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Comcare webinar - COVID-19, our work, mental health and wellbeing video transcript

Video transcript of COVID-19, our work, mental health and wellbeing presented on 14 October 2020.

Watch the video of the Comcare webinar.


Master of Ceremonies (MC):
To get us going, on behalf of Comcare, Beyond Blue and the Future of Work Institute, I'd like to acknowledge the lands on which we're all virtually meeting and the traditional custodians of those lands, the elders, past, present, and emerging. We'd like to acknowledge the artist, Tamara May Murray, who painted this work that's on display now for Beyond Blue. And thank Beyond Blue for sharing Tamara's work with us for this presentation. The artist has created this bright, beautiful pace as a celebration of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, their strengths, their hope, and resilience.

As I mentioned before, my name is Andrew Crane and I'm part of Comcare's education and engagement team. And I'll be your host for today's webinar. Today, we're joined by Ngaire Anderson from Comcare, Linda Sheahan from Beyond Blue, and Professor Karina Jorritsma from the Future of Work Institute. Our speakers alleged to be delivering a presentation, and then we have some time allocated towards the end of the session for answering some of your questions.

If you've got a specific question for a speaker, don't forget to include the name in your question. So now to kick us off and get us going, I'd like to introduce Ngaire Anderson, who's the director of mental health and research at Comcare. Ngaire leads a portfolio of mental health and research programs across the Comcare scheme. She brings 20 years of broad business and health sector experience, and this includes 16 years as a paramedic and various other health sector board roles, including board chair of a public hospital and deputy chair of a large community health service. Welcome, Ngaire.

Ngaire Anderson:
Thank you so much, Andrew. And good morning to everyone here today and thank you for joining us. Workplace mental health is a key focus not only for the Comcare jurisdiction, but all Australian workers' compensation and WHS authorities. Particularly, as many of you know, the prevalence of workplace mental health incidents continue to rise, Comcare is taking a preventative and early intervention approach with respect to supporting mentally healthy workplaces with evidence, as many of you also know, showing the importance of intervening early as being critical for improving recovery and return to work outcomes of both injured and ill employees. So we're leading and collaborating on a number of mental health initiatives, which are designed to support and guide the scheme to proactively prevent psychological harm, support recovery and return to work and promote positive mental health practices across workplaces, excuse me.

In doing so, we utilise an evidence-based integrated approach in identifying opportunities to support workers along the continuum of mental health. So, this morning, my presentation is really to provide some brief insights into some of the initiatives that we're leading in this space. I guess we can't talk about COVID without talking about 2020 and vice versa and some of the impacts of COVID undoubtedly it's had on workplaces and employees. It's changed the way we work and the way that we live. So, the way people have responded during this period of time has been a very individual thing. I don't think many of us have had the same experience, but many of us have had similar experiences. A number of us have struggled with feelings of uncertainty, stress, and anxiety, whilst adjusting to a number of changed circumstances such as self-isolation and working from home.

So we understand that encouraging workers to get back to a COVID safe office is a key priority for many of you, and assisting these areas, Comcare has developed a suite of mental health and wellbeing guidance and resources to provide employers and workers practical tips around things like how to live with uncertainty and responding positive in productive ways. This includes fact sheets developed in collaboration with the Australian Public Service Commission and which have become a crucial resource, essentially for workers who have been providing a central service just to the Australian community during COVID-19. So I really encourage you to take a look at these on our dedicated COVID-19 work website page.

Employers within the Comcare scheme also have access to Comcare's LMS, which hosts several educational resources. There's a new eLearn in its final stages of development called introduction to psychological safety in the workplace. This will enable learners to identify the legislation and national guidance material relevant to psychological risk management within the Commonwealth jurisdiction. Comcare has also developed a more general module relevant to many called managing work health and safety risks related to COVID-19, I should say, which is targeted again at managers and workers to better understand responsibilities in the workplace in relation to COVID-19.

Once we resume face-to-face training, we'll also continue to offer a course called psychological health and safety in the workplace. This examined strategies and tools that can identify psychological hazards, assess risks, and consider appropriate control measures. The emphasis essentially is on promoting mentally healthy workplaces by identifying work-related stressors and exploring the psychological safety climate. Moving on, speaking of the psychological safety climate, otherwise known as the PSC as many of you also know, Comcare has explored the use and understanding of lead indicators within the scheme as part of our strategic focus on prevention and early intervention. This is off the back of many of our scheme employers also expressing the desire to learn more about lead indicators.

So what are lead indicators and how do they differ from lag indicators? This is a very common question. Lag indicators provide information about the current status of work, health, safety and wellbeing in an organisation, and often occur as an outcome of job design and management contexts. Lead indicators, on the other hand, proceed all of the factors in the workplace that impact work, health, safety, and wellbeing. They enable monitoring of conditions and are used to alert us when there's likely to be a negative trend in psychosocial risks and therefore help organisations to make preemptive changes that will influence WHS outcomes. So Comcare's lead indicator mentoring program was a research partnership with the Centre of Workplace Excellence at the University of South Australia to trial the use of a lead indicator and the PSC or the psychosocial safety climate was chosen.

So the PSC is measured using the PSC-12 scale consisting of 12 survey questions used to determine the level of psychosocial risk within a workplace. Importantly, the program also included three months of mentoring during which each participating employer engaged with the Centre of Workplace Excellence to assess their workplace PSC and develop and implement action plans. And this was a crucial element to the success of the program. The program ultimately included 11 units from eight employers and run across nine months and finished in May this year. It included an initial one day workshop and three waves of data collection.

So just moving on to the next slide, what we've got here is the implementation process and changes in the PSC within the eight participating organisations evaluated across the program. So evaluation indicated that the program and its activity significantly increased PSC of the experimental groups, which is in that green line on the graph, and thereby reduced the risk of WHS harm. Interestingly, wave three, which is the third point on that graph, was collected in March this year, which coincided with the emergence of COVID-19, which essentially was an unprecedented event, which may have attributed to the highly varied results of PSC at wave three for the control group, which is the orange line underneath. You can see where it went up from wave two to wave three.

