As the government lays out the roadmap for easing social distancing measures, mental health professionals are warning of a “much deeper, longer curve” that will need to be flattened: Mental health illness.

As the immediate effects of the pandemic and the virus start subsiding in the months to come, the immense social and economic effects of the pandemic are going to drive down the mental health of the population. Like Physical Injuries, it is extremely important to attend to Mental Health issues as early as possible, so that they can be resolved before they become critical. Management and supervisor support is a well-established protective factor which mitigates the impact of psycho-social hazards on employee health.

IMMEX suggests the following supportive management and supervisory practices for employers:

  • Prepare a COVIDSafe plan for your business –
    prepare a plan to keep your employees and workplace healthy, safe, and virus-free as restrictions are lifted

  • Manage risk factors –
    stay informed about the current situation. Provide advice and recommendations, identify and support 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)

  • Lead during uncertainty –
    employees are looking for guidance on what to do, what to expect and how to act. Calm and trustworthy leadership is important

  • Actively manage your stress –
    by implementing self-care strategies you can ensure you are calm and deliberate in your decision-making and actions.

  • Lead 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.

  • Good Communication –
    provide information and decisions with empathy and aim 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.

  • 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.

  • Maintain regular communication –
    Keep in touch 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:
1. Beyond Blue – telephone support and NewAccess, a free online mental health support program
2. Lifeline – telephone support.
3. myCompass – a personalised self-help tool for your mental health.
4. 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.
5. Smiling Mind – free mindfulness and meditation app.

If you find any employee who is finding it difficult to cope with the current situation, you can contact IMMEX for advice relating to diagnosis, effectiveness of current treatment, recommendations for referral to other professionals or agencies where appropriate.