By Rachell Bugeja
Given the recent easing of COVID-19 related restrictions across metropolitan Melbourne, a significant number of industries and businesses are reopening. Employers face the sizable task of supporting their workers as they navigate this transition and will need to ensure that the process is effectively and responsibly managed.
It is important that employers are proactive in creating and implementing practical and sustainable strategies to assist their team. The COVID pandemic has had a significant impact on the professional and personal lives of their workers, who may be juggling a return to work (and possible changed role or modified responsibilities) while also managing changes in the circumstances of household members, family and extended social networks.
Initially unprepared for the blow that this pandemic would have on their business practices, the role and sustainability of their workforce, and the broader economy, employers had to take an immediate defensive approach, and without warning, many workers faced changed working conditions, an extended period of leave, or unemployment. Given their prior experience, businesses are understandably wary when making plans for the immediate future, however these same companies now have the opportunity to strategise and create a considered and sustainable approach to the transition to COVID-Normal.
To effectively support their teams, employers must follow strict regulations around cleaning protocols, social distancing measures, and the use of face masks and other PPE equipment, however it is equally important that they consider the significant mental health risks to their people at this time. Also referred to as psychosocial hazards, these risks refer to anything in the management or design of work, that increases the risk of work-related stress.
To help mitigate these risks, it is important that organisations provide timely and tailored support to their people. While businesses are often able to provide generalised support offerings to workers such as Employee Assistance Programs (EAP’s), more diverse forms of workplace wellbeing support such as coaching and webinars have also been shown to be particularly effective. For example, The Australian Human Resources Institute and the Wellbeing Lab have recently found that amongst a range of wellbeing initiatives it has been wellbeing coaching and wellbeing workshops that have made the most significant difference in helping people to thrive and live well.
Transitioning Well’s suite of wellness webinars and toolbox series provide a creative way to connect your people and open up important wellbeing conversations. Our most recent webinar, ‘Life After Lockdown’ unpacks the context, challenges and considerations of reintegration. Drawing upon five evidenced based models this webinar helps to build a tailored transition plan incorporating how we can prepare for COVID-normal, the potential ‘culture shock’ of reintegration, the recovery process, associated grief and stages of stress. Practical strategies are also provided for people to navigate the uncertainty of this time within the realms of what they can control personally and professionally.
The transition to COVID-Normal will be different for every workplace, and each individual worker. Organisations need to identify their unique business needs and seek out customised solutions that are evidence based and offer effective long-term value. This pandemic experience has presented businesses with an ideal opportunity to think about the challenges that they face, and how they can take care of their best asset at this time – their people.
Links to additional support for businesses and workers at this time: