COVID-19 recovery and mental health at work

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It’s important for businesses to provide a mentally healthy work environment, ensuring workers stay physically and mentally healthy during this time.

For the latest information and resources to help with COVID-19, visit nsw.gov.au

Workplace mental ill-health during COVID-19 recovery

The COVID-19 situation may cause heightened anxiety and stress for some workers.

Here are some ways managers, people leaders and workers can help mitigate the risk factors that can lead to mental-ill health.

Manage risk factors

Stay informed on the situation through official information sources such as nsw.gov.au, and NSW Department of Health. Also:

  • Become a COVID Safe business to show your commitment to protecting our community.
  • Identify and support workers that may be more at risk of workplace psychological injury. For example, frontline workers or those working from home in isolation.
  • Understand the risk factors of mental ill-health in the workplace.

Lead change

Consult with workers on how work will be conducted differently to ensure a COVID Safe business. Also:

  • Lead by example. Take care of yourself and implement 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, which may be changing through COVID recovery.
  • Communicate with workers regularly about how your business is addressing COVID-19 Recovery and what control measures you’re putting into place.
  • Ensure clarity around entitlements that can be accessed, particularly where workers may have carer responsibilities or become unwell with the virus.
  • Remember, workers on extended leave or workers compensation may also need to be kept informed and understand the impact on their situation.

Provide support

Be open and transparent in your interactions with workers. Let them know they’re not alone and it’s okay not to be okay. Also:

  • Encourage open discussions to help workers to share or learn from others.
  • Ensure workers know where support resources are available. Consider creating a central point of contact for workers to go about any concerns.
  • Promote an Employee Assistance Program (EAP) if available and encourage workers to use it.
  • Sign  your team up for FREE Your mental health at work online training.

Share other available free services such as:

Supporting a return to the workplace

As restrictions ease, many businesses have begun to re-open and workers are making a phased return to work.

It’s important for managers to recognise this change may cause anxiety and stress for many and to ensure the transition is made in a physically and mentally safe way.

Having a COVID-19 Safety Plan in place can help you keep track of what you need to do. Also:

  • Encourage workers to re-establish a routine in the physical workplace and take regular breaks.
  • Be clear on workplace safety procedures, outlined in the COVID-19 Safety Plan, such as workspace cleaning, physical distancing and personal hygiene requirements.
  • Celebrate the opportunity to reconnect socially with co-workers in a physically safe way such as visiting a cafĂ© as a team.
  • Check in regularly with the team to see how people are managing to adjust and if they have any concerns.
  • Beyond Blue provides tips to manage mental health as people transition back to the workplace.
  • iCare has created a toolkit to support NSW workplaces in COVID-19 recovery.
Working remotely, or from home, during COVID-19

Where businesses have been able to continue remote working to manage social distancing controls, it’s important to understand the Work Health and Safety Act 2011 still applies.

The isolation that may be experienced with working remotely can contribute to mental-ill health and measures should be taken to address this by taking these actions:

  • Consult with workers on their working from home arrangements.
  • Understand the importance of social connections to maintaining good mental health through the iCare social connections toolkit.
  • Stay connected through regular real time communication by phone or videoconferencing instead of relying on text or email communication.
  • Recognise the signs someone is struggling by being aware of behaviour and communication changes. RUOK? provides helpful information on how to do this remotely and how to start a conversation.
  • Promote a positive and inclusive culture by setting up regular virtual lunch, morning, afternoon teas to encourage social interactions.
  • Encourage clear start and finish times including breaks and time for physical activity.
  • Educate staff of ways to stay mentally healthy while working from home and share tools and resources with them such as Black Dog Institute: Coronavirus Resources for Managers and Workers.
Resources to stay mentally healthy during COVID-19
Resources for staying mentally healthy when you are out of work

If a worker is displaying signs of mental ill-health and needs help right now

Contact the services below if crisis support is needed urgently: