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March 19, 2020
In an unprecedented time like the COVID-19 pandemic the world is going through, it can be challenging to keep a healthy mindset in the workplace or at home—and for many, homes have also become workplaces.
Christine Tebaldi, PMHNP-BC, is McLean Hospital’s coordinator of emergency and consultative services in community hospital programs and the American Red Cross of Massachusetts’ disaster mental health regional lead. Tebaldi shared tips with us to remain calm, balanced, and prepared as an employee when your work environment may be turned upside down.
Not everything you hear or read will be true. Look to trusted, reliable sources, like your company’s intranet or leadership communications, the World Health Organization, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, or your local health authorities. Be mindful of how much time you and your family are spending on media coverage. It could be upsetting to you or one of your loved ones, and a lot of the content being published is not new news. Check the news once or twice a day and avoid it upon waking up or right before bed.
Draw upon your past experiences to see if you have anything applicable to your present situation. Have you previously gone through a crisis and handled it well? Did you write press releases in a previous job? Are you a calming presence? An all-hands-on-deck situation doesn’t have to be chaotic.
“Most people want to be involved and have the potential to add value,” Tebaldi said. Offering up skills to your team can help with feeling engaged and accomplished in a time of crisis.
Tebaldi shared, “Individuals respond to stressful experiences differently. Reactions such as anxiety and worry are common. Basic self-care techniques, such as connecting with others, maintaining a healthy routine, and getting adequate sleep and nutrition, are just some of the ways to effectively manage.”
In addition to making sure that individuals are taking care of themselves, Tebaldi suggested that having clear, concise communications in the workplace and beyond is important in keeping anxiety levels lower in these uncertain times. “If something isn’t going well, talk to one another,” she said. “If people have questions, they should ask them of their Employee Assistance Program (EAP), managers, and peers.”
In situations of panic or breaking news, it’s easy to join the conversation. However, a lot of corporations have social media policies in place that make you, as an employee, a representative of the company you work for.
Be mindful of what you’re sharing with your digital social circles and be aware of what your company’s social media policy is. Social media platforms are your digital footprint—it’s nearly impossible to erase your tracks, even if you hide or delete content.
If a colleague has been given a health advisory or has to self-quarantine, ask how you can help them. With the current recommendations for social distancing, Tebaldi suggested, “Talk to one another. Connect virtually with your friends, colleagues, or groups you’re a part of. Many companies have EAP in place to help keep emotional health and wellness stable.”
Reach out to your human resources department about what EAP services may be available at your company. They offer confidential and anonymous services to help keep employees feeling mentally healthy.
Tebaldi advocates that support for one another in the workplace, even if it has become a remote work environment, is essential. “How can we help ourselves and each other maintain routine and connection? We have many outlets to connect with others and can support one another.” Work can be stressful by itself—emotionally and mentally supporting each other can help lessen additional strain in times of crisis.
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