Overall, however, participants reported that the program reduced the psychological impact of COVID-19 on their employer groups. And for context, some of the psychosocial hazards and risks workers and even ourselves may have experienced during the pandemic include things like increase in work demand, where work may have been adjusted and with rapid change, thereby increasing the time spent at work to meet job demands. And on the flip side, we've also heard about lower job demands, where usual work may have changed or reduced impacting worker satisfaction and mental wellbeing.

Of broader interest as well around lead indicators and the PSC, one of the researchers involved in this program, Professor Maureen Dollard, has recently been awarded an Australian Laureate Fellowship to establish the world's first PSC observatory, together analyse and synthesise national and international workplace climate data. So this is definitely a spot to keep an eye on. You'll find more about the lead indicators mentoring program in the research page on Comcare's website, including a fact sheet which summarises the program and its results.

Still within the realm of WHS, as a quick update, Comcare is working with members of the heads of workers' compensation authorities across Australia to create a digital tool called the People at Work tool. This is an evidence-based and free resource to help workplaces in all industries identify, measure, and control risk to the psychological health and wellbeing of workers. It includes a psychosocial risk survey, a tailored psychosocial risk factors report based on survey results and links to guidance on controls to help address any areas of concern. The digital version of this tool is scheduled for completion towards the end of the year, but the official launch will occur around February or March 2021. Again, another one to keep an eye on, and this is a national project.

So moving on to something that I'm quite proud of as far as supporting our jurisdiction with mental health goes. As many of you know, there is a lack of evidence-based mental health care in Australia, costing workplaces nearly $13 billion a year, highlighting the need for evidence-based effective workplace mental health supports. So new access was developed by Beyond Blue and is a model of low intensity cognitive behavioural therapy focusing on prevention and early intervention of mild to moderate anxiety and/or depression. It's delivered via a nonclinical coaching workforce. What Comcare wanted to do was to determine the effectiveness of new access within a workplace setting. It has been run out of a community setting through primary health networks.

And so we ran a six-month pilot trial in 2018 to '19. It was evaluated by PricewaterhouseCoopers and demonstrated that caseness at the original initial assessment of somebody going through the program was at 68%. What that showed was that 68% of individuals who undertook the program met the criteria for clinical diagnosis of anxiety and/or depression, which is not surprising but also astounding when you think these are your colleagues or yourself within workplaces who have not been diagnosed previously. A high participant recovery rate of 78% was also shown, which is individuals who exited the program after up to six coaching sessions, they exited below the clinical threshold for anxiety or depression. The trial also showed enhanced participant job satisfaction and productivity and overall economic viability for the program with a conservative estimate cost benefit ratio of 1.3 in relation to absenteeism, presenteeism, and psychological claims.

So following the successful pilot trial, Comcare has again partnered with Beyond Blue and is now leading a two-year mental health initiative called NewAccess workplaces, making new access available to up to 120,000 employees across 15 Australian Public Service or APS agencies. So not all employees will access the service. However, it is promoted to the 120,000. It was rolled out to participating agencies between mid June to early August in 2020. And since then, we've seen incredibly hard demand, which has confirmed the need for supports within workplaces particularly during the COVID-19 period.

This slide's actually just been updated today with some new figures. So as of the 9th of October, the program has seen 464 inquiries translating to 297 booked assessments, not surprising given the challenge many workplaces and workers are facing during the COVID-19 pandemic. The most reported rationale for contacting the service to date includes workload demands, family issues, and changes in the workplace. So 82% of individuals thus far have reported to be at that clinical caseness level. And of these, 86% have exited the program below the clinical threshold. So these are extremely affirming figures. PWC will again undertake a robust program evaluation, including a one-year interim and two-year final evaluation, which will enable Comcare to further contribute importantly to the evidence-base around effective workplace mental health prevention and early intervention support.

Another project which is in the very early stage is around better practice EAP. As we know, to manage the impact of mental health issues in the workplace and support the healthy functioning of workplaces, private and public sector organisation often adopt employee assistance programs such that the EAP industry is valued at approximately $266 million in Australia. So in response to feedback from some of our Australian Public Service agencies within our jurisdiction, and again, as part of our work around better practice early intervention and supports for workers, we're leading and collaborating on the development of guidance and resources to support better practice provision of EAP services for APS agencies.

Essentially, the aim is to ensure organisations procure the right services for their needs, promote those services in a way that drives maximum engagement and importantly evaluate the effectiveness of those services to ensure they're delivering improved wellbeing for workers and organisational value for money. So, again, in its early stages, but we'll be sure to come back to people once we've started to develop some resources and some findings from that one. And lastly, just a note, particularly for those within our jurisdiction about Comcare by annual mental health community of practice, this is for our licensees and APS agencies and brings together a number of professionals, including human resources and health and safety practitioners as part of driving better practice in creating mentally healthy workplaces. So each community of practice is centred around a workplace mental health related theme, which is requested by attendees and features presentations from experts such as academic, practitioners, people with lived experience and so on.

The next community of practice is on the 11th of November, which happens to be Remembrance Day. It will focus on the impact of mental health stigma in the workplace, which is such an important foundation of any mentally healthy workplace. It's essentially going to provide some evidence-based insights and practical tips on how stigma can be prevented and reduced with topics, including, excuse me, defining and measuring mental health stigma by Dr. Christopher Groot from the University of Melbourne, findings from the National Stigma Report Card by Dr. Michelle Blanchard, deputy CEO of SANE Australia, reducing stigma in the Department of Defence by Colonel [inaudible 00:15:50] Barnett and lived experience of... Bennett, I should say, and lived experience of stigma in the workplace by Maria Katsonis.

So keep an eye out for that one as well. And look, please do reach out to us if you'd like to chat more about any of these topics. Thank you again for joining us today to learn and discuss the important topic of mental health and wellbeing in the context of COVID-19. That was quite a quick presentation, but hopefully it gives you a bit of an insight into the types of initiatives that Comcare are running in this space, but please reach out. I'll now hand back to you, Andrew, down there somewhere. We'll kick off the presentations by our learned guest speakers, Linda and Karina. Thank you so much.

Master of Ceremonies (MC):
All right. Thank you so much, Ngaire, and you certainly packed a lot in a very short period of time, and such an interesting update on some of the work that Comcare is doing in the mental health space. Some remarkable numbers in there too. And I've got to say I'm really looking forward to that next mental health community of practice. As you mentioned, if you've got any questions or would like to get in touch with the team, there are contact details that are on the slide outright now and they'll be posted in the question and comment area.

