The surge in coronavirus cases in July and early August that led to the reintroduction of restrictions and border closures in Australia’s eastern states put further strain on everyone’s mental health and wellbeing. During his announcement early in August about the Stage Four restrictions for Melbourne and Stage Three for regional Victoria, Premier Daniel Andrews recognised the impact on everyone’s lives, saying, “It’s heartbreaking and it’s very very challenging.”
Bradd Morelli, Jirsch Sutherland’s National Managing Partner, says that prior to the pandemic, he noticed many companies had increased their focus on workplace mental health but “these efforts are even more imperative today”.
“The stress on business owners and employees alike has been enormous and for many, that stress isn’t abating,” Morelli says. “As we navigate the many hurdles COVID-19 has thrown in the way, we’re likely to see more owners, managers and employees struggle. Financial pressures are impacting mental health and wellbeing but it’s crucial not to suffer in silence.”
In September last year, Jirsch Sutherland implemented a mental health and wellbeing program, with guidance from Beyond Blue, to help the Partners and staff become more aware of mental health challenges and give them the skills to help those experiencing mental health issues.
“Mental health literacy is so important, which is why many of our Partners, Principals and Managers have also undertaken the Mental Health First Aid Certificate,” says Morelli. “Because of the nature of our business, we are often at the frontline of owners who are dealing with great trauma; it also means we’re in a position where we can offer support.
“And having such a program in place is obviously important to other advisers. We recently commissioned a survey of accountants, with 60 per cent of respondents saying they view mental health policy as an important characteristic of an insolvency provider.”
With the stresses on business owners and managers magnified by coronavirus, how can they maintain good mental health and wellbeing for themselves and their employees? According to Beyond Blue, despite many of us feeling like we no longer have control over many aspects of our lives, we have the ‘power’ to action small changes and adopt new habits to help us maintain good mental health and wellbeing.
“Although managers will be at the forefront of addressing mental health issues, it’s important for the most senior leaders in companies to take action as well,” says Morelli.
Ways to maintain mental health for business owners and employees:
- Create and maintain a mentally healthy workplace, and ensure you’re familiar with the workplace mental health risk factors.
- If you’re working from home, maintain a healthy work-life balance by setting work time limits, create a separate workspace, move around every hour or so, keep connected to colleagues, set a work schedule for each day and stick to it
- If your team is working from home, ensure they are aware of resources to support their mental health and wellbeing, such as Beyond Blue’s support services
- Provide strong support for working remotely, including IT support and guidelines
- Be mindful of the disruption that school closures may cause to parents
- Touch base with each employee daily and have regular longer one-on-one meetings
- Encourage your teams to stay connected as much as possible
- Be realistic about what can be achieved in these challenging times
- Stay in touch with family and friends
- Eat well, prioritise sleep, stay fit and maintain interests outside work
- Find time to switch off from technology
- Monitor warning signs of poor mental health – yours and others
- Reach out to colleagues and mentors for support and don’t be afraid to ask for help
You can find more information on how to maintain good mental health and wellbeing for yourself and your employees here.
“As much as we might like to return to the way things were before COVID-19, we won’t. So let’s use this opportunity to create the mentally healthy workplaces that should have existed all along,” adds Morelli.