COVID-19 mental health at work resource kit

It’s important for business owners and leaders to provide a mentally healthy workplace to ensure everyone can be physically and mentally healthy.

Last updated: 19 August 2021


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COVID-19 has changed the way we live and work. These changes may cause frustration, stress and anxiety and impact our mental health. As businesses open again, it's important for leaders to provide staff with the right support during this transition.

Latest mental health at work support

Latest COVID-19 information for businesses.

Key information

  • Mental health for employers and staff has been challenged during the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • Support your team by consulting and communicating with them, managing workplace factors that could negatively impact mental health, creating healthy habits, checking in regularly, and encouraging social connection.
  • There are a number of free resources available to you.

Mental health at work during COVID-19

In 2020, we ran the worker mental health during COVID-19 (PDF, 613.89 KB) study.

The study found that 38% of supervisors and 27% of workers reported feeling mentally unwell in the last 12 months (to December 2020). Of those, 53% and 45% respectively said this negative change was due to COVID-19.

Understand your legal obligations

Through the COVID-19 pandemic and beyond, business owners and employers have a responsibility to ensure the work environment is both physically and mentally healthy and safe.

The Code of Practice for Managing psychosocial hazards at work provides practical guidance on the actions business owners, leaders and workers need to take to comply with the Work Health and Safety Act 2011 and Work Health and Safety Regulations 2017.

In a changing workplace

As NSW restrictions change, many businesses may require workers to return to their regular place of work after a period of working remotely. This may be a welcome and positive change for some but may cause anxiety for others.  People may also experience stress due to negotiating vaccination viewpoints. Leaders should provide the right type of support during this adjustment:

  • Talk to your team members individually about what support or adjustments they may need. 
  • Be realistic that the transition period may take some time.
  • Take the opportunity to encourage staff to reconnect socially. 

Resources to help you stay mentally healthy during a changing work environment:

Supporting staff while working from home or remotely

 

Mentally Healthy Workplaces - Supporting your team to work remotely

 

Many people may continue to work from home or remotely. This presents a unique challenge to ensuring a mentally healthy workplace. As a leader, you have a legal responsibility to look after your staff, no matter where they are working.

1. Provide support

Encourage your team to stay connected by:

  • consulting with them on their working from home arrangements
  • promoting clear start and finish times including breaks and time for physical activity
  • promoting a positive and inclusive culture
  • having 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.

Learn more about the importance of social connections to maintain good mental health with the icare Social Connections Toolkit.

2. Seek support

Seeking support early can prevent mental ill-health. You can do this by:

Tips to support your team

Manage factors - Look out for workplace factors that may negatively impact your team’s mental health and address them quickly. Identify and support workers who may be at greater risk of workplace psychological injury, like frontline workers or those working from home in isolation.

Become a COVID Safe business to show your commitment to protecting our community.

Create healthy habits - Encourage everyone to set up clear start and finish times, take regular breaks and make time for physical activity. It’s important as a leader to ensure you look after your own mental health too.

Five ways to wellbeing offers simple and effective ways to improve your health and wellbeing every day.

Consult and communicate - Talk to your team regularly about any workplace changes due to COVID-19 and get their feedback. Ensure everyone is clear about their responsibilities and any entitlements they can access if needed (e.g. special COVID-19 leave). Remember to continue communicating with staff who are on leave and ensure they understand how work changes impact them.

Encourage connection - Provide opportunities for team members to connect with each other, even online, such as a weekly morning tea or lunch. This can help reduce feelings of loneliness and isolation and promote a positive workplace culture.

Support flexibility - Create a flexible workplace where your team can work in a way that best suits their individual situation. This may mean working from home or adjusting their hours to help manage family commitments. Learn more

Check in - Have regular catch-ups with your workers individually to see if they need support.

Provide support - Ensure everyone knows where to access mental health support if they need it. This could be a workplace Employee Assistance Program (EAP) service or one of the many free support services available.

Free workplace mental health training and coaching is available to support business owners, managers and individuals.

When you are out of work

Resources for staying mentally healthy when you are out of work:


Resources


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