So now, to our next presenter, Linda Sheahan, who's the workplace engagement manager at Beyond Blue, who's in her role she collaborates with workplaces, regulators, governments, and non-government organisations, industry groups, research specialists, and mental health sector to build more mentally healthy workplaces. So with over 15 years in the sector, Linda specialises in role design, recovery at work, workplace rehabilitation, and building thriving workplaces. Welcome, Linda. Great to have you with us.

Linda Sheahan:
Hello. Thank you so much, Andrew, and thanks to everyone for joining today. Thanks also to the Comcare team. Today, I'll share some insights about what Beyond Blue is observing at the community level, priorities for workplace mental health, including examples of common psychosocial hazards. And at the end, I want to explore practical self-care and help-seeking, but particularly how you might reframe that discussion when you've most likely been talking about self-care and help-seeking for most of this year.

A quick reminder about Beyond Blue and what we do. Beyond Blue is an Australian, not-for-profit organisation, whose vision is to help all people in Australia achieve their best possible mental health. Under our current strategy, we have three priority areas, one, promoting mental health and wellbeing, two, being a trusted source of information, advice, and support, and three, working together to prevent suicide. We support the Australian community in a number of ways with program areas including education, workplace, suicide prevention, campaigns, research, services including NewAccess Speakers Program, the Beyond Blue Support Service, and our ever-growing online community forums.

We received strong support from many of you watching today, both organisations and you individually. And for that, we're very great. This year, as a part of the National Coronavirus Response, we were funded by the Federal Department of Health and with support from Medibank to establish a dedicated coronavirus mental wellbeing support service. With this and our broader work, Beyond Blue is privy to external research, data insights, and community feedback.

Many of you will be familiar with the mental health continuum. This is the idea that people's health is sitting on a continuum, ranging from healthy at the green end to unsettle or at risk and unwell at the red end. Our mental health isn't static, but moves along the continuum. This may resonate over 2020 more than ever with our sense of coping shifting day-to-day or hour by hour. Our goal is to help people wherever they sit along the continuum, including helping tackle ongoing stigma. It's also helpful to recall how common mental health conditions are.

In Australia, it's usually estimated that one in five of us are likely to be impacted by poor mental health in any year. Two million people live with anxiety and one million people live with depression and almost 50% of us are likely to be impacted by poor mental health sometime over our lifetimes. There are real improvements, however. For example, in the construction industry, there've been reductions in the risk of suicide, which aligns with better understanding and practice around workplace mental health. So whilst we've come a long way around mental health, there's still a long way to go, and it's important to continue on this journey. Mental health is something that we can positively influence.

So what's the impact of COVID-19? We are seeing an increased rate of worry and distress in the community. A representative longitudinal study from the Australian National University has confirmed that. Psychological distress has increased in Australia between pre-pandemic measures and April 2020. It reduced slightly in May and then worsened again between May and August. People are experiencing high rates of worry, being 66.7% in April, 57.3% in May, and then 62.6% in April. Contacts to be on Blue Support Service have increased 66% in April and 60% in May compared with the same periods in 2019. Overall, contacts to the support services have been up 31% over the course of the entire pandemic and that's measures from April to September 2020 versus 2019.

Beyond Blue's online forums have seen more than 970,000 engagements since early April and the coronavirus mental wellbeing support service digital platforms. So the website has received over at 889,000 visits since it was launched in early April. The second wave in Victoria has seen a shift in national behaviour. For example, in the second week of June, Beyond Blue saw more traffic coming from New South Wales than Vic, but now two and three contacts to the coronavirus mental wellbeing support service are coming from Victoria.

Despite these signs that people are seeking help, there are really mixed signs also. So, for example, there are suggestions with many employers that we're hearing. Some people are saying that their EAP rates are quite low, others are saying that they're booming. Likewise, some worker's comp have seen claims quite low as well. And so this can potentially be explained by community concerns around job vulnerability as this often happens in economic downturns. The pandemic is having an impact on people who have never struggled before, as well as those who live with mental health issues. A key emerging trend, however, is the divergence of experience and impact of mental health we're seeing over time.

In terms of psychological distress, factors influencing wellbeing include hours worked, so generally having a job is mostly really good for you, social isolation and loneliness. Young people and women are fairing worse with factors including work loss and loneliness, and Victorians are fairing worse in recent data. And this is associated with the timing of the second wave and when the data sets are taken. But we're also seeing other socio-economic vulnerabilities, which are increasing their likelihood of a worse experience over time with the pandemic. So whilst COVID has been a difficult time for most people, people's experience of COVID tends to be quite varied and we're starting to see these compounding vulnerabilities.

This slide summarises some of the key influences our community and stakeholders are telling us they're impacting their mental health this year. The types of impacts fall into six categories. Relationships can be a source of connection and support. COVID has made accessing existing relationships a lot harder and it's made forming new relationships often harder again. Plans, what changes the plans? People often feel purpose by working towards goals. Many have been disoriented or disheartened where those have changed. COVID-19, and by that, I mean you're experiencing closeness and proximity to COVID, so things like exposure risk and local restriction levels.

Family can be both a support, but also a stressor depending on the quality of relationships. It might be losing loved ones and family or not having family nearby as well. There are serious events, including rising family violence, which we're seeing increased trends all around Australia, but also work. And work, I mentioned before, generally, it's correlated with doing a bit better, but it can also be a support and a stressor. So work loss is detrimental to health, but rapid work change can be both a positive and a negative also. So once you experience a wellbeing, it's impacted for all those categories, how positively or negatively we might have those experiences, but also how people were situated before COVID.

So, for instance, if they had some of those negative things happening beforehand and also their level of preparedness, so having a mental health toolkit, having mental health skills, and workplaces that had more capacity around mental health, where it's strategies, skills, organisationally and individually, that's proved quite powerful as well. Moving forward in terms of the things that we can do, preparation and empowerment have been identified as really important things to help people navigating these challenges ongoing.

Next slide. My key first message is that people's experience of COVID, and Ngaire said this right at the start, they're diverse, they're complex, but many of the challenges can be hard to see and think particularly about those intersecting vulnerabilities. In this next section, on the next slide, we'll focus a bit more on workplaces. Very positively, so really good trend from the outset is this growing feedback that people and businesses are showing very strong levels of awareness for the importance of mental health. We're having these discussions like we've never had before. I mean, our society, that's a big shift from challenges that have come before. This is a really positive sign. And everyone watching today, I'd compliment you as well for your awareness and commitment.

