While organisations introduce health protocols including social distancing initiatives to reduce the risk of infection spread, there are unfortunately other risks that emerge.
For those who work from home, risks exist around how experienced a person is in working from home and the role that going to work plays in a person’s mental health management.
For those who remain working onsite, managing increased workload and stress as colleagues are unable to come to work, reduced direction as team leaders are sharing absent team leaders’ workloads, and anxiety around others’ hygiene behaviours or health may emerge.
Beyond the uncertainty and anxiety triggered by the current health crisis, including the constant exposure to information and updates, staff may experience some of the following:
· Limited suitable work environment and space
· Poor workstation set up
· Social isolation
· Uncertainty regarding future employment
· Internal motivation challenges
· Productivity through reduced team member participation (health, motivation), individualised work-loads (versus team workloads) and wellness
· Reduced ability to debrief immediately about a workplace stressor with a colleague or team leader
· Home based conflict arising from multiple members working at home
· Additionally, the current scarcity of home products from toilet paper to food staples, increased electricity/heating costs can add to the pressure, especially for low income staff and individuals
· Absence of on-site leadership or organisation’s reliance on junior or replacement team leaders when existing team leaders are unwell or excluded from the workplace
· Poor workstation set up if working/desk location changes
· Loss of connection with team
· Increased work pressure from being onsite
Connection as key
The importance of belonging and connection has frequently been highlighted as a key component of stable mental health and productivity. We are also starting to truly understand the importance of being in an enriched environment on our brain’s cognitive ability (e.g., memory, concentration, problem solving).
Belonging is particularly important as a psychological buffer against uncertainty. Neurochemicals exchanged in connection activities such as oxytocin and serotonin also support psychological health. Working in a creative manner and engaging with novel interactive stimuli produces Brian Derived Neurotrophic Factor (BDNF), an essential building block of neural growth (i.e., neurogenesis).
At eN-Action Psychology, we understand that the challenge during the COVID-19 crisis is to maintain as best as possible the social connection that work provides to staff, particularly those in front line roles working with the (also anxious and isolated) public. Creating an environment in which people focus on their self-care but are able to reach out to others and continue to engage in interesting pursuits or activities is an important feature of a sustained wellbeing plan.
The degree to which people can remain healthy and engaged in their places of work will also help them and the organisation bounce back once normal working arrangements can be reintroduced.
Getting the messaging and modalities right
Overload in terms of health and safety messaging and company updates can not only increase anxiety but provide distraction from the psychological flow of getting work done (and consequently productivity).
Branding communication to assist staff quickly locate relevant information, using themes, releasing information on a scheduled basis, and providing a hub in which all information sits post release can assist.
At eN-Action Psychology we can help you with COVID-19 Workplace Health and Wellness Services including:
· Mental health & Wellbeing Advisory and Initiatives including health and productivity content and webinars to help you manage your current risks
· Abbreviated Peer2Peer Services to enable your staff to provide Peer to Peer Support and Coaching to their colleagues during this time
· Facilitation of Wellbeing Teleconferences providing opportunities for staff to link in with each other, hear useful topics and to share experiences.
What sort of content should you cover regarding COVID-19?
In addition to providing updates on how your organisation is managing the physical health risk and operating procedures, here are some content ideas that we at eN-Action Psychology think are important for keeping people alert but not alarmed during the COVID-19 crisis:
· workstation set up including how best to set up where you work to create a meaningful engagement space
· How to manage your day, when motivation is low, anxiety is high
· Self-care tips including mindfulness, productivity tips, taking breaks
· Simple recipes for at home lunches given current food scarcity
· Journaling/managing outcomes through goal setting and reflecting on experiences
· Suicide risk minimisation – promotion of apps and links to relevant sites
· ‘Virtual coffees’ with colleagues
· Upskilling Peers quickly to provide peer support
Managing your employees' mental health and wellbeing is key to your staff's productivity during COVI