WHO's mental health unit creates advisory to help managers through challenging times

With the current situation regarding COVID-19, where borders are being closed, social distancing is being implemented and mandatory quarantine, along with stay home notices being handed out, it comes as no surprise that there is a certain amount of gloom taking over the global workforce. Added to this stress, there are also numerous headlines talking about Singapore heading towards recession. According to a DBS economist, a recession in Singapore "appears inevitable" amid the impact of COVID-19 and predicted the economy to shrink by 0.5% this year. This comes following Bank of America declaring that US has been shoved to recession due to the consequences of COVID-19 outbreak. 

Noting this, the Mental Health Department under WHO has released a public health advisory stating that it is important to support one's mental and psychological well-being amidst the rapidly increasing COVID-19 outbreak. The advisory, which urges members of the public not to attach the virus to any ethnicity or nationality, states that it is important to now start distinguishing facts from rumours.

"Avoid watching, reading or listening to news that cause you to feel anxious or distressed; seek information mainly to take practical steps to prepare your plans and protect yourself and loved ones," the organisation said. 

(Read also: Coronavirus gets renamed to COVID-19: Will it reduce stigmatisation?)

Here are some tips for team leaders and managers to aid staff in overcoming challenging times:

  • Ensure good quality communication and accurate information updates:

Rotate workers from high-stress to lower-stress functions. Partner inexperienced workers with their more experiences colleagues. The buddy system helps to provide support, monitor stress and reinforce safety procedures. Ensure that outreach personnel enter the community in pairs. Initiate, encourage and monitor work breaks. Implement flexible schedules for workers who are directly impacted or have a family member impacted by a stressful event.

  • Role-model self-care strategies to mitigate stress:

Ensure staff are aware of where they can access mental health and psychosocial support services. Managers and team leads are also facing similar stressors as their staff, and potentially additional pressure in the level of responsibility of their role. It is important that the above provisions and strategies are in place for both workers and managers, and that managers are able to role-model self-care strategies to mitigate stress.

  • Keep all staff protected

Team leaders and managers have a responsibility to ensure staff are well protected from chronic stress and poor mental health during this response. This is to better ensure staff have a better capacity to fulfill their roles.

(Read also: The road to recovery post COVID-19: Steps brands need to take now)

At this time, it is also important to honour caretakers and healthcare workers supporting people affected with COVID-19, and acknowledging the role they play to save lives and keep all safe, said the advisory. Here in Singapore, brands such as McDonald's, Burger King, Far East Organisation and Grab, among others have extended their hand in recognising health care workers for their selflessness during the COVID-19 outbreak. 

Just today, StarHub rolled out measures to enable customers to stay connected with family, friends and colleagues and find entertainment options easily. These include free unlimited mobile talktime for healthcare professionals, free preview and video streaming on StarHub Go for everyone, and discounts on remote work solutions. "As more and more people find themselves having to work remotely or self-isolate for extended periods, digital connectivity and entertainment have become more vital than ever for everyone to live life as normally as possible," the telco said.