COVID19 is running the typical HR practitioner ragged, so much change in a short amount of time is putting most HR practitioners under immense pressure. With all the day to day transactional issues in check, it is mental health issues which are often the greatest stressors.
EAP – Employee Assistance Program – Bigger, well established companies often have a mental wellness program established and an EAP (Employee Assistance Program) services available to provide counselling and support. In this case HR teams can refer employees to the service provider to let them get the help they need – whether it is a resilience techniques or more substantial counselling. Depending on the situation and the employee’s desire, the HR team maybe involved in discussions around establishing return-to-work plans and future support.
In many instances, small and medium sized businesses don’t have mental health programs or already established EAP services or programs. HR practitioners have been required to put in place these supports on the fly, and work with senior management (often the ones under intense pressure) to establish the company’s policy and offerings and ensure employees that require assistance are cared for. HR practitioners have also been required to undertake systematic wellness checks for employees and also consult with mental health professionals around care and the facilitation of return-to-work programs. For many practitioners this is new ground.
‘Return-to-work’ plans during pre-coronavirus times usually applied to employees that had experienced time off work for injury (physical or psychological) and were being guided back into the work environment. In Coronavirus times, return-to-work has a new dimension, as workplaces are re-opened after a closure. In Corona virus times, the HR practitioner’s return-to-work plans need to incorporate the physical safety, and addressing any mental health concerns and anxiety that all employees might face when considering a return to work.
While most organisations arrange for staff to be trained and certified to provide first aid, many HR practitioners are also working on establishing programs to provide mental wellness support. In most cases this includes providing training to recognise mental wellness issues and establish clear support mechanisms. Privacy and confidentiality are essential, and it is critical not be training ‘amateur counsellors’. Identifying mental issues early and arranging for support quickly is the key.
With all employees in the workplace, a quick mental health check by managers was possible, however with a dispersed workplace and working from home more common, these quick checks are more difficult and require special attention.
Mental Health has been a topic of conversation for quite a few years, however the current external stressors are identifying areas that company HR practitioners need to address.
There are some great resources available to assist HR practitioners deal with the mental health issues in the work place associated with corona virus.
Below are a couple.
Beyond Blue : https://coronavirus.beyondblue.org.au
Head to Health : https://headtohealth.gov.au/covid-19-support/covid-19