This slide, it shows the integrated approach that Ngaire referred to at the start developed by Professor Tony LaMontagne. It sets up three domains to enable workplace mental health. These are protecting for risks to mental health, promoting good health, and supporting people who may be struggling or at risk. It can apply both individually and for groups in a work setting. This slide shows some of the ongoing barriers that people report experiencing around help-seeking. These include perceptions of accessing help. Many people see it as complex, expensive, risking their privacy and unlikely to deliver benefit.

The second one is mental health literacy. So there's really good evidence that most of us aren't great at identifying how we're tracking with our mental health. We tend to overestimate how we're going, our capacity to cope, and wait much too long before we take action. One study showed that people with symptoms of anxiety wait on average more than eight years before seeking help. The third point is around stigma. We heard about the same report card, it was released earlier this week. And it showed again that people with complex mental health conditions are facing ongoing stigma in the workplace.

Fourth point, people often don't seek support because they're concerned of being a burden on others. There's some lovely data which is referenced on this slide that this is a real disconnect between where most people are up to. Generally, most peers really want to help their colleagues, but there's this ongoing self-stigma where we're really worried about being a burden. There's a negative potential impact on working career. And then the last point I think is really important in this discussion around psychosocial risk and it's that people often don't seek help when they see it as a band-aid solution, particularly when they can't influence what's stressing them. And this is where the ability to influence psychosocial hazards and being involved in work design processes and protections can be really powerful.

So, next slide. Looking deeper into the integrated approach. Many of you may have seen this before as well, but it shows a model developed by the Black Dog Institute showing the main workplace mental health interventions. Generally in workplaces, we've come a really long way around those more secondary and tertiary interventions. So supporting people, promoting early help-seeking, promoting resilience and raising awareness, where we had this opportunity and where I think all the work Comcare is doing is really great, but it's around work design and how to reduce harm and how we build up those organisational protective factors.

Next slide. So this shows a summary of common psychosocial hazards and protections. And it's been adapted from the Safe Work Australia guide. Along the top, we've got the hazards, and along the bottom, we've got the protections for mental health. We've seen a lot of hazards this year, including rapid work change, isolated work, and changes in resourcing and also reallocation of resources. And much of this is driven by the emergency response to the pandemic. So it might be reasonable in the moment, but let's draw our focus to the protections. These include flexibility, influence, building up people's autonomy and skills, good communication, and work participation.

Next slide. So key message too, this year, mental health awareness is high, but so are the risks and barriers. So in the next section, we'll start to break this down a bit more. I'm going to be rushing a bit, but this is intentional as Karina is going to build on this in much more detail. So first example is working from home. Nearly half the Australian workforce has worked from home at some time over the course of this year with common challenges, including online presenteeism, such as emailing more, working longer hours, rising screen fatigue, suitability of work at home. For instance, if you're in a share house or have kids, difficulty replicating casual conversations and knowledge sharing. So people hearing manager conversations, and there's a lot of uncertainty around career progression.

So I'm mostly going to skip this example because Karina is going to really delve into it in this study. But the key themes are workplaces with a focus on outputs, strong relationships, good communication, and who are redesigning work practice in collaboration with staff in response to ongoing change. They're really making working at home work. And we're seeing some great examples to spend some good practice from the tech sector from a long time that we're starting to learn and leverage from. Second example, I'll again touch on this really quickly, but our remote teams. These cover a number of industries, including construction, people living in rural and remote areas. It's always any grouping who might not be working in head office. So the common challenges include isolation, low support, a sense of disconnection. And heightened risks this year, include potential vulnerabilities due to COVID, communication breakdown, uncertainty. But also, a really interesting one was a few of these workforces felt a bit left out of some of the national discourse when it was particularly around frontline health workers and work from home.

I'll preface here, the picture of the AID guys, not in any way representative of risks, but illustrative of remote team. I'm a very big fan of AID. So effective strategies this year include a focus on work design, including making sure work is managed well, people are trained and equipped and trusted to act autonomously. And studies have shown that communicating and retraining staff around COVID, so new safety protocols, for example, has been really effective to help reduce feelings of uncertainty. It also builds up people's sense of autonomy and mastery.

Next slide. Lastly, this shows some common trends of what people are facing working now. It includes, as we've mentioned, rapid work change resulting in a lack of role clarity and challenging people's autonomy, uncertainty resourcing work hours, either being too high or too low. And another big one is challenging interactions with the public or customers. So, next slide. The evidence of effective strategies. And this is also in a literature review paper from Griffith Uni, which we can share after the presentation. But it's clear communication, relevant training, leadership commitments, and the big growing one participatory work design.

As we progress in our pandemic responses over time, this is where the band-aid fixes. We've got to start fixing up and make sure they're build and work for the longer term. So a bigger challenge, particularly for larger businesses, is how we can include people in that process. The slide now shows a couple of resources, which we'll share around afterwards, but this includes, as Ngaire mentioned, the People at Work survey, the Thrive at Work toolkit, which Karina will speak to more, but it looks at operationalizing approaches to work design. So it's that really handy practical approach. Beyond Blue has a guide around developing a workplace mental health strategy. And the really great things we've seen businesses doing is launching or really relaunching their strategic approaches to workplace mental health.

And the last image to the right, these are a couple of good examples from New South Wales Public Service Commission, but they're team-based toolkits around team-based flexibility and team-based work redesign. And it's really about helping big businesses with that practical approach to implementing some of these challenges. So, again, we'll share those resources around. So key message three, to help manage psychosocial risks, particularly in the context of this year, worker participation and work design is critical. This next point, I'll touch on very briefly. The slide shows some facts associated with good health and thriving work. An increasing trend we're seeing is that people really want to see their choices back and to be able to plan and look forwards.

So businesses, if possible, if you can keep progression and development conversations on the table, that can be a really powerful thing to do this year. I appreciate that consent challenging for those in a resource poor environment, but it doesn't need a big budget approach. There've been some really great examples of people stepping up during COVID and doing some quite incredible work over trying circumstances. And even celebrating and sharing these examples can be really good example of how we're promoting and showing people's career achievements and progression. So key message four, promoting good work and health is powerful because it can help build a sense of hope for the future.

