‘It’s vital to remember that we are not born resilient’

After facing some of the worst natural disasters in its history, Australia is now affected by the global pandemic COVID-19, leaving many bosses and employees alike, emotionally exhausted and overwhelmed.

While one in five Australians are already vulnerable to mental health issues, this risk is heightened when faced with prolonged isolation, financial stress and, for those front-line workers, fear of contracting the virus, according to the Black Dog Institute.

With this in mind, it’s important that leaders start to strengthen their own and their teams’ ability to cope with the challenges as we move to transitioning into a new reality.

Resilience refers to the process of adapting while facing adversity, trauma, tragedy, threats or other forms of stress.

Marcela Slepica, Clinical Services Director, AccessEAP, said in the current climate, it’s important to manage the demands of COVID-19, such as social isolation, caring for our families and home-schooling children while juggling work.

“It’s vital to remember that we are not born resilient. We can develop coping strategies, including practiced traits and learned behaviours that will help us remain positive and deal with new challenges,” she said.

The way of life in Australia has transformed dramatically in a relatively short period of time, Slepica added that unexpected change and the resultant feeling of losing control can be extremely hard to come to terms with.

“People who rely on work for social interaction, live with mental health conditions, or who are now financially impacted, will be amongst those who will can most benefit from building resilience,” she said.

“Focusing on negative impacts and getting trapped in thoughts or feelings of anxiety or helplessness will restrict people from building emotional strength, so focusing on what you can control rather than what you can’t is imperative.”

Workplaces play a part in maintaining a semblance of normality, by providing employees with structure, some social connection and purpose.

Managers should prioritise personal interactions with their teams, by checking in regularly and asking focused questions to find out their current goals and challenges, while providing encouragement.

“For employers, it’s important to acknowledge that senior managers will face an additional burden on assisting the wider team, while also being subject to their own anxieties and fears,” said Slepica.

Consequently, these workers in particular will need support, as employees will look to them as leaders for behaviours they should be following and reassurance.

For managers and employees alike, AccessEAP offers the following support on how to thoughts and actions that can be learnt to build resilience.

  • Make and maintain connections with friends and family. Reaching out to someone you trust outside of the workplace can be comforting and supportive.
  • Remember that some things are beyond your control. We cannot change the fact that highly stressful events happen, but we can change how we interpret and respond to them, while modelling behaviours for our teams.
  • Keep things in perspective. Try to consider the stressful circumstances in a broader context and keep a long-term perspective. Keep staff focused on your business’ objectives and how they can help restore the normal ways of working
  • Maintain an optimistic outlook. Having an optimistic and hopeful outlook enables you to expect that positive things will happen. It also sends a message to team members that the outlook is bright and encourages them to think in the same way.
  • Take care of yourself. Engage in healthy behaviours like eating well, regular exercise and plenty of rest. Boosting your physical wellbeing is good for your emotional health and puts you in the best position to support and lead your colleagues.

SOURCE: Australian Payroll Association