Continuing to cope with COVID-19

COVID-19 is back in the community and it is a wake-up call to all of us. New Zealand worked hard to stop the transmission of COVID-19 before, and we can do it again. As a result, levels of lockdown are being implemented across Aotearoa.

What businesses need to do

It’s been a tough time for business, with a lot of firms just starting to get back on their feet. The new restrictions will be difficult for many companies, but it’s worth it to prevent community transmission from taking hold.

It’s crucial for businesses to do the right thing. The Government’s website has recommendations around masks, physical distancing and contract tracing.

If you’re a business owner, it’s important for you to communicate well with your staff. Many employees may be confused and worried about the new restrictions.

It’s also vital that you continue to prepare for further cases of COVID-19. MBIE’s website for small businesses, business.govt.nz, has good business-related COVID-19 information, including help with continuity and contingency planning. However, you must not forget to protect your mental health as you continue to protect your business and your physical health. 

Concentrate on what you can control

There’s a lot you still can’t fully control but there’s also a lot you can, and taking action helps us feel in control. 

For a start, remember to keep taking steps to protect your workplace against COVID-19 as the risks are not over. Posters and other resources are available to share with your team from the government's COVID-19 website

It's totally normal to feel stressed or anxious. To help, here are some things we can all do to stay mentally healthy during these times.

Ways to protect your mental health

  • Keep your usual routines: If you're working from home, stick to your usual mealtimes, bedtimes, etc, as structure helps keep us grounded and calm. If you’re not working at all, write a to-do list for each day so you have something to achieve.
  • Don’t overwork: Don't forget to clock off as becoming over-tired or fatigued isn’t going to help your mental wellbeing or your organisation. Whether you're an employee or the business owner, be careful not to overwork. 
  • Eat well: Choose healthy foods that help boost mental health. Eat plenty of fruits and vegetables; wholegrain breads, rice and pastas; and legumes, such as lentils and chickpeas. Keep sugary, salty and foods high in saturated fats to a minimum. Drink plenty of water to stay hydrated.
  • Keep active: Even if you don't feel comfortable going to the gym, try to get some exercise. Head outside - garden, go out for a walk or run, but still keep your distance from others. Search the internet for some yoga, Tai Chi or stretch routines, which can also be calming. 
  • Connect: Keep in touch with family and whānau, friends and workmates. Depending on the COVID-19 situation, and people's health, you may need to keep a physical distance. 
  • Practice ‘grounding techniques’: If you feel yourself becoming overwhelmed, use grounding techniques to reconnect you to the present and calm down. These are measures such as controlled breathing, stretches, quick bouts of exercise, or mindfulness techniques. 
  • It’s OK to ask for professional support: If you feel like you are becoming distressed, call or text 1737 at any time to talk to a trained professional for free. Contact your psychologist, therapist or counsellor if you have one.         

A new website, workingwellathome.com, has good information around remote leadership for employers and managers, as well as help to stay productive.

See the Depression.org.nz COVID-19 page for steps you can take if you’re feeling anxious or stressed. The Journal may also help – it’s a free, personalised programme to help manage anxiety or depression. A team of experts guide users through lifestyle and problem solving skills to help them stay positive. Meanwhile The Lowdown offers solutions that could help protect your mental wellbeing. 

For more tips, see the Mental Health Foundation’s COVID-19 information, including its ‘Top tips to get through’ based on the Five Ways to Wellbeing. 

Financial stress is a major factor in many of our lives. See Sorted.org.nz for information to help you manage your financial future.  The Depression.org.nz page on money worries has useful tips to help you with these issues, too.

How to deal with employees off work due to COVID-19

New Zealand has new cases of community transmission, and this could affect businesses and their staff.

If your workers are diagnosed with COVID-19, you have responsibilities as an employer. Obviously, these are around continuing to keep the workplace as physically safe as possible, and also about treating any team members with COVID-19 fairly. 

Protecting a sick employee’s privacy is important as a diagnosis of COVID-19 can provoke stigma and discrimination towards those with the disease, and even those unfairly perceived as potential carriers. 

That’s partly because COVID-19 is a new disease with a lot of unknowns, which creates anxiety and fear. It’s entirely human to associate our fears with those we perceive as ‘other’, but that can translate into dangerous stereotypes. 

Also, if people fear they will be mistreated, they may hide their illness and not seek help, which could infect more people and make themselves sicker. 

Employers have a responsibility to prevent discrimination and stigma wherever it is, including around COVID-19. 

  • Share only approved information: There is an unquantifiable amount of misinformation about there about COVID-19, its spread and effects. Stick to approved sources of information, such as Health.govt.nz.
  • Be compassionate: If you’re the boss – as with everything – lead by example, remaining calm and demonstrating understanding, empathy and compassion to those affected.
  • Keep in touch with all employees, including those affected by COVID-19: Stay connected with team members when they're off, even if they're no longer working. If you have a team member affected by COVID-19, keep in contact with them and – with their permission – share their progress with other employees. This demonstrates they deserves compassion and sympathy, not fear or stigma.

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