So, to finish, and I'm going to wrap up soon, I'm a little bit over time, but I'd like to briefly unpack something we're hearing a lot about lately. So we hear this question a lot and it goes something like, 'I'm doing okay and others are a lot worse off than me.' And then you'll see some common responses that we hear really commonly. I imagine a lot of you have heard these and they may resonate for you personally as well. We jump to the next slide. Generally, many of us know what we should be doing to stay well. The current slide recaps a lot of the things that we can do individually to protect our wellbeing. And this incorporates both self-care strategies, but also some of the support and help-seeking behaviours that we can build in.

The challenge for us though is that when we're not feeling great, these activities often escape us. It's when we least feel that we can reach out for help or the barriers that we mentioned earlier come into play. We might not perceive help as being useful, accessible, or in reach. So, to finish, I wanted to recap some of the things that we found helpful to continue and reinforce those help-seeking and self-care discussions, and ideally help build on the things that you're doing already, but potentially reframe them in some other ways.

Firstly, it's helpful to remember the effectiveness of help and go through that process of challenging perceptions of what help-seeking is like. The data Ngaire gave us and the work Comcare is doing around showing the efficacy of new access is a great practice of this. And another example, Beyond Blue has just published a study around the effectiveness of just one session with the Beyond Blue Support Service. So, for example, we found that distress levels dropped by an average of 42% after just one contact, respondent's ability to cope improved by an average of 32%, and most importantly, 85% of people who were in the sample had taken further action around their mental health within a month. And this is really important to get those sustained improvements. So the example here is by sharing how it works and sharing those stories of success can help challenge those views we might have around the efficacy of some of these treatment approaches.

This slide now, these... Oh, sorry if we go back to the self-care toolkit. Secondly, it can be really useful to recall how and why some of these activities help. So we often hear a lot that mindfulness is the thing to do, or we should be doing yoga. But when we understand why mindfulness works and why yoga works, that can be much more helpful and it can also help motivate people as well. So mindfulness it's based on acceptance and commitment therapy. And like the slide shows, it can help us adjust to circumstances. With practice, it can help people slow down racing thoughts and better manage responses to improve focus. Likewise, we keep hearing about mindset, but breaking down examples of reframing and the importance of self-compassion can help us visualise the shift and understand the process of going from overwhelmed to ready to face challenges. And of course, you can't pour from an empty cup, good sleep and connection have never been more important to keep us going.

Third, and on the next slide, I mentioned that health is often hardest when we need it most. It can be useful to have a strategy or plan for self-care that people can access when they need it most. This includes revisiting strengths and goals and recollecting personal coping mechanisms. This template on the slide it's available from Beyond Blue and it's linked to many of the Comcare info resources that Ngaire shared at the start. There's also some great work being done from the Black Dog Institute. So pick the one that works for you. The idea of doing a wellbeing plan is then you populate your plan with the personal activities that work for you, whether it's walking the dog, using an app, or simply playing an upbeat song that you love. Make the plan that fits you and remember seeking support keeps us strong.

So, key message five, and we'll just jump ahead, continue exploring support. I know many of you have been having this discussion all year, but keep reframing, keep looking for other angles. And a lot of the mental health organisations are continuing to share resources that you might be able to use in some of these discussions. I won't go through this, but I've done just a really quick slide recapping the key messages of today. Remember experiences are diverse, awareness is high but so risks, and that participatory approach can help us keep going. Otherwise, take out the corona site. We've got some new training for small business as well. And I'll say a big, thank you. I hope you can join me for Karina's presentation and I really look forward to the Q&A.

Master of Ceremonies (MC):
Thank you so much, Linda. That was great, fascinating. And we've just popped some links on the slide right now. We're on the slide into the Q&A box. Interestingly, the thumb polls that we've been running has highlighted some of the comments you've been making about the complexity and the variability of it with some people reporting they've been negatively affected by the COVID-19 pandemic and mental health wise. Some people aren't affected, rare few have been positively effected, but the vast majority have responded that it's affecting them both in positive and negative wise. So your comment about people's experience being varied and more complex than first impressions may indicate is really interesting.

So moving to our next presenter, Professor Karina Jorritsma from the Future of Work Institute at Curtin University. Karina is the professor of practice there, and recently established a research institute which promotes productive and meaningful work as being essential foundations of a healthy economy and society. Karina's background is as an organisational psychology researcher and she's got over 15 years experience in successfully bringing together academic thinking and industry stakeholders to address critical workplace challenges. In recent years, Karina's applied research has focused on employee wellbeing. Karina leads Thrive at Work, a partially state funded wellbeing initiative centred on providing Western Australian organisations with the knowledge and tools to design, implement, and sustain healthy and high performing work environments. Welcome, Karina. We're so pleased to have you with us.

Karina Jorritsma:
Hi, everyone. I'm delighted and privileged to be here presenting to you today. And whilst you have me speaking to you today, I'd like to acknowledge that I'm presenting the findings of research undertaken by a much larger team. And for the study that I'm focusing on today, this also... sorry, just back one slide, yeah, led by Professor Sharon Parker, Dr. Caroline Knight, and Dr. Anita Keller, and perhaps even some of you as audience members that have responded to or partaken in part of the surveys.

As Andrew so nicely introduced the Future of Work Institute, I'll just give you a little bit more background about that. So Future of Work Institute is a relatively new. So Future of Work Institute is a relatively new institute at Curtin Uni. There's about 50 of us all up when you include all of the students that work there. We are primarily organisational psychologists or behaviour and management researchers, just so you know what kind of lens we're coming from and how we're looking at this, with some data scientists and some others in the mix. We are not futurists, unfortunately, perhaps as our names sometimes would imply.

Now, as Andrew mentioned, our interests are in supporting thriving people and organisations in the digital age. And a big part of the institute is also the Centre for Transformative Work Design, which looks specifically at the role of work design and generating healthy and productive work that is there too, and we have a number of different things. But given our focus on work design and in particular work design under increasing uncertainty and digital transformation, it's probably not surprising that when the COVID pandemic first hit us heading into lockdown and varying new workplace arrangements, we sought to study what was happening.

