COVID-19 and mental health at work
A mentally healthy workplace is good for workers and good for business. Not sure where to start? Find out more about how you can take the first four steps to create a mentally healthy workplace.
COVID-19 has changed the way that we live and work. These changes may cause stress for some people and impact on our mental health. It’s important for businesses to provide a mentally healthy work environment, to make sure everyone stays physically and mentally healthy during this time.
For the latest information and resources to help with COVID-19, visit nsw.gov.au
Watch how manufacturing business, TrendPac have created a COVID Safe workplace, while supporting staff's mental health.
Manage risk factors
- 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.
Workplace safety needs to be a priority for all leaders in business shown every day in the following actions:
- Lead by example. It’s important to ensure you look after your own mental health through healthy behaviours and habits. Take care of yourself and implement the Five ways to wellbeing.
- Consult with your team on how work will be conducted differently to ensure a COVID Safe business.
- Create a flexible workplace and consider how good work design may help your team 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 and what control measures you’re putting into place.
- Ensure everyone is clear on what entitlements they can access, 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.
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 leaders up for FREE Managing for team wellbeing online training.
- Sign your team up for FREE Your mental health at work online training.
Share other available free services such as:
- Beyond Blue Coronavirus Mental Wellbeing Support Service: information, advice and strategies to manage mental health.
- Black Dog Institute Online Clinic: a free online mental health assessment tool for people over the age of 18.
- myCompass: a personalised self-help tool for your mental health.
- Headspace: a guided-meditation app.
As the COVID-19 situation changes, restrictions also continue to change. Businesses have to regularly consider workplace requirements and how this impacts returning to work.
It’s important for leaders to recognise change may cause anxiety and stress and to ensure changes are made in a physically and mentally safe way through clear communications and consultation.
Having a COVID-19 Safety Plan in place can help you keep track of what you need to do plus:
- Encourage workers to stick to a routine 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 when back in the workplace in a physically safe way.
- Check in regularly with the team to see how people are managing to adjust and if they have any concerns.
- Beyond Blue provide 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.
With more people working from home, remotely or even on the road - maintaining a mentally healthy workplace presents a unique challenge. As a leader, you have a responsibly to look after your staff, no matter where they are working, by addressing three areas:
1. Legal obligation
Understand your legal obligations. NSW businesses must comply with the Work Health and Safety Act 2011 and managers still have a responsibility to ensure the work environment is both physically and mentally healthy and safe.
Encourage your team to stay connected by:
- Consult with your team on their working from home arrangements.
- Encourage clear start and finish times including breaks and time for physical activity.
- Understand the importance of social connections to maintaining good mental health through the icare social connections toolkit.
- Promote a positive and inclusive culture and stay connected through regular phone or video catch ups.
- 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.
3. Seek support
- Educate staff on 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.
- The NSW Government offers free mental health advice online. If you start to feel overwhelmed or anxious – seek support and reach out.
- Smiling Mind: Supporting yourself and others through Coronavirus
- WayAhead workplaces: Workplace wellbeing and COVID-19 support
- Australian Public Service Commission and Comcare: Responding to uncertainty and supporting others
- Superfriend: How to spot someone in distress
- The National Mental Health Commission has developed resources to support sole traders, small and medium to large businesses during COVID-19.
- Heads up: Tips to care for your mental health if you have lost your job.
- Ahead for Business: Support for small businesses affected by adverse events
- Fair Work Australia: Coronavirus and Australian Workplace laws.
- State Insurance Regulatory Authority: updates on legislative changes and workers compensation claims.
If you or a colleague needs mental health support right now
Contact the services below if crisis support is needed urgently: