Melissa Whiteside of AAAA preferred partner Austbrokers ABS and Registered Psychologist Ben Paris from Altius Group, offer the following seven tips to help you manage the mental health impacts of transitioning back to work

With the economic repercussions of COVID-19 widespread and significant, the importance of returning staff to work in a safe and timely manner has never been greater.
Fortunately, we have had more time to prepare for returning than we had to prepare for our departure and so while doing so, it is important we factor in the mental wellbeing of employees.
As such, Austbrokers ABS is pleased to share with you, thanks to PeopleSense by Altius Registered Psychologist Ben Paris, the following seven top tips to help you and your team manage the mental health impacts of transitioning back to work when appropriate post COVID-19.
Recognise resistance
Many of us automatically resist change. Change can be associated with fear and a loss of control over our environment, and resistance is a normal human response. In the same way it took employees time to psychologically adjust to being away from the workplace, it may take them time to adjust and re-establish a daily work routine.
Acknowledge emotional responses
Many employees may experience feelings of fear, sadness, anxiety, anger and even excitement about returning to work. These are normal, human responses to an unusual situation. Acknowledging feelings can be a helpful step in accepting and adjusting to change.
Re-engage with your colleagues
Encouraging strong work relationships can promote a sense of confidence, optimism and enjoyment within the workplace. It is important to make efforts to reach out to colleagues you have been distanced from and encourage others to do the same. Ask how they have been, be interested in their story and share your own experiences with them.
Focus on what you can control and accept what you cannot
Try to maintain an optimistic outlook amongst your team – expecting positive things to come from returning to work. At the same time, try to discourage others from seeing returning to work as being unbearable and permanently stressful. Help employees to take a long-term perspective and remind them they will adjust to the change in routine and assist them to look for opportunities for self-discovery and growth.
Keep employees informed
Keep providing employees with updated information from appropriate sources within your organisation. Rumours and misinformation can fuel anxiety and negativity within the workplace, making it more difficult for employees to adjust and establish a new work routine.

Encourage employees to keep up their self-care
Examples of self-care you can encourage include:
• Exercise: the best exercise for mental health is the one that they can maintain over time (but as a general rule 30 minutes, five times per week, as intense as can be managed is best).
• A balanced diet: your brain and gut are connected. Many of the chemicals that balance mood and give you pleasure are dependent on what you eat. Educate your employees to eat more fresh unprocessed produce, whole grains, fruit and vegetables (replace the biscuit tin with a fruit bowl). Avoiding highly processed foods, those high in fat or sugar, and those with a low nutritional content improves overall wellbeing.
• Firm boundaries to protect work/life balance: encourage employees to log off at the end of the day, connect with their friends and family, and set aside time for pleasurable activities and relaxation.
• Sleep: this plays a critical role in restoring the brain and body at the end of each day. Educate employees on establishing a bedtime routine and practicing good sleep hygiene.
Put mechanisms in place so employees can reach out when they need to
Employees having difficulty with psychologically adjusting to returning to work are not alone. Providing your workforce access to an Employee Assistance Program (EAP) enables employees to receive free, confidential and professional psychological support from a PeopleSense By Altius Psychologist for any work or personal issues.
We hope these tips are helpful to you in assisting you in providing support to your employees during these challenging times. For more information or to find out how Austbrokers ABS and Altius Group can assist you with your WHS solutions, risk management and business insurance needs, please feel free to reach out.

Until next time,
Melissa Whiteside, Austbrokers ABS Insurance

Austbrokers ABS Pty Ltd ACN 619 529 403 is a Corporate Authorised Representative (ASIC AR No. 1255855) of Austbrokers Sydney Pty Ltd ABN 14 061 968 090 | AFSL No. 244244