Make the physical and emotional wellbeing of your staff a priority
Sounds deceptively simple but simply acknowledging the impact of this situation on your staff, making sure they are aware you acknowledge this and communicate clearly, consistently and in a timely manner on how you plan to support them.
Ensure staff are aware how and where they can access mental health and psychosocial support if they feel they need support. Facilitate access to these services.
In the current environment, staff may need to still need to attend to their health for a multitude of reasons that are not COVID related. This ought to be encouraged and supported and their confidentiality respected.
Foster a culture of seeking timely medical advice with the onset of any COVID related symptoms or exposure. No-one wins in our community if staff feel reluctant to seek medical advice for even mild symptoms. Encourage this, facilitate this and respect confidentiality.
Proactively, think about the pressure points at different levels of your organisation and plan around how best to support these staff as different positions which involve different risks and stressors. Different work patterns and varying staff demographics involve very different risks. Positions and people are unique so a one size fits all approach may not be best.
Consider training in psychological first aid for first responders
These are challenging times and businesses are having to adjust and adapt at short notice. Where hours and rosters are varied, you can minimise additional stress by: meeting your contractual and legal obligations and giving employees as much notice as possible. Also get professional advice on managing this transition which can also serve to provide a number of ways to reduce the stress of the transition on all concerned.
Make your business a safe place
As a GP, I do not advise on Work Health and Safety legislation but meeting your obligations under this legislation is clearly an absolute necessity and a given. There are so many comprehensive resources available at low or no charge including websites, guides, webinars and hotlines. Utilise these supports. A few are mentioned below:
The Department of Health provides regular updates. Adhere to all their advice and make this adherence a workplace culture – which starts at the top. Utilise the Coronavirus Health Information line – 1800 020 080 – which is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
Worksafe Victoria has an extensive collection of resources on: Managing exposure, preventing exposure in your industry, support for your employees and also compensation matters.
Victorian Chamber of Commerce: a range of supportive measures are available including mental health webinars and a comprehensive COVID 19-Employer Guide, as well as links to other resources and packages for businesses
Australia.gov.au has information tailored to employees and employers with the following valuable links:
a. Health alerts and advice such as “how to look after your mental health”, “how to wear a mask”
b. Advice on the latest restrictions by state, including the COVID-19 Restriction checker
c. The Business Help Hotline: 13 28 46
The World Health Organisation (WHO) provides a page on employers’ and workers’ advice. A number of guidance papers are available on getting your workplace ready, risk communication and community engagement as well as mental health considerations
Monitor the pulse of how front line staff are being treated. With rising stress levels, customers may come across as demanding, rude, or even abusive. Foster a culture of zero tolerance of abuse towards your staff and ensure these staff are supported for speaking up about these experiences and debriefed appropriately.
Where possible reduce face to face contact entirely. Our Government is encouraging work to be adjusted to home-based where possible.