As the after-effects of COVID-19 continues, business.govt.nz shares how to continue to support your team, while taking care of your own wellbeing.

Change is a common cause of stress and anxiety at work, especially sudden and unexpected change. This is exactly what the COVID-19 pandemic has forced on all businesses.

It’s an important part of being an employer to talk openly and honestly about wellbeing and mental health and cost-cutting in your business, such as reducing hours.


Supporting your people and treating them fairly is not just the decent thing to do. It’s required by health and safety and employment laws. Plus, it makes good business sense. Workers who feel happy and safe are more productive and more likely to represent your business in a positive light.

– Do take care of your own wellbeing. Your health is your business’ biggest resource.
– Don’t avoid sensitive conversations. Everyone knows these are uncertain times. Rumours and speculation will likely fill the space left by your silence.

Be open and honest

Start by thinking about what might be causing your people stress. This can include job security, personal financial worries and catching COVID-19, changes in the business, such as job cuts or a shift in focus.

The best thing you can do is to talk openly and honestly. This might be in one-on-one check-ins or in team talks, depending on the topic and any need for confidentiality. Be supportive. Remember everyone’s situation is different. It’s ok not to have all the answers.

But do assure your staff you’ll give updates and share information as it comes to hand.
The aim is to help your people manage stress levels and prepare for what might be to come.

Supporting wellbeing

It helps to regularly and openly talk about wellbeing. Let everyone know it’s common to feel stress, anger or anxiety in uncertain times.

Regularly remind your people where to find support. This could be:
• regular wellbeing check-ins with you or a trusted colleague;
• advice from their union, if they belong to one;
• online wellbeing and mental health resources;
• free and confidential counselling services, such as call or text 1737.

Counselling may also be available via an employee assistance programme. It’s a good idea to put wellbeing practices into place. Ask your team what will help them find balance and boost wellbeing.

Talking about cost-cutting

Many businesses are having to make hard decisions about how they operate, whether it’s reducing hours, redundancies, or changing how they operate. All directly affect your employees, with the potential to affect their finances, working relationships, home life and wellbeing.

Communicate clearly and often, with information that’s simple to understand, relevant and factual. Emphasise care for each other and solidarity. Don’t offer false hope or reassurance. If there’s nothing new to communicate — or you are still working out plans — let people know.

Consulting with your workers helps ease the stress of uncertainty. It’s also a required part of any restructuring process or other changes to people’s employment conditions.

You might be able to offer alternative benefits or make changes that help your business and your employees. For example, it’s a good idea to review and update how you handle leave, flexible working, and health and safety. This may involve updating any written policies or procedures. This is a good opportunity to engage your staff and let them in on the behind-the-scenes operations.

You may also need to review and update your employment agreements. The online tools at business.govt.nz can assist you in building easy to understand policies and employment agreements.

For help and advice for your business during COVID-19, visit www.business.govt.nz.

Mental health resources:

If you need to talk, free call or text 1737 to talk to a trained counsellor. They’re available day and night.

Other places that can help you if you need someone to talk to are…

Depression Helpline: Free call 0800 111 757 or text 4202
Anxiety Helpline: Free call 0800 269 4389 (0800 ANXIETY)
Lifeline: Free call 0800 543 354 (0800 LIFELINE) or text 4357 (HELP)
Suicide Crisis Helpline: Free call 0508 828 865 (0508 TAUTOKO).
Healthline: Free call 0800 611 116
Samaritans: Free call 0800 726 666

Story originally published in the March issue of The Shout NZ. Read the full issue below.

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