WA: guidance issued on COVID-19 mental health

The following article is a news item provided for the benefit of the Workplace Health and Safety profession. Its content does not necessarily reflect the views of the Australian Institute of Health & Safety.
Sunday, 6 March, 2022 - 12:30
Policy & legislation
Western Australia

Western Australia’s Department of Mines, Industry Regulation and Safety (DMIRS) recently issued guidance for employers to assist in looking after employee mental health through COVID-19.

It is reasonable for employees to experience increased worry, anxiety and stress about the COVID-19 coronavirus outbreak, and the DMIRS said managing the risk to mental health during this time means employees will have better capacity to fulfil their roles and the likelihood of harm to health is reduced.

Employers, managers and supervisors all have an important role to play in preventing and mitigating the impact of workplace psychosocial hazards and risk factors on employees’ mental health by:

As employees are looking for guidance on what to do, what to expect and how to act, DMIRS said calm and trustworthy leadership is important. This is demonstrated through:

  • Actively managing your stress and implementing self-care strategies to ensure you are calm and deliberate in your decision-making and actions.
  • Leading by example. Role-model the practices you want employees to do such as social distancing, self-care strategies, accessing support services and maintaining work-life balance.
  • Communicating information and decisions with empathy and hope to provide a sense of control. Acknowledge employees’ concerns, make it clear that you have a roadmap and let employees know how they can contribute by providing specific steps for employees to follow.
  • Communicating your understanding of the risks and the impacts on your business and employees. If you don’t have an answer to a question, then acknowledge you don’t know the answer, tell employees you will find the answer and let them know when you do have a response.
  • Being open and transparent in your communication with employees. Deliver information in a clear, honest and straightforward way. A lack of transparent communication can lead to panic and overreaction.

Management and supervisor support are also a well-established protective factor that mitigates the impact of psychosocial hazards on employee health, and the DMIRS said to provide supportive management and supervisory practices through:

  • Considering flexible work arrangements such as working from home and flexible work hours, and considering how good work design, such as job rotation, may assist employees in managing their work and caring responsibilities.
  • Maintaining regular communication with your employees. Let employees know it’s okay to not be okay.
  • Sharing support services available to employees such as encouraging employees to use your Employee Assistance Program (EAP) if available and creating an internal central point of contact for employees to contact if they have any concerns.
  • Sharing available free services such as Beyond Blue, NewAccess, Centre Care, Headspace, Lifeline, Mensline Australia, myCompass, Moodgym, Samaritans Crisis and Smiling Mind.

Workers who are required to spend time in quarantine or isolation at employer-provided accommodation are at higher risk of adverse effects such as stress or anxiety, and DMIRS said employers must consider the psychological, social, physical and environmental factors associated with quarantine and isolation which increase the risk of harm to psychological health.

Information to mitigate stressors for workers quarantining or isolating in employer-provided accommodation due to COVID-19 directions can be found in Mental health considerations for workers required to quarantine or isolate in employer-provided accommodation.