Posted August 10, 2020
Widespread concern about being infected with COVID-19, restrictions on movement and gatherings; and people working differently in the workplace or from home, all pose a risk for the mental health of the community. Employers have an obligation to ensure that they minimise the risks associated with work-related issues that may impact negatively on a person’s mental health. Below are some tips to best manage the increased risk of mental health issues in the workplace:
Developing a culture of caring
As employers, we should address the stigma associated with mental health issues. Changing the dialogue and using respectful terminology is very important.
This involves breaking down the stereotypes, and educating staff about mental health and providing them with what is known as mental health literacy. Mental health literacy is sufficient knowledge by an individual to be able recognise, manage and/or prevent mental illness. This could be in relation to individuals own mental wellbeing or to recognise when others may be struggling in the workplace.
Managers should also be encouraged to be supportive of those with mental health issues and demonstrate that this form of illness requires as much consideration as any other.
Address individual issues – start a conversation
It is important that when faced with an employee dealing with a mental health issue that you do not assume that you know what the issue is and that you know what the diagnosis or solution is.
The earlier steps are taken to understand what is happening, the earlier sources of assistance can be identified. Procrastination may result in the worsening of symptoms and related problems.
When dealing with an employee who is showing signs of stress, ask open questions about what is happening. For example:
- Ask how they are feeling?
- What are the impacts of the condition in terms of them attending work or performing their duties?
- What solutions can the employee identify?
- How long have they been feeling this way?
- Is it an ongoing issue or something that immediate action could solve?
- Are they receiving any outside assistance for the problem e.g. by a counselor or medical practitioner?
- Are they aware of sources of support that might be provided by the organisation (e.g. flexible use of leave, flexible work options, an Employee Assistance Program) or more generally in the community (e.g. not for profit support groups, Community Health Clinics, etc.)?
- Is there any aspect of their condition/medical care that it would be helpful for the employer to know about (e.g. side effects of medication, inability to travel in peak hour due to panic/anxiety, etc.)?
- Does the condition or its treatment impact on their health or safety or that of others in the workplace?
- Does the employee have any ideas about adjustments to their work that could be helpful?
In having this conversation with an employee, it is important to place it in the context of the employer’s work health and safety obligations and to flag that it may be possible to make reasonable adjustments for a time whilst the employee is unwell if they understand the condition and its impacts better.
Respect privacy and confidentiality
Respect privacy and never share unnecessary details of an employee’s mental illness with their colleagues. It is best if the employee’s permission to disclose can be obtained (and without coercion) if it is felt others would benefit from the knowledge (for example, team leaders). “Need to know” should still be the golden rule when providing information to others, such as the employee’s manager.
Provide information and support for workers in general
It is a difficult time for everyone. As workplaces begin to reopen and state restrictions continue to change, people who are continuing to work may begin to feel more anxious about their exposures. There may also be financial concerns they are dealing with at home. This anxiety may show itself in increased tension in the workplace or through general changes in the behaviour of people. It is essential that managers and supervisors are supported to provide individual support and that those supervisors and managers also have access to support. This link will take you to a list of helplines that may be useful: https://www.beyondblue.org.au/getsupport/national-help-lines-and-websites. This link with take you to the National Debt Helpline with provides FREE independent financial counseling for employees who may have household income stress: https://ndh.org.au/
As we negotiate our way into the new normal post-Covid-19, it’s important to consider the wellbeing and fortitude of your whole team. By investing in their wellbeing now, you are in fact saving yourself heartache down the line with issues like staff dissatisfaction, workplace law claims and potentially team members leaving your salon. The last thing salon owners want to have to deal with after the past few months of stress and uncertainty is challenges within their team, when we all need our teams running at their absolute best. If you have any questions, comments or concerns about the state of play in your salon, please speak to the HABA team by calling (02) 9221 9911 or emailing email@example.com
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