Hospo Voice

Stressed or anxious about reopening? Bosses need to look out for our mental health at work

October 4, 2021

Here’s how they should be taking responsibility

If you’re in NSW and Victoria, your working life is probably not business as usual right now. Maybe you haven’t gone much further than your couch over the past few months? Or perhaps you’ve been working in some capacity doing takeaways?

In NSW and Victoria, we’re finding out day by day what it’s going to mean to live with COVID. Hospitality venues will reopen in the next few weeks when we get to those key vaccination targets.

No matter your situation, ‘opening up’ and getting back to work is probably at the forefront of your mind. Maybe you’re excited? And a little scared? Maybe you’re confused or even angry? These are all completely normal feelings to have.

Your employer has a responsibility to consider how they can minimise hazards to your mental health at work.

Going back to work might affect your mental health in ways you don’t expect. Here are some problems that might come up and what to do about it.

Fear and anxiety about returning to work

If you’re feeling anxious about returning to work, you’re definitely not alone. This is completely normal, and it’s going to affect your mental health at work.

Even if you’re chomping at the bit to hang with your colleagues, it’s normal to feel worried about your COVID risk.

You might also feel concerned if your workplace has moved roles around or you have extra responsibilities like checking QR codes or vaccination status.

What your workplace should do

Your workplace must have a COVID safety plan, including masks and infection control measures, to limit your exposure to any outbreak. You should receive training about performing your job in a way that is safe and won’t risk your health. 

Your employer should also talk to you about any fears you have and how they can help manage these fears. They may even provide appropriate mental health support from an Employee Assistance Program or a digital mental health service.

If you have any COVID-19 symptoms, they should give you time off to get tested.

Work related tiredness

We all know you need to have heaps of stamina to work in hospo. You’re on your feet for hours at a time and you build up a tolerance hard work.

Let’s face it, it’s gonna be hard to get back into the swing of things. The first few shifts are going to be TOUGH. Your feet will hurt, you’ll probably get a bunch of blisters and you’ll feel muscles in your legs that you won’t have felt for months.

There are also lots of venues that don’t have enough staff because of fewer overseas workers or because staff have moved into other industries during lockdown.

So if you’re feeling exhausted when you go back to work, don’t beat yourself up and don’t push yourself too hard.

Make sure you have lots of sleep, too. Lack of sleep and rest can have a huge impact on your mental health. Sleeping helps us recover from mental and physical exertion and is a vital component of good mental health.

What your workplace should do

Your boss should make sure there are enough workers so you’re not being rushed off your feet.

They should give you enough breaks to make sure you’re getting rest, and you should have a roster that gives you enough down time.

Bullying and disrespect

You’ve got to admit, everyone is on edge at the moment. Unfortunately, we might see that spill over into how customers interact with us. We might see tempers fray between colleagues.

There also might be tension over adhering to physical distance limits, vaccination status and checking in.

Just because we’re all a bit more anxious than usual, it doesn’t mean it’s any excuse for bullying or disrespectful behaviour.

What your workplace should do

Your boss should promote a workplace of respect. They should have processes in place to deal with bullying and disrespectful behaviour, no matter where it occurs.

Employers should set clear expectations about what behaviour they expect from customers and colleagues. They should sign up to Respect is the Rule, our Hospo Voice campaign that asks venues and customers to take the pledge to help create a safe and respectful environment for their staff.

What if my workplace is doing nothing for my mental health?

So, you’ve read those ‘what your workplace should do,’ suggestions and you’re thinking ‘dang, my boss is doing nothing to improve mental health at work.’

Sounds like it’s time to get together with your colleagues and fight for better support and conditions! Join Hospo Voice to ask a question on our Mobilise app about how to improve conditions in your workplace.

Where else to go for support?

Lifeline – 13 11 14, operating 24 hours a day, 7 days a week

Lifeline Text 0477 131 114, operating 12pm – midnight (AEDT), 7 days a week

Lifeline webchat operating 7pm – midnight (AEDT), 7 nights a week

Beyond Blue – 1300 224 636

Already a hospo voice member? Ask your question on mobilise

Download Mobilise

Our member-experts are ready to answer your questions about reopening. Whether it’s about your employer’s responsibility to look out for your mental health, creating a covid-safe plan or what to do if your boss is doing the wrong thing. Head to Mobilise and get the answers.
Keep an eye out for new covid resources coming soon to our Member Hub.

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