The COVID-19 pandemic is likely to cause heightened anxiety and stress for workers. Employers must support their workers and ensure they have a psychologically healthy and safe work environment, whether that's at home or their regular workplace. Steps you can take to manage risks to psychological health are listed below.
Manage hazards and risks
- Keep up to date through official information sources such as https://www.covid19.qld.gov.au/ and Queensland Health.
- Implement the advice and recommendations from Queensland Health
- Identify and support workers in your business that may be more at risk of a work-related psychological injury (e.g. essential support workers, healthcare workers or those working from home in isolation).
- Identify and manage the hazards and risks that impact psychological health in the workplace.
- Monitor Safe Work Australia's webpage for updates and new resources.
- Consult with workers on how work will be conducted differently to enable social distancing and staying safe.
- Lead by example by taking care of yourself and implementing the 5 ways to wellbeing.
- Enable flexibility and consider how good work design may help your workers manage their work, as well as their family and carer responsibilities.
- Communicate with your workers regularly about how your business is addressing COVID-19 and what control measures you are putting into place.
- Ensure clarity around the entitlements that can be accessed, particularly where workers may have caring responsibilities of their family members or become unwell with the virus.
- Remember workers who are on extended leave, or on workers' compensation, also need to be kept informed and understand the impact on their situation.
- Be open and transparent in your interactions with workers. Let them know they are not alone and that it is OK to not be OK.
- Encourage open discussions to enable workers to share or learn from others.
- Share support services ensuring workers know where support is available. Consider creating a central point of contact for workers to go to about any concerns.
- Promote an employee assistance program (EAP) if available and encourage workers to use it.
- Share these free services:
Provide a psychologically healthy work environment for workers working remotely, or from home
If you have been able to implement working from home arrangements for your staff, remember that work health and safety laws still apply. The isolation that can be experienced while working remotely can contribute to psychological injury or poor health. Here are some steps you can take:
- Consult with workers on working from home arrangements.
- Understand the importance of social connections to maintaining good mental health through the icare social connections toolkit.
- Staying connected through regular real time communication by phone or videoconferencing, instead of relying on text or email communication, can help to be more personally connected.
- Recognise the signs that may be indicating someone is struggling by being aware of behaviour and communication changes. RUOK? provide helpful information on how to do this remotely.
- Promote a positive and inclusive culture by setting up regular virtual lunch / morning teas / afternoon teas to encourage social interactions.
- Encourage a routine ensuring start and finish times are clear, including breaks and time for physical activity.
- Educate staff on ways to stay healthy while working from home and share tools and resources with them such as the Black Dog Institute - Managing your mental health at home: Working from home during COVID-19 and working from home safely.
Psychological health resources to use and share during the COVID-19 pandemic
- Beyond Blue – Looking after your mental health during the coronavirus outbreak
- Australian Psychological Society – Tips for coping with coronavirus anxiety
- Headspace – How to cope with stress related to coronavirus (COVID-19)
- Black Dog Institute – Coronavirus Anxiety Resources
- Smiling Mind – Supporting yourself and others through Coronavirus
- HeadsUp – Small Business mental health for employers and employees
- Sane – Top tips for working from home
- SuperFriend – COVID-19 Support Guide
Refer to the following resources for help through change of employment circumstances and uncertainty:
- SuperFriend – communication and control through change
- Staying mentally healthy when you are out of work
- A head for Business – support for small businesses affected by adverse events
- Fair Work Australia – coronavirus and Australian workplace laws
If a worker is displaying signs of mental ill-health and needs help right now, contact the services below for urgent crisis support: