COVID-19 mental health at work resource kit
Stay up to date with the ways to manage the impacts of COVID-19 on workplace mental health.
Business owners and employers have a responsibility to ensure the workplace is physically and mentally healthy. As businesses transition into new ways of working following the COVID-19 pandemic, work needs to be designed to support good mental health.
On this page you’ll find information to help you continue to manage a mentally safe workplace.
Your legal obligations
Both employers and workers have a responsibility to ensure work is both physically and mentally healthy and safe at all times. This includes working remotely or from home. It's important that you understand your legal obligations and rights.
There is practical guidance available from SafeWork NSW to ensure you comply with work, health and safety (WHS) laws and regulations.
COVID-19, returning to work and mental health
As workplaces begin to explore new ways of working, it's important that leaders address concerns about health and safety.
The transition back to practices from before COVID-19 may be a welcome change for some, but for others it may cause concern. Being aware of factors that may impact staff mental health, and listening to your team members' concerns will help you to find solutions that will support them through change.
Some topics that can raise issues include:
- Fears of contracting COVID or other respiratory illnesses due to having pre-existing health conditions or being a carer of someone who is immunocompromised
- Personal vaccination or health management viewpoints
- Adjustments to more change, for example requirements to come back into the office after periods of time successfully working from home
- Changes to family/life arrangements to accommodate new workplace requirements
- Inconsistent working rhythms
- Continued uncertainty around the present and the future may contribute to feelings of instability. This may create concerns about job security, consistency of pay, and availability of sick leave, particularly for casual or contract workers.
- Lack of role clarity
- Changed workloads
- Exposure to workplace aggression, particularly for people in customer-facing roles.
There are also other workplace factors that can impact mental health.
Signs to look out for
Recognise the signs someone is struggling by being aware of behaviour and communication changes.
Seeking support early can prevent mental ill-health. Be on the lookout for these signs and reach out to offer some extra support:
- Disengaged nature
- Personality changes
- Irritability or/and anger
- Lowered work performance
- Difficulty concentrating or remembering
- Drug and alcohol use
- Being less social
Supporting a team member
If you notice the signs that a team member is struggling, there are resources that can help you start the conversation and offer support:
- Superfriend has helpful advice around how to check in with someone, as well as how to spot someone in distress.
- R U OK also has a practical guide on how to start the conversation.
- There are many different ways you can give support and connect to support services
Support a mentally healthy workplace through good work design
As teams come back to offices and other workplaces, some businesses are beginning to embrace a hybrid working arrangement. Research indicates that there is a disconnect between workers’ and managers’ perceptions about flexible work. Make sure you tailor your approach when designing new working arrangements and be aware that everyone will have different points of view.
In the video below, Westpac’s Chief Mental Health Officer, David Burroughs, explains the benefits of good work design, and how you can ensure your workplace supports this.
How to support your team as as leader
To help support your team through change you should focus on:
- Building a culture that supports early help-seeking and open conversations
- Talking to your team members individually about what support or adjustments they may need
- Providing training and access to resources. There is specialised small business support available at no cost
- Establishing a new working rhythm in consultation with your staff, including opportunities to work in the same space if possible, and encouraging staff to reconnect socially
- Considering flexible working arrangements that are already in place or need to be reviewed
- Monitoring working hours and adjusting workloads accordingly to reduce the risk of burnout
- Supporting workers who may be at greater risk of workplace psychological injury, like frontline or customer-facing workers or those working in isolation
Remember to be realistic. The transition period may take some time, and people will re-adjust at different speeds.
icare has a toolkit to support NSW workplaces for COVID-19 recovery
WayAhead Workplaces offers workplace wellbeing and COVID-19 support
The National Mental Health Commission has developed resources to support sole traders, small and medium to large businesses during COVID-19
Ahead for Business has information and support for small businesses affected by COVID-restrictions
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