COVID-19 coronavirus guidance for employers: Looking after employee mental health
It is reasonable for employees to experience increased worry, anxiety and stress about the COVID-19 coronavirus outbreak. Managing the risk to mental health during this time means employees will have better capacity to fulfil their roles and the likelihood of harm to health is reduced. See ways you can manage the risks below.
Manage risk factors
Employers, managers and supervisors all have an important role to play in preventing and mitigating the impact of workplace psychosocial hazards and risk factors on employees’ mental health by:
- Staying informed about the current situation through accurate information from credible sources such as: Australian Government coronavirus (COVID-19) health alert and Health Direct – Coronavirus (COVID-19)
- Implementing advice and recommendations from the Department of Mines, Industry Regulation and Safety and WA Department of Health.
- Applying a risk management approach to workplace psychosocial hazards to protect and mitigate the impact on employee mental health in the workplace. This includes identifying and supporting workers in your business that may be more at risk of workplace psychological harm to health (e.g. frontline workers or those working from home in isolation) and implementing controls.
Leading during uncertainty
As employees are looking for guidance on what to do, what to expect and how to act, calm and trustworthy leadership is important. You can visibly demonstrate this leadership style through:
- Actively managing your stress and implementing self-care strategies to ensure you are calm and deliberate in your decision-making and actions.
- Leading by example. Role-model the practices you want employees to do such as social distancing, self-care strategies, accessing support services and maintaining work-life balance.
- Communicating information and decisions with empathy and hope to provide a sense of control. Acknowledge employees’ concerns, make it clear that you have a roadmap and let employees know how they can contribute by providing specific steps for employees to follow.
- Communicating your understanding of the risks and the impacts on your business and employees. If you don’t have an answer to a question, then acknowledge you don’t know the answer, tell employees you will find the answer and let them know when you do have a response.
- Being open and transparent in your communication with employees. Deliver information in a clear, honest and straightforward way. A lack of transparent communication can lead to panic and overreaction.
Supportive management and supervisory practices
Management and supervisor support is a well-established protective factor which mitigates the impact of psychosocial hazards on employee health. You can provide supportive management and supervisory practices by:
- Considering flexible work arrangements such as working from home and flexible work hours, and considering how good work design, such as job rotation, may assist employees in managing their work and caring responsibilities.
- Maintaining regular communication with your employees. Let employees know it’s okay to not be okay.
- Sharing support services available to employees such as encouraging employees to use your Employee Assistance Program (EAP) if available and creating an internal central point of contact for employees to contact if they have any concerns.
- Sharing available free services such as:
Beyond Blue - telephone support and NewAccess, a free online mental health support program.
Centre Care - telephone support.
Headspace- a guided-meditation app.
Lifeline - telephone support.
Mensline Australia - telephone support.
myCompass - a personalised self-help tool for your mental health.
Moodgym - interactive self-help book which helps you to learn and practice skills which can help to prevent and manage symptoms of depression and anxiety.
Samaritans Crisis - telephone support.
Smiling Mind – free mindfulness and meditation app.
Workers who are required to spend time in quarantine or isolation at employer provided accommodation are at higher risk of adverse effects such as stress or anxiety. Employers must consider the psychological, social, physical and environmental factors associated with quarantine and isolation which increase the risk of harm to psychological health..
Research on the consequences of time spent alone in quarantine or isolation away from a person’s usual residence indicates that specific stressors can increase the risk of adverse psychosocial effects. These stressors include:
- Lack of autonomy or control
- Inadequate supplies
- Inadequate information and uncertainty
- Fear of COVID-19 infection
- Stigma associated with quarantine/ isolation
Information to mitigate these stressors for workers quarantining or isolating in employer-provided accommodation due to COVID-19 directions can be found in Mental health considerations for workers required to quarantine or isolate in employer-provided accommodation.
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