And so in mid April, we launched the first of our longitudinal surveys. We then had three more weekly surveys and four more monthly, which we're reaching the end of. That has allowed this fascinating understanding of how people are tracking through all sorts of different experiences, from lockdown, coming out of lockdown, going back into lockdown and varying things. The study itself was really looking at how to best support all of this rapid change, and particularly also the increasing working from home or remote working arrangements. We had a number of factors that we wanted to look at, including wellbeing, as well as productivity, mental health wellbeing, and the strategies that organisations and individuals were using to cope with that environment, which I will unpack with you today.

So the data that I'm going to present to you today is going to focus mostly on the experiences of those people who have been working from home primarily the majority of the time. And mostly from that first data set that we have, lighter data as we finalise the data collection and analyse it, will help to unpack further the learnings people are adopting for the hybridised work that's happening, going back into the office. I will say though that what I want to share today is the finding from this study, but also a lot of the further smaller studies, we've been doing literature reviews, and I'd like to think that a lot of what I'm saying generalises to a lot of different working conditions as well.

As you will see here, the sample is mainly a pretty highly educated sample working in education, administration, professional services with a bit of a spread. There's some manufacturing, some mining, agriculture, those sorts of things. We've got other studies that include more frontline workers and essential workers too, but I'd say what we'll find, as I said before and I'm presenting today, pretty much hold true across the studies. I will call out a couple of things from some of the other studies as we go to... So, consistent with what you've probably already seen with other research findings coming out and maybe your own experiences here, or as Linda was saying, people are fed differently in this experience.

What we've seen is much higher rates of reported psychological distress. What I think is really interesting now, or the opportunity that we have with the data that we have is apart from the stress caused by the pandemic, we're really interested in unpacking work-related factors, we're possibly exasperating this stress and/or buffering it, and that's what I'd like to unpack next. So one of the things that... At first glance from the table here, you can see that those experiencing higher levels of distress. So we've pulled those out and you can see those in the blue lines there also report a higher number of work-related demands or challenges, causality, whether you're distressed and you're seeing them more, or whether they are the case. We can look at more over the longitudinal data, but here you're saying those experiencing high or very high psych distress are experiencing higher levels of reported tech hassles, distrust by managers, underload at times too, job insecurity, poor communication through technology, and arguably slightly less than the rest work-home interference, but we're still seeing those stand.

And whilst many people have actually reported being as productive or more productive than normal during the early stages of COVID, there's about a quarter that weren't as productive as normal. I think what's also, again, really interesting is to unpack why might this be the case? Is it actually ill-suited work that is occurring as well here? So I've mentioned work design, but just to be clear, what we actually mean by work design, when we talk about work design, we mean the content and organising of tasks, activities, relationships, and responsibilities within a job role or set of job or roles. Now, that's quite the mouthful and why it's really important I think for us to unpack this differently.

So work design incorporates many aspects of work, some of which you may be familiar with as an employee, a manager, or a HR or safety professional, particularly looking at psychosocial risks. And if you even look at that list there, it can seem like an overwhelming list when you see them. A big focus of the Future of Work Institute and the Centre for Transformative Work Design has been to help develop a new framework of work design that incorporates these many aspects of work design to make them into more understandable and manageable chunks.

What we fantastically see is like when you actually analyse all of the data and these characteristics across many, many studies, they cluster quite nicely into these five categories that are here. Acronym itself didn't come so easily, but we found one, hence smart work design is what we refer to. And by these, we're actually looking at bundling them together with these things that you'll be familiar with. So the first of those is stimulating work, and you can see there we've got skill variety, task variety, problem-solving demands using and developing skills, mastery, so role clarity, feedback, task identity, agency, control over methods, scheduling control, and the relational aspects of work and demands.

Now, I'm going to unpack these more as I look at the slides under that. But also what you can see is if we flip that to the psychosocial risks that are there, you can see that they might be things that you're familiar with as well when you look at the list of hazards that are there, some of which have been changed during COVID and working from home arrangements, all of which are still ongoing issues and challenges for managing all the way through.

So lunging into... or sorry, and today, whilst we're talking specifically a lot about mental health, when we talk about and look at good work design, we also focus on more broad outcomes. So beyond mental health outcomes, we're also talking about motivation and performance outcomes and learning and growth outcomes as well. So the good thing about good work design is that you get all of those benefits around good work design and not just mental health and risk mitigation that exists there. And that stands through over sort of said like studies with over 5,000 articles, it's become a very, over the years, studied thing where these principles hold true.

Next slide that I have is pretty busy slide, and I don't expect you to look at all the sizes and the circles that are there. But what I'd like to do is just unpack for you or give you an idea of what I'm going to do, which is to talk through each of these aspects of good work design using the smart work design model. So we're talking about the S, the stimulating, look at how we've found that it's actually related to the mental health burnout, procrastination, job satisfaction elements of the job, as well as the performance angles of how proficient people feel around their job, how adaptable they've been and how proactive that they've been as well as we go.

And let me unpack that further. So first up, stimulating work. So the first of the work design factors that we looked at, stimulating work, by this, we mean varied, interesting, meaningful work in which people can develop their skills. And stimulating work or lack there of has been consistently found to impact performance and mental health outcomes. You'll see the drawings here or the illustrations where a sketch artist that we've had, who has actually studied or sketched people in their work around those things. So I've just used those in the background.

Now, around what we found in that space, just like in other studies, it holds true for this study too, firstly, as you can see in the bar graph in the top left, over 15% of the sample have actually indicated that they lack task variety or have unstimulating work. So there's this unique sample, unlike those experiencing higher workload, who've had that underload experience here. And yeah, this is maybe not that surprising given that lots of people's work wasn't designed to be done at home or completely at home as well. More importantly, we've also found that workers who recorded higher task variety also recorded higher job satisfaction, task adaptivity, proactivity, as well as better mental health outcomes. And those who experienced underload had poor mental health outcomes, job satisfaction, and performance.

I've got a correlation table down there at the bottom. I am not expecting that everybody's scanning those correlations. You can have the slides afterwards and you can look at them and you can study them. The darker the colour, the stronger the relationship that's there. And I will actually just call out the key findings and takeaways that are there as well. You can see those relationships that are there. So, next. Simulating work it's important even during COVID lockdowns. And there are things that individuals and leaders can do to make work more stimulating and ensure stimulating work. Regardless of the arrangements people are in, it's possible for workers, to an extent, to craft their jobs to make them more stimulating if empowered by leaders and enabled by the organisation policies and practices. Caveat comes around that. And these practices, as I said, hold true, not just when working from home as is the case with all of the tips I'm presenting today.

