Practical tips for identifying & managing workplace anxiety during coronavirus

Uncertain times trigger different emotions in people and with the coronavirus pandemic, there is no denying that the current world we find ourselves living in is proving challenging to almost all of us.

The reality we have been faced with is not only very new but has been thrust upon society at an extraordinary pace, and perhaps the real impact of any workplace anxiety is masked by the fact that it’s still a novelty.

We are all busy adjusting to working from home, establishing routines to homeschool children, trying to maintain a balanced lifestyle while being conscious of one’s mental wellbeing with long periods of living in an enforced lockdown.

Managing a workplace during coronavirus means you need to be aware that some people may already be feeling out of their depth with fear and that people’s levels of anxiety will sadly get worse before it gets better. So it’s important to talk about this now so we have strategies to rely on if we need them later.

As an employer, it is essential to talk about anxiety in the workplace and to realise everyone’s situation and fears will be unique but having strategies and support in place allows your employees to look after themselves and each other.


Let’s talk about what anxiety is

Anxiety is a sense of fear, worry or dread that something terrible is going to happen in response to a perceived threat. Typically when faced with a perceived threat we play out scenarios in our head and often can naturally jump straight to the worst-case.

As humans, we require some levels of anxiety to survive and to keep us alert during times of stress, but we need to check the level of anxiety is appropriate for the situation as too much over a prolonged period without being managed with support can begin to overwhelm, and even paralyse.


How do we identify anxiety?

Symptoms or signs of anxiety can manifest in physical, psychological or behavioural responses and can include the following common reactions:

  • Fight or flight response (high alert),
  • Feeling nervous and out of control,
  • Feeling helpless or hopeless,
  • A sense of panic or danger,
  • Feeling tense, annoyed or edgy,
  • Excessive overthinking or worrying,
  • Catastrophising,
  • Feeling sick or nauseous,
  • Rapid heartbeat and/or hot and cold flushes,
  • Restlessness and trouble sleeping,
  • Avoidance of certain situations which we know will make us feel anxious.


Providing tools and support to your employees during coronavirus is an integral part of maintaining business continuity and one of the best mechanisms to manage anxiety is to accept that we are feeling anxious and then actively apply steps to manage it.

In most cases, following these simple tips will help your employees feel more in control, which will help to reduce the feelings of anxiety.


Some useful tips to manage anxiety:

1.   Keep a routine

Maintaining a routine is vitally important for both mental health and also workforce productivity. Even while operating remotely or under reduced hours due to coronavirus, you must encourage your employees to keep a routine – at least during the week.

Waking up and going to bed at the same time, logging on during work hours and taking breaks at the same time will help your workforce remain focused and lessen the focus on anxiety.


2.   Maintain a healthy lifestyle

Keeping active and eating well is imperative to enhancing wellbeing. Although we need to follow social distancing rules, encourage your workforce to get outside every day, breathe in the fresh air and be kind to themselves.


3.   Use breathing techniques

If faced with heightened levels of anxiety it’s essential that your employees immediately focus on getting control of their breath by actively slowing their breathing down by taking slow and deep breaths.


4.   Keep in touch with friends and family

In times of uncertainty, it’s important that your workforce finds time to remain focused on what’s important – encourage them to reach out and connect to their loved ones.

From traditional phone calls to apps like Zoom or Houseparty, there are many ways they can catch up with a group of friends or family.


5.   Use mindfulness and meditation

These are proven tools for people to reduce anxiety levels as they will help your employees step away from the worry and actively focus on being in the present.

There are many resources available for your staff to access guidance in this area from websites, audiobooks, phone services and apps.


6.   Limit exposure to social media and news

This is a huge one. While coronavirus has increased connectivity and screentime and while it is important to know what’s going on, make sure you encourage your staff to only listen to the official news, preferably tuning in for any highlights or changes.

Social Media channels can be filled with sensationalised and often inaccurate news which can heighten levels of anxiety.


7.   Remember this is temporary

Coronavirus and its impact on people’s lives and workplaces may last for a while, but it won’t last forever.


8.   Seek help

Now, more than ever it is vitally important to provide your workforce professional avenues for them to seek advice and support. An Employee Assistance Program (EAP) offers access to counsellors for your workforce.


These simple tips should offer useful tools for your employees to manage anxiety during the coronavirus pandemic. It is important to acknowledge the link between mental wellbeing and workplace productivity and that if your staff are feeling heightened levels of anxiety then they should reach out to a professional such as a counsellor or Psychologist.

If your workplace does not have an Employee Assistance Program, please contact us for more information on our EAP solution, which delivers a cost-effective solution for you to ensure your workforce maintains mental wellbeing during coronavirus.


About Employment Innovations

Employment Innovations is one of Australia’s leading providers of employment services designed to increase productivity and ensure compliance. Its services and solutions include all the tools that every Australian small to medium-sized employer needs – including workplace advice, legal services, payroll solutions, migration, human resource management & HR software.

Have a question? Contact one of our HR, Payroll, Migration or Employment Law experts today.


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