COVID-19 has significantly affected how many of us now work. Employees may be feeling more anxious or fearful, making them more likely to experience stress and distress.
Right now, it’s crucial we prioritise and protect mental wellbeing in the workplace. This will help you and your team manage your personal lives and your workloads, and better handle the extra stress that you may be facing.
Everyone’s situation is different. There are many reasons your staff might be feeling anxious. Common causes of stress could include:
Financial worries. People may be anxious about being paid, and whether their jobs are secure. They may worry about providing for their family or paying their rent or mortgage. Help is available for businesses who need support and individuals and whānau who may be experiencing financial distress due to COVID-19.
Concern over work and home conflicts. Parents may worry about working from home while overseeing children’s schooling. People cut off from normal extended family or support systems may find it difficult to cope. Others will be anxious about finding a suitable space to work, or dealing with new digital technologies. Practice compassion when enforcing work responsibilities and productivity.
Coping generally. Some people may find working from home isolating and difficult. Others may be already dealing with difficult circumstances, such as experiencing existing mental distress, caring for dependants, poverty and violence. There can also be conflicting emotions around returning to the office after an extended period of working from home. The COVID-19 Workplaces Resource is a guide for workplace leaders on wellbeing at work during this time.
Dealing with the unknown. Employees may worry about the safety of their work environment – can I work from home, will I be able to take sick leave if I have to, will customers use masks and contact tracing apps, will my co-workers maintain a safe distance? Reinforce your support for staff at this time.
Take action, and feel more in control
We can’t control everything, but there are certain things we can. Taking action and putting the relevant safety measures in place will help you and your employees feel more in control.
Practical steps you can take include wearing masks when physical distancing is not possible and putting up contact tracing app posters.
Using the Five Ways of Wellbeing in our daily lives is another useful action you can take to protect your mental wellbeing.
For more information see How to work and operate safely during COVID-19.
Help staff feel safe, supported and connected during the pandemic
It’s a trying time, and everyone needs to be able to talk about how they’re feeling. This includes at work.
As a business owner or manager, you can play a direct role in improving the wellbeing of your employees. Good mental wellbeing at work comes from an environment that is inclusive and supportive. When staff feel safe, they are able to say if they are struggling and can get support if they need it.
- Take the time to have caring, authentic conversations with your team. It’s a good way to find out how they are doing.
- Let them know that feeling overwhelmed by COVID-19 is a normal response.
- Check in often with employees to see how they are doing.
- Encourage honest discussion. If necessary, set up a one-on-one conversation so that they can really talk about what they are experiencing.
- Make sure your employee knows that you care about them as an individual, over and above their work. It’s important that these affirmations are genuine and not scripted.
There are plenty of workplace practices you can put in place to strengthen the mental health of your organisation. See here for more information.