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Yearning. As a state, Victoria has yearned for eight months.

Within our homes, hunched over a mug of Tetley, attempting to maintain some sense of social connection via slack or teams. We’re the luckier ones. For others, there’s been complete income loss and no ability to work remotely. We have yearned for our societal freedom and regular human connection since this virus kicked off almost two years ago. As our resilience eroded, the community’s overall mood looked something like this:

In truth, many of us have on-boarded into our roles without ever enjoying the company of our colleagues in three-dimensional form. Yet anticipatory anxiety is rife across Victoria around the prospect of reopening and returning to work. Wasn’t this impending moment of freedom supposed to be an experience of relief? Workplace banter and knock-offs we’ve not experienced consistently in almost two years. Shouldn’t our souls be overly frothy with excitement?

Many Victorians appear purely exhausted by uncertainty, having had to constantly tailor their behaviour based on ever changing public health orders. That’s enough to draw in the blinds and glue your bum to the couch permanently.

Many people will ease straight back into the day-to-day rhythm of the work environment. A lot of this is dependent on psychosocial factors, personal values, and individual perspectives. Some people have been locked down in more social homes than their peers, making the transition out of lockdown less stressful on their noggens. Others hold very little concern about catching the virus, instigating a fairly relaxed approach to office re-entry. On the flipside, many individuals will feel regular bouts of anxiety about returning to work. They may live alone and be unused to face-to-face communication or have underlying concerns about the effects of the virus on their physical health.

 

As leaders, how do we support our staffers as they return to our pubs, venues, and office spaces?

Settle in as we plonk down three simple steps to help support staff with reopening anxiety.

 

Consider supporting staff from a trauma informed lens

The phrase ‘trauma informed’ is becoming increasingly common. This is an inherently good thing and a bloody important notion in supporting the mental health of Australians. According to Blueknot, trauma can be defined as the experience and effects of overwhelming stress.

Since March 2020, our society has experienced a collective trauma due to the disempowerment of a pandemic. Trauma overwhelms a person’s ability to cope when faced with a threat, or when they believe there is a serious threat confronting them. As such, some staff may perceive returning to work as a threat. There could be a sense of uncertainty in their worldview that has been compounded by the media and politics over the last two years.

As staff re-enter, you may want to familiarise yourself with trauma informed language and non-judgemental support. Examples such as, “How are you feeling about returning to work?” or “It’s understandable to feel [sad/anxious/unsure], I’m here to listen if you need.” As tricky as it can be when we do not relate to a person’s experience, try to set aside the business agenda whilst having this conversation. It is likely the more supported staff feel, the quicker they will re-engage.

 

Gently, gently

There’s a stack of new conditions we need to navigate in the sector, and we need to do so quickly. As we get our venues and offices back up and running, it can be tempting to rush staff into their roles without consultation. Ensure that you have set aside time to gently run each staff member through the changes in place across the business. Remember everyone’s different. Some members of your team may have a thorough understanding of the current Victorian health directions and the requirements in their day-to-day duties. Others, less so. The more insight staff have into their adapted roles, the safer they’ll feel as they navigate the new normal.

 

Remember you and your team are supported

Music Victoria, in conjunction with the Partners in Wellbeing program, has secured a Mental Health Clinician/Consultant, and that person is me – Bree 👋

The pandemic has been tough, it’s important we get the jump on our mental health as we return to a new world of normal.

This new service offers free and confidential mental health support for you, your families, and employees. Along with the one-on-one sessions, we can refer you to our free financial counselling and business advisory support services. If you’re keen to connect, I am available for a chat Monday to Friday, 9am to 5pm.

If your issues are not urgent, and you’d like to have a chat with me directly, you can self-refer by emailing bree@musicvictoria.com.au or by making a booking here. Don’t forget, family and staff members are also most welcome to connect in with me for support.

 

Black and white photo of Bree Chapman-Stewart smiling

Bree Chapman-Stewart
Mental Health Clinician/Consultant

Contact Details
Email: bree@musicvictoria.com.au
Phone: 0409 299 292
Hours: Monday to Friday, 9am to 5pm

Outside of Business Hours
Outside of business hours, you can connect with the Partners in Wellbeing Helpline on 1300 375 330.