So you can see here when we talk about how to improve stimulating work, a lot of it sits around job crafting, employee ownership around learning new skills and collaborating and taking on those

things. Whereas for leaders, it's about encouraging job crafting, redistributing tasks to different team members, keeping tasks in-house where possible, encouraging learning from different people and are really about the creating meaningful projects. I say this like it's easy, and I know that it's not, and it's complicated, but there's lots of other resources and guidance to help navigate this. We do have some blogs up from the Centre for Transformative Work Design website that unpack this a little more and there's loads of different guidance documents that we can refer you to as well.

Next is mastery. And the second of the work design factors that we looked at was mastery. Mastery refers to work in which people are clear about their goals and responsibilities, get appropriate levels of feedback and know how their work fits into the bigger picture. And we found, again, probably unsurprisingly in a time of such rapid and change, there were a number of challenges with mastery. So these include a lack of clarity about expectations that people had about 14%, lack of feedback on performance, actually more than 40%, and not showing here high level of disconnection for people around how things fit together.

Now, these challenges with mastery have important consequences as well for mental health outcomes and productivity. What we see is that those like feedback was linked to lower mental ill-health, burnout, and procrastination or lower procrastination and higher job satisfaction, proficiency, and adaptivity. So mental health and productivity outcomes and clarity was also linked to lower mental health, burnout, procrastination, as well as all of those sides of things like the real, clear, strong importance of people actually having feedback and role clarity during times of uncertainty and change. So taking that to the learnings from that, these reasons again, it's really important for individuals and leaders to be clear about goals and responsibilities to get and give appropriate levels of feedback and understand the bigger picture that's there as well.

Here, we're often also really talking about good transactional leadership of good role clarity, good feedback as a key component to supporting people being productive and for their mental health and wellbeing. Some tips and some things that are up there as well, I must actually say that again here it is about leaders enabling, establishing clear goals and expectations that clarity, building more feedback into virtual meetings, given that some of those mechanisms for feedback have needed to change in the discussion of the bigger picture, and that sort of job crafting and individuals actually seeking out that clarity that exists there as well.

Around the next work design factor that we looked at, we call it agency. You could call it autonomy. We call it agency because we don't mean automated machinery or trucks, but same, same. It includes how much control work is a given about when, how, and where they do their work and the amount of influence employees have to make decisions related to their work. Now, we know that lower economy or control, particularly in combination with high demands has very negative consequences for people's mental health. Prior studies have shown jobs with minimal autonomy can lead to a substantial 20%, 25% increased risk of employees experiencing mental health issues.

And we also know from prior research that many of the benefits of flexible working arrangements and work from home come from the potential increased autonomy. You can see that in the qualitative statements here as well, where a lot of people when they talk about those benefits is all of those abilities to structure people's work the way that actually suits them, scheduling those times and that flexibility that exists. I will talk about the correlation table below, you can see in the top rows there that decision-making autonomy, scheduling and method autonomy, all have strong relationships with job satisfaction and burnout to the extent that the more autonomy people have, the less burnout they are, but I'm going to unpack the monitoring and the pressure to be available next.

Whilst flexible work arrangements can lead to increased mental health and productivity outcomes through that increased autonomy, what we found was that some employees didn't experience these increases in autonomy, but instead felt closely monitored and micromanaged during this time and on ongoing. There's about 7% of workers reported being monitored too much, 8% reported their managers keeping close and frequent and checking of individuals. And if we unpack what sort of sits behind that on the next slide, you'll see that many employees also feeling they were expected to be constantly available, being present at all times. Some of that can be role clarity and questions that exist there.

But if we look even further on the next slide that exists, what we also see is that one of the reasons that managers have reported monitoring their workers closely and expecting people to be constantly available was they didn't trust their workers and doubted their employees to perform their work. So really negative outcomes around the mental health outcomes and high burnout from, which we know around micromanagement. But also, yes, what you'll see here is the underlying things about many managers being reported being sceptical of remote working with more than 27% of managers believing the performance of remote employees usually lower than that of people working in an office setting.

Taking away from that, the benefits of working from home and remote working and a lot of this is that increased autonomy, but this is likely hard for leaders to trust when there haven't had that much experience around it, and particularly if previously managers are looking at line of sight management rather than the results-oriented work. Most of the work here really lies with... Control lies with leaders and managers, and there's little an individual can do if not given autonomy and control. But I've put some tips up there and you can look forward. You can look more at some of those details that are there and we can maybe address some of these in the question and answer time as well.

Next, relational aspects of work in addition to autonomy, which is particularly in that scheduling autonomy and that flexible work. The relational aspects of work are of particular concern to people in this environment because this is also where we see this isolation and lack of connection. So lots of stuff has been done in this area onto how to protect those relational aspects. And you may have your own experiences here. Now, jobs that are highly relational, include employees having high levels of social support, tasks which have a clear sense of value and that degree of feedback from others outside of the team and there's new challenges that exist around this.

Now, findings include the people working from home or remotely can pose relational challenges. There's this experiences of social isolation, loneliness, professional isolation, coordinating by virtual teams. There's a couple of quotes up there. And if we look at the relationships to the outcomes, we see relational aspects are important for both mental health and performance. We find colleagues' support particularly important for mental health, manager's support also important in some of the other studies we've found, manager's supports often very important for productivity outcomes with that colleagues' support particularly important for mental health outcomes. And to this end again on how to increase relational work, there are tips and things that we've provided around connecting with people, water cooler moments, building quality connections using the right mediums. And for leaders, it is really about providing those opportunities and setting up those opportunities that are there as well.

Lastly, is the tolerable demands. And a job with tolerable demands, other than maybe being a unicorn, although often involve manageable workload with reasonable time pressure and work hours, work with manageable emotional mentor, other pressures, that create challenges without not necessarily strain and work without excessively conflicting expectations. We often think of the SMAR that I've talked about as resources that can help buffer and mitigate demands, particularly unchangeable demands. But if demands are consistently too high, then the resources won't prevent harm in the long term.

