Positive HR blog

Mental health: looking after yourself and your employees

Working during a pandemic is new for all of us. If you are a caregiver, spouse or a parent — even to fur-children — it has been impossible to hide your responsibilities at home. While it’s lovely to see more of the lives behind our employees or colleagues, the problem is that this has meant boundaries between what is work and life are erased. Often, it means longer working hours, including working ‘after hours’ and less time to look after ourselves.

There’s a lot of trial and error as we get used to this new way of life, but as employers or business owners, if we cannot ‘keep our cup filled’, it will be hard for anyone to be productive. In this blog, we share some tips you can implement for yourself and the workplace to improve employee wellbeing.


Recognise the early warning signs

Businesses have had it tough, so in times of stress, you may notice changes in our behaviour or feelings that indicate we may be struggling with our mental health. Perhaps a spouse, family member, friend or a business partner has kindly pointed it out to you first.

According to Heads Up, some of the early warning signs are:

  • constantly feeling tired and fatigued
  • being unusually emotional or tearful
  • getting agitated easily or increasingly frustrated with tasks or people
  • drinking alcohol or taking recreational drugs to cope
  • finding it difficult to focus and make decisions
  • avoiding social situations.

There’s a quick anxiety and depression checklist from BeyondBlue, which can score where you are with your mental health. This simple checklist can direct you to further support and resources based on your experiences in the last few weeks.

If you see your people experiencing the early signs above, it starts with a conversation to see how they are going.


Let’s (unashamedly) talk about our feelings

For many people, it’s a time where they’ve actually questioned basic human needs like food, shelter and access to health. On top of that, there are job insecurities. COVID-19 has really rocked us all to the core. The last thing your employees need is to get involved or stressed over office politics or judged for not looking like their best selves because they have been juggling caring responsibilities 24/7.

Employers must create an environment of psychological safety where it is safe to speak up about their feelings. It’s not always easy to do this, and the best way to get people to open up is for you to show a little vulnerability and to lead by example.

As business owners, we are resilient, but things have been tough for a lot of us. It’s ok to share how you are feeling rather than masking everything and making things appear to be perfect.


Have a break. Have a ‘Kit-Kat’

For those working from home, we’re working an extra 2-3 hours a day! Employees have become more ‘available’ — but this doesn’t mean that meetings or work should be allocated after hours. Non-stop work is counterproductive and is harmful to our mental health and wellbeing.

Encourage your team to take breaks. Perhaps you can organise a virtual tea or yoga session. Make it optional, so people don’t feel like there are ramifications if they don’t attend. The point is to remind people that it’s important to take a moment during the day to stretch our legs, get some fresh air and be kind to ourselves.

Again, walk the talk and show your team members that you are taking time to refocus and prioritise your health and wellbeing. When you show you are caring for yourself, you give ‘permission’ to your employees to take a much-needed break without any fear.


Useful contact numbers

If you or someone you know needs help right now, it’s available 24/7 anywhere in Australia. If in an emergency, call 000.

Beyond Blue Coronavirus Mental Wellbeing Support Service

Beyond Blue are providing information, advice and strategies to help you manage your wellbeing and mental health during the COVID-19 pandemic. Call 1800512348 or visit the Beyond Blue Coronavirus Mental Wellbeing Support Service.


Contact Lifeline for support if you are experiencing a personal crisis or have suicidal thoughts. The service is available 24/7. Call 131 114 or visit Lifeline Australia.

Suicide Call Back Service

Call the Suicide Call Back Service for immediate, professional 24/7 telephone and online counselling to people who are affected by suicide.

Call 1300 659 467 or visit Suicide Call Back Service.


Need HR advice? We’re here to help

If you need any people advice, whether it’s about employee health and safety or streamlining your HR operations, please reach out to us to see how we can help.