Returning to a Mentally Healthy and Safe Workplace Post Lock-down

It is evident that now more than ever the mental wellness of our teams should be front of mind. We were privileged to have Dr Jay Spence the founder of Uprise, a mental health tech startup for businesses lead the conversation on what we can do to ensure a healthy and safe workplace post-lock-down. His research area is workplace mental health and digital health, and he has received several awards including the ANZ Mental Health Service Achievement Awards and the National Invention and Innovation Award. Uprise was voted the Best Startup For Social Good, best new Business App and is backed by Telstra.

Key Insights: 

1. Mental health issues spiking

In the last several months, many Australians have been impacted by fear, anxiety and panic about Coronavirus (COVID-19) and now instead of 1 in 4 having symptoms of mental health issues new findings say this is now looking like more 1 in 3. People with pre-existing anxiety disorders, existing health anxiety and other mental health disorders are at risk of experiencing higher anxiety levels during the COVID-19 outbreak and may require more support or access to mental health treatment during this period.

2. “Aim to achieve” as best practice 

In short, Gall’s Law says this: every complex system that works evolved from a simpler system. To build something complex, rich and remarkable, you need to start with something a lot simpler. As we navigate this uncertain time acknowledge that you may not have all the answers and instead of putting into place some simple things that will initiate steps in the right direction.

    • Provide best practice information from reliable sources
    • Provide tools to tolerate uncertainty
    • Provide myth-busting information
    • Begin to remove the stigma of mental health by having someone speak about their own personal experience and coping strategies with no judgement.

3. Leaders as a real-life feedback pathway 

Leaders are the eyes and ears of business and usually have direct contact with teams on a regular basis. They are more likely to notice more readily changes in behaviour and usually have strong relationships with their team on an individual basis. For this reason, developing a feedback loop that enables managers and leaders to collect feedback is important to keep in the loop of teams mental well-being. Reviews are a great opportunity for team members to self reflect and discuss openly with their manager if they are struggling.

4. Monitor performance equally with empathy

Many leaders and managers are now monitoring performance differently as workers work from home. Some feel that they are losing control as they have a lack of visibility on the day to day of their team. It is important to remember that communication on realistic expectations at this time is important whilst equally being mindful and taking into consideration the vulnerability and physiological safety of the team. When the team are stressed at work due to feeling overwhelmed and overworked or feeling like there is a lack of support presenteeism can occur. Instead of being an absent team are still “working” however at levels that are less than optimal.

5. Supporting your team to flourish

Positive psychology teaches how to harness the power of shifting one’s perspective to maximise the potential for happiness in many of our everyday behaviours.

    • Positive psychology also lends itself to improvements in the workplace. Studies from the field have found that: Positive emotions boost our job performance
    • Small, simple actions can have a big impact on our happiness, meaning that it doesn’t take much to encourage your workplace to become a happier and more positive place

Now is a great time to suggest and implement a few initiatives or tools based on the principle of positive psychology. In general, the greatest potential benefit of positive psychology is that it teaches us the power of shifting one’s perspective.

6. Making it clear where to get the best information and help

With so much information out there it is hard to know where to look (and trust) when it comes to seeking mental well-being support. It is important to point your team in the right direction if they are needing professional help.

Individuals can now access online and through their GP free mental health plans including 10 free sessions. Organisations like Black Dog and Beyond Blue are well known and offer very clear guidance for those needing help during this time.

7. Consider a good EAP to be proactive

Revisiting your employee benefits program to include a reputable employee assistance program (EAP) will enable you to be proactive in assisting employees with personal problems and/or work-related problems that may impact their job performance, health, mental and emotional well-being. A good EAP should be research-based and provide detailed insights on the causes of stress to help you understand the company culture and stress hot spots. Tailored support options to assist you to pivot towards effective remote working and keep employees safe during this transition should also be included when selecting an EAP for your business.

We can all agree that the impact of COVID-19 on your teams mental well being requires constant support and monitoring. An EAP will provide you with a level of visibility and more importantly the ongoing the support your team may need during this time and beyond.