Over the past few months workplaces across Australia have changed dramatically due to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. For some, it’s meant transitioning to working from home, and for others there are some rigorous new restrictions and practices in place. However, one thing that remains true for all workplaces is the importance of employee health and wellbeing. As we look ahead, each workplace will adapt uniquely to its ‘new normal’ with opportunities and challenges presenting themselves along the way. The suggestions below actions may assist:

  1. Leadership

Workplace leaders are encouraged to regularly and clearly communicate with workers on health, wellbeing and safety. By setting a positive example it will provide confidence and assurance to workers, as well as the opportunity to be compassionate and understanding in the context of a changing situation.

  • Consult and communicate

Genuine two-way communication with workers will help them work effectively from remote locations or under new restrictions. And when the time comes to transition back into the workplace, regular communication will be as equally important. Workplaces must note that under the Workplace Health and Safety legislation, consultation with employees is a requirement.

  • Promote healthy habits

Some employees may have adopted healthier habits throughout the health pandemic while others have taken on some unhealthy habits such as increasing their alcohol consumption or being more sedentary. Workplaces should encourage their workers to continue or implement healthy habits, for example preparing a healthy lunch rather than relying on take away, following the recommended guidelines for drinking alcohol and striving to keep active and take short breaks throughout the day.

such as healthy eating, mental health and wellbeing, physical activity, and more.

  • Support mental health and wellbeing

Common consequences of disease outbreaks include anxiety and panic, depression, anger, confusion and uncertainty, and financial stress. Acknowledging these feelings should be a first port of call for workplaces. Understanding that some workers will be looking forward to returning to the workplace and others will be reluctant, calls for clear communication on the support services available and the need to have a strategy in place to identify and support workers’ mental ill-health, including contacting EAP Assist.

  • Offer flexibility and work-life balance

As workers’ personal lives and work lives have become disrupted, particular with many families balancing the challenges of remote learning for children and teenagers, workplaces should consider how they can offer more flexibility to the traditional workday. Some workers will be reluctant to lose the work-life balance and productivity gains they’ve had in the current working arrangements, and workplaces should consider how they can embed more flexibility into work schedules. For example, flexible working hours or focusing on target-based outcomes rather than time-based.