During this unprecedented time of change, it is critically important to protect the mental health of employees at all levels.
- Employees may be concerned about the risk of infection for themselves and their families and will need reassurance. Communicate clearly, effectively and often as the situation evolves and plans are developed in your workplace to alleviate fears. Be prepared to answer questions, such as:
- What if I get sick?
- How do I take time off work to look after my children?
- Can I work from home?
- Check in with staff and do your best to support your team during this time. Share how work expectations may have shifted in these unusual circumstances.
- Encourage employees to practice self-care, such as taking regular breaks to stretch or be active, listening to music, or doing relaxation techniques.
- Remind employees of mental health services available to them and how to access them, such as your company’s EFAP, if you have one.
- Get information about the current situation from reliable sources.
- Stay informed, but follow news coverage about COVID-19 in moderation. Take breaks from watching, reading, or listening to news stories as too much exposure can provoke anxiety.
- Make sure to take your breaks and lunch (even when working from home).
- Take care of your body. Take deep breaths, stretch or meditate. Try to eat healthy, well-balanced meals, exercise regularly, and maintain a regular sleep schedule. For other helpful tips, check out the Staying Healthy while Working from Home resource.
- Stay connected electronically. Talk to co-workers, friends or family about your feelings and concerns.
- Show support and empathy to those dealing with difficult situations.
- Try to direct your energy only towards worries that are within your own control.
- Talk to your manager, another trusted person and/or a mental health professional if you are feeling exhausted, overly stressed, or experiencing symptoms of a stress disorder (fatigue, fear, withdrawal, etc.). Take advantage of your company’s EFAP services, if available. Other mental health resources can be found on the Mental Health Support page.
Everyone has a role to play in ensuring a positive workplace culture and treating all co-workers with respect. The COVID-19 situation can cause anxiety and fear for many. Sometimes, this can inadvertently result in anger and stigma towards people who have contracted the virus. As a result, some people may feel discriminated against. Others may even avoid disclosing that they are ill in fear of how they may be treated. Supporting co-workers is especially important at this time to ensure everyone stays healthy.
Be proactive to reduce stigma in the workplace:
- Correct misinformation and challenge myths related to COVID-19.
- Focus on positives, such as what is being done to protect workers, clients and customers from illness.
- Consider people’s privacy and avoid telling others if you know of a co-worker who is ill.
- Show empathy towards workers who are self-isolating due to a suspected or confirmed case of COVID-19. Keep in regular contact with the individual and offer support to them or their caregivers.
For more information on stigma and COVID-19 as it related to the workplace, visit the Mental Health and COVID-19 page (click on the Stigma and COVID-19 tab).