they can use. Many companies will have an Employee Assistance Program (EAP) so it’s important to coordinate this for your employees and remind them it’s available if they need more structured support. There are also many free external support services that you can share with your employees. Some of these services include: Beyond Blue, Lifeline and Headspace.

Educate yourself about these resources so you can recommend and offer them to your employees. However, keep in mind that individual circumstances vary, so it’s important to consider and provide options to support the needs of each team member.

 

It’s crucial to prioritise your employee’s health and well-being right now. For more useful tips and advice on employee management, visit our Employer Resources Page or get in touch with Bayside Group today. 

 

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