Coronavirus is having an impact on almost everything we do. We must be more careful in our personal hygiene, the surfaces we touch, the contact we have with other people and the places we gather. There is also considerable uncertainty about our jobs and our working arrangements.
Many organisations are making arrangements to have as many employees as possible work from home. There has also been advice from the Australian Federal Government to discontinue events that have over 100 people gathering at a time.
We now see sporting events played to empty stadiums, and there’s also the expectation that schools and universities will close for several weeks to stem the escalation of coronavirus cases.
Organisations need to monitor their employee’s mental health during this crisis closely. They should keep a clear focus on workplace safety and look at how they train their employees. During this time, face-to-face and classroom-based training increase the risk of a coronavirus outbreak because we’re bringing people together. Now more than ever, organisations need to look at online training platforms.
What Does This Mean for Your Employee’s Mental Health?
In this fast-moving COVID-19 environment, more than ever, you need to look after your employee’s mental health. When people become afraid, their mental health is affected, and their worries become a critical focus.
You may be changing their working arrangements, reducing their working hours and laying off staff. Your employees may be taking on an increased workload to get through the coronavirus crisis. They need to understand the impact on their mental health when they take on additional hours over an extended period.
See our article, Depression Symptoms Rise When You Work Long Hours.
Your employees need to learn coping strategies to address anxious feelings, and they must know where they can seek help if issues become overwhelming.
Your Supervisors and Managers are also at risk because they are likely to be approached more by their teams with mental health concerns.
See our article, Psychological Resilience and Stress: Reduce the Risk.
The Tap into Safety Mental Health Training increases mental health literacy on workplace stressors to teach effective coping strategies using animated storytelling. We have developed several out of the box employee mental health modules. The training can be completed online, on tablets and mobile phones in under 5 minutes and draws on a MicroLearning methodology. Every training module offers suggestions on where employees can seek help.
See our mental health training module on Stress, Anxiety and Depression Symptoms that provides simple exercises to reduce symptoms and negative thoughts immediately.
What is the Impact on Workplace Safety?
Coronavirus has a direct impact on workplace safety. Firstly, there is the issue of the spread of the disease through poor hygiene and employees coming together to work. It’s a good idea to restrict employee group events and where possible have employees work from home.
Secondly, in many organisations, there may only be skeleton crews in the workplace with limited supervision and added pressures to get the work done.
Also, with the increasing need for goods and services to support the coronavirus emergency, some organisations may be running at extreme levels. For example, those providing frontline medical services, working in manufacturing plants, and warehouses distributing materials via logistics channels. Busy times may lead to shortcuts and a risk to safety.
We mustn’t take our eye off safety, especially when the work we do is high-risk.
Fortunately, with employees possibly underutilised through self-isolation and working from home arrangements, there is a terrific opportunity to engage in refresher training to bring up to speed your annual training requirements. You could use the time to refresh on high-risk work, for example, manual handling, working at height, and working around moving plant (e.g. forklifts). Perhaps this is an excellent time to bring your safety training up-to-date to meet your OHS Obligations and protect your business against Industrial Manslaughter laws?
See our article, What Are Your Workplace Health and Safety Obligations?
How Do You Safely Carry Out Workplace Training?
The escalation of coronavirus changes the way organisations should train their employees. Wherever possible, they should NOT be undertaking training activities face-to-face or in the classroom. By continuing with traditional training delivery methods, organisations are unnecessarily bringing people together.
Group training increases the risk of the spread of the disease, and some may argue that using these methods is a breach of our duty of care. There is no need to do that for onboarding and induction and safety refresher training because there is substantial online training available.
It’s time for a re-think of how you train and what else you can do to keep your employees physically and psychologically safe.
See our article, Make Your Workplace Safety Training More Impactful.
It’s a different world that we live in now that coronavirus has emerged as a global threat. Governments, organisations and individuals are making changes to try and reduce the spread to prevent a pandemic. Organisations need to monitor their employee’s mental health during this crisis closely. Your employees are noticeably anxious about what is to come because we just don’t know.
Now is not the time to take the focus off safety. We need to look at how to minimise the spread of the disease by increasing hygiene and decreasing the time employees come together while at work. Organisations need to watch out for the risk of injury with employees under pressure and possibly under-supervised.
Finally, during this time, face-to-face and classroom-based training increase the risk of a coronavirus outbreak because we’re bringing people together. Now more than ever, organisations need to look at using online training platforms for their inductions, onboarding and refresher training. Hopefully, by thinking about how we can do things better, this crisis will soon pass, and we can limit the impact.