Looking after mental health and well-being during COVID-19

In these unprecedented and difficult times, it’s important to look after not only our physical health, but our mental health too.

These are stressful circumstances, especially during lockdown, and the mental wellbeing of you and your employees should be a priority.

Here are some tips, advice and resources you can use to keep on top of your mental health until we’re all back to normal.

Looking after your employees

A great way to look after the health and welfare of your employees is to create a workplace well-being policy.

This helps demonstrate that as an employer, you are committed to building a positive and healthy workplace.

And it’s not just in times of COVID.

Businesses that create a work environment where employees feel healthy and supported have lower absenteeism, fewer injuries, and experience higher productivity and customer satisfaction.

A company culture of support is also good for attracting and retaining employees, who tend to be more productive, engaged, resilient, creative, and generally perform better.

A health and well-being policy should include things like mental health issues, physical health issues, smoking and exposure to second-hand smoke, and UV exposure.

If you’re interested in creating one for your staff, then the Government can help you build one with this tool.

Looking after yourself

Looking after your employees is one thing, but how do you look after yourself?

Running your own business is stressful at the best of times, so how do you handle the extra pressures of a pandemic?

Learning to spot the warning signs is essential if you are to avoid calamity down the road.

Signs of stress may not be obvious, so watch out for little things like feeling impatient or grumpy more than usual, changes to your sleep pattern, or even a loss of confidence.

It’s ok to feel stressed. It’s ok to take a break once in a while. It’s ok to ask for help.

Little changes to a routine can make the difference if things are starting to get on top of you. This could be something as small as walking to work instead of driving, or connecting with others, even setting aside 20 minutes each day to call a friend for a chat.

If things are becoming too much and you are suffering from extreme stress, then always seek professional help.

Mentalhealth.org.nz has great advice on minimising and managing workplace stress.

Working home alone

During lockdown, many of us found it difficult working from home for the first time.

Being alone all day makes it easy to neglect your well-being, but there are things you can do to stay on top.

Working from home can sometimes fell like you’re living at work. It’s important to separate work and home life, although not easy.

If you can, try to keep your work-life physically separate - limited to a study or home office. Don’t bring your laptop and sit on the sofa and work. Your sofa is where you relax after work.

It’s also essential not to work too much. Set your hours of work and stick to them. Get up and move around – it’s not just good for you physically, but mentally too. Get out for a walk, even if it’s just around the block.

Above all, stay connected with other people.

Schedule video calls and check in with other work colleagues. Everyone misses each other, although they may not admit it!

Money trouble

Many millions of people have suffered financially from the COVID-19 pandemic, with thousands of businesses folding under the financial pressure.

Your mental and financial well-being are often interconnected and if one is not going well, it can really impact the other.

Money issues can be overwhelming, so the trick is to focus on the things you can control, rather than the things you can’t.

The small wins can keep you going day to day, so focus on those and then move on to the next thing, whether it’s saving a few bucks or retaining a client.

One of the best things we can do when having money problems is the one thing most of us don’t want to do – talk about it.

Close friends or family members will always be there to listen, but if you’re not comfortable with that, then a neutral party like a business mentor, accountant or health professional are all available.

Just remember, it’s not always going to be like this.

The lockdown will end, restrictions will eventually disappear, and we’ll all be back to normal one day in the not too distant future.

Resources that can help

We certainly are not mental health professionals here at New Kiwis, but we’re happy to suggest people who are.

Here in New Zealand, if you feel a bit overwhelmed, anxious or just want to talk, free services are available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week:

  • call or text 1737 for support from a trained counsellor
  • Lifeline 0800 543 354 or text 4357
  • Samaritans 0800 726 666

If you have any questions or need support, the COVID-19 Business Helpline is available for free.

In the North Island you can call 0800 500 362, or if you’re in the South Island, 0800 505 096.

All New Zealand businesses, including sole traders, can get support and advice on:

  • government financial support, eg low-interest loans or tax relief
  • what different alert levels mean for your business
  • business continuity
  • finding free or subsidised expert help, e.g. a business mentor or advisor.

Employers can also get specific advice on people challenges, including staffing changes, employee wellness, and meeting your health and safety obligations.