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Workplace psychological health considerations during COVID-19

Work health and safety obligations extend to both physical and psychological health. Employers must support their workers in the uncertain and changing times the COVID-19 pandemic is creating.

It is important for employers to provide a psychologically healthy and safe work environment for their workers during this time. Workplace Health and Safety Queensland has a new web resource to help achieve that.

The new information highlights how employers should keep up to date through official channels such as www.covid19.qld.gov.au/ and Queensland Health and identify and support workers that may be more at risk of a work-related psychological injury (essential support workers, healthcare workers, or those working from home in isolation).

They can lead change by consulting with employees on working differently to enable social distancing and staying safe, leading by example by taking care of themselves and implementing the 5 ways to wellbeing. Enabling flexibility and considering how good work design may help your workers manage their work as well as their family and carer responsibilities.

It is important to ensure clarity around entitlements that can be accessed, particularly where workers have caring responsibilities of their family members or become unwell with the virus.

Employers should be open and transparent in interactions with workers, letting them know they are not alone and that it is OK to not be OK. Away from the main workplace, it is important to provide a psychologically healthy work environment for workers working remotely, or from home, during the COVID-19 situation.

If businesses have been able to implement working remotely to manage the social distancing controls, it is important to understand work health and safety laws still apply. The isolation that can be experienced with working remotely can contribute to psychological injury or poor health, and measures should be taken to address this by consulting with workers and understanding the importance of social connections to maintaining good mental health through the icare social connections toolkit.

Psychological health resources to use and share during the COVID-19 pandemic

Resources to help through change of employment circumstances and uncertainty

Safe Work Australia also has information to help businesses manage workplace mental health risks. Its recently updated Mental health and COVID-19 web page discusses:

  • how do WHS duties apply to risks to psychological health?
  • what are possible psychosocial hazards from COVID-19?
  • working from home risks
  • what steps can employers take to minimise workplace stress?
  • tips for managing stress from COVID-19.

Further information

More information is at www.safeworkaustralia.gov.au/ and at www.worksafe.qld.gov.au.