1. Share reputable sources and follow official advice from Public Health England
2. Try not to share or encourage employees to share other articles and information. There are a lot of media and social media discussions that are based on a rapidly evolving field of research. It is best to stick to reliable sources for official communications.
3. Consider who needs information and when You may have a group at work who are planning how your workplace will manage during the outbreak. If so, remember to consider carefully who needs to be involved in that planning and when, to minimise gossip and or anxiety.
4. Talk to your people You could keep in regular, possibly daily contact with your people – both the general population, and with managers and supervisors.
Try to be honest, authentic and sincere in what you say. Start by acknowledging the uncertainty and the stress it causes. Be prepared to say that you don’t know and that you will come back to people with answers.
This is important whether people are in the workplace or at home. Make sure that alongside regular communication with all staff, you also communicate with line managers. They are the main contact between an organisation and its people and if you want to achieve consistently applied policies and advice, they may need more information than you give to all staff.
5. Everyone has mental health – consider the impact this has across the board
We all have mental health, and whatever our circumstance this outbreak is going to have an impact on how we think and feel about ourselves and the world we live in. Good work is great for our mental health and it’s important that we preserve the opportunity to enjoy the benefits of work wherever we can.
Some people are at greater risk of poor mental health. When you plan your response, consider how it affects staff with protected characteristics (sex, age, disability, race, sexual orientation etc.) or other challenges (e.g. how people from Asian or Italian backgrounds may be facing discriminatory behaviours) – and adjust accordingly. Try to act in a way that protects the physical and mental health of staff – starting with those who are at greatest need.
Remember vulnerability has many faces
There is a lot of talk of physical vulnerabilities in relation to the Coronavirus. But senior managers will feel vulnerable too in demonstrating leadership in unusual circumstances. Help each other stay composed by encouraging and reminding how good a job they’re doing.
This can be a particularly difficult time for people with pre-existing or past mental health problems. Staying at home may be bringing back memories of bad times to people who have experienced depression or trauma. Know your people and do a little extra for those who are more vulnerable if you notice changes in their behaviour.
These circumstances might lead people to disclose mental health problems they have previously not discussed at work. Treat new disclosures with respect and compassion and make adjustments.
6. Promote access to support
You may provide access to support services through your workplace – if you do, make sure these are advertised well and find out whether there are specific resources relating to the outbreak.
Make sure people also know where they go and who they talk to internally. If you have mental health champions, allies or mental health first aiders make sure they have the latest information, and that if you change working practices that this network of mental health support carries on if possible.
7. Use technology for work and social aspects of work
Provide equipment and support for staff to use technology to keep in touch with each other, with colleagues and with their managers. Offer advice for those not used to working in this way – perhaps with a buddy scheme to gain confidence.
Encourage people to maintain the informal conversations too if they are working virtually. You may have an instant messenger or intranet like Slack or MS Teams – but text messages and calls work as well. You could also try video call lunches and coffee chats and virtual birthday celebrations. A daily check in with teams and direct reports, with weekly manager briefings is a good idea.
8. See opportunities for growth and development alongside crisis planning
Consider whether there are tasks that you can do if regular business is disrupted – planning, staff development, and catching up on admin jobs are all possible things that can be done that increase your readiness to resume business as usual later. If you are able, you could support local food banks and connect staff to volunteering opportunities and community support schemes if appropriate.
9. Encourage personal planning and self-care
Encourage your people to plan for how they will manage under self-isolation, or quarantine. Check our regularly updated advice and encourage people to discuss their plans with line managers. If people are at home social distancing or self-isolating with symptoms keep in touch. If you put on virtual social events for staff – like a virtual book-group or a daily creative challenge or puzzle, make sure people at home are included.