COVID-19: Looking After Your Employee's Mental Health

11 March 2020

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The Coronavirus outbreak means many workers are facing job losses/freezes, unusual working arrangements and general uncertainty about the future. Follow these tips to support your employee’s mental health during this difficult time.

1.Communicate openly and honestly

Fear of the unknown is a key driver of anxiety. But, staying open and honest and providing useful information to employees is one of the best ways to curb these feelings. This may include:
Communicating clear expectations and guidance about your risk management plan

  • Taking a consultative approach when making changes

  • Providing up-to-date and accurate information about the virus from reliable sources

  • Providing EAP or access to third-party resources to support employee’s mental health during this time

  • Touching base regularly

  • Making it clear how you plan to support your employees during difficult times

Company-wide communications are most powerful when they come from the top. But it’s also important to allow your managers some flexibility when it comes to making decisions for their staff.

2. Set up support groups

Working from home has its advantages. But it also comes with some obstacles including isolation and loneliness. And removing the in-person factor makes it harder to see when people are struggling.

There’s no one-size-fits-all solution, but businesses should consider different ways of making their employees feel socially supported; for instance, setting up buddy systems, mandatory weekly catch-ups via video call, daily check-ins, virtual social sessions or daily online creative challenges or puzzles.

3. Promote access to support 

We touched on this in point one, but it’s important. If you provide employee support services (like EAP), be sure to promote how your employees can access them. Send around specific, helpful mental health resources and make sure people know who they can talk to within the organisation if they need further support. 

4. Remember that everybody is different

Keep in mind that certain people or groups may be more affected than others by news of the outbreak. And these people will require extra support and resources.

Individual circumstances also vary and remote working may not be appropriate for some staff. So, stay flexible and remember that everybody is different. 

5. Create a working from home policy

Working from home comes with some other less obvious downsides, like eroded work-life balance, inability to switch off and lack of motivation.  

So, create a Working From Home policy that sets clear expectations (particularly around set up and working hours), and arm your employees with proactive strategies that will help them overcome some of the obstacles of working-from-home. For instance: 

  • Keeping their routine

  • Setting boundaries

  • Switching off

  • Encourage health and wellbeing

Helpful links

Beyond Blue

  • Beyond Blue has fact sheets about anxiety and offers other practical advice and resources at beyondblue.org.au.

  • The Beyond Blue Support Service offers short term counselling and referrals by phone and webchat on 1300 22 4636.

Lifeline

  • 13 11 14 will continue to be operating 24 hours a day, 7 days a week

  • Lifeline Text 0477 13 11 14 is operating from 6pm-midnight (AEDT), 7 nights a week

  • Lifeline webchat operates from 7pm-midnight (AEDT), 7 nights a week

Kids Helpline

Kids helpline is there for children and young people (aged 5 to 25 years) that may need support.

  • Call 1800 55 1800 (24 hours a day)

  • Talk one-on-one with web counselling

  • Check the website for more details.