And looking at the findings, there's lots of workers, lots of demands on workers during this time. And ongoing common things include high workload, emotional demands, work-family conflict, home-work interference, tech hassles, and poor, rude communication via those channels a lot of times, and again, maybe unsurprisingly high demands resulted in high burnout, poor mental health outcomes. And actually, even though poor mental health outcomes and burnout often increase productivity, though, it was related to high workload. Lastly, around these tips around this space, many of the individual strategies for managing demands refer back to from even some of the self-care strategies that Linda has discussed as well and information discussed earlier, and for managers, they can also be really around observing signs of stress, raising awareness, and enhancing where possible those resources aspects and helping to mitigate or reduce the unnecessary tech hassles.

My key takeaways, I guess from these, so in summary, I hope what I've presented to you today has managed to convince you to consider the impact of COVID on employee mental health from a work design angle in addition to some of the more general psych impacts of working through COVID and moving forward the importance and opportunity to support worker mental health and organisational productivity outcomes further by both supporting individuals better craft their jobs to be smart, so those bottom up strategies and supporting work to be redesigned to be smart, so the top down strategies.

And hopefully, you would acknowledge that some jobs weren't smart in the first place, and also many will need redesigning, reconfiguring to be smart under new, more remote hybrid configurations. There's many things that can be done and we hope looking through a smart lens might help you to support this. I will just bleak over the very last slide there and move on to the resources, which are that if you look up, Google the Future of Work Institute or the Centre for Transformative Work Design, you will see links and resources and supports as well as for the Thrive at Work that Linda mentioned, and there's loads more stuff coming as we unpack findings and resources and case studies and things. And that's it for me.

Master of Ceremonies (MC):
Fantastic. Thank you so much, Karina. That was wonderful and so interesting. And now, we've got some time for questions. We've got a lot that have come through, which is fantastic. So to start somewhere, I'll start with one for Linda. Few people have asked around increases in mental health issues around demographics in certain occupations highlighting more issues than others. Anything you'd like to just comment or give us in that space?

Linda Sheahan:
I guess, to start, I noticed there was one around age as well. So a couple of trends that we're starting to see is I think I mentioned young people have been feeling a bit worse. There's a lovely graph on a report from a new data set. And it shows that young people are consistently at the top and it's in terms of level of distress and that signs drop a bit with age. One of the key findings I think it was the over 75 bracket now are having a more sustained increasing distress over time as that's associated with some of the longer term impacts. In terms of occupations, I think most of the focus from a wellbeing perspective and where some of the emerging studies are being done, probably a little bit more industry than occupation specific, but certainly there was a really strong correlation where industries have been economically impacted. We're seeing some different rates in those industries.

So there's a study released, I think, yesterday around the arts as a sector with such high rates of casual work, which has been a real risk factor and also that intersection of young people and industry shut downs have been really badly impacted. But I think in terms of those industry groupings, you can conceive of the immediate lockdown sectors and then the second wave economically impacted sectors. A lot of this research is still coming out. The Australian Bureau of Statistics has a really great website, where you can get all their data summaries and I'm really enjoying seeing the other studies coming out. So I hope that's helpful.

Master of Ceremonies (MC):
Great. Thanks, Linda. So I've got one for you Karina, which is somebody's asked around, 'Could you share more about how the smart and flexibility can work for nonprofessional or work from home style roles?'

Karina Jorritsma:
Yes. So by that sort of route I'm taking, that means freelance kind of work or those types of things.

Master of Ceremonies (MC):
I think the implication is, yeah, is it for just professionals or is it appropriate for other roles as well rather than just office-based or perhaps?

Karina Jorritsma:
100%. If you think about all of this work design as... and break that down into, we all need work that's stimulating, we all need work that challenges us and that we have opportunities to grow and that we have some task variety and we can utilise our skills, and I think everybody can think about within their professions or their areas about what are those opportunities to really utilise their skills and make sure that they're not doing one thing on repeat, or they're not learning just or nothing new that's there.

Now, sometimes the mastery kind of component... Sometimes our work gives us feedback by itself. You can see or there's something in there that says people like what I'm doing, people are using it, they're interested in it, versus sometimes we need to get that feedback, whether they're clients or customers and those types of things that exist, as well as whatever we can do to really support that mastery and training, what can you do to really upskill and know that you're effectively achieving your work? Autonomy, and that's really interesting in the space of when you're being your own boss or you're working from home. We get a lot of times there can be lots of work demands, which is like the D and the A, which is all the autonomy. So you've got loads of demands, but also loads of autonomy.

Sharon calls this hyperactive roles as well, like farmers, different people can also have this, where there's only so much that you can do to cut and to keep managing your work and scheduling and all of that flexibility to just not compensate or deal with those demands that are there. So, arguably, I think that actually feeds into a lot of the other detaching from work and recovery and those opportunities that exist as well. And then the relational aspects of work, people who work from home more or previously have often established better ways of maintaining those connections that are there. So whether that's coworking spaces, or your coffee shop, or connecting in other ways, it's still very much around that broader importance that's there. So I hope that unpacks, same principles apply right across those different areas.

Master of Ceremonies (MC):
Great. Thank you. So interesting just reflecting back on one of the thumb polls that we did, which is around how the nature of your work has changed since the outbreak of COVID-19, and there's almost a dead-even split between people who have said, yes, it has changed, no, it hasn't changed, and somewhat changed. And maybe I'll try to segue that around Zoom. There's a few comments around learning new skills, things like doing presentations and digital and those sorts of things, and then additional one which is around how do you avoid Zoom fatigue. So feel free to intersect on any of those comments. And this is probably one for both Linda and Karina, but maybe Karina you might kick-off.

Karina Jorritsma:
Yeah, sure. Love to. Okay. We do have a blog, [inaudible 01:17:02] got a blog on I think not becoming a Zoom zombie that you can look up as well. But I guess with the new skills and the new learning, and actually it speaks to that kind of autonomy and flexibility that exists there as well around... A lot of this is about choosing the right medium for what it is that you're actually trying to do. For mediums that require interpersonal context and all of those nuances, Zoom is actually really fantastic. And a lot of times, what we've managed to see is meetings can be shorter and they can meet more direct. You can just log off the Zoom when you're finished, rather than filling up the whole space, which is really effective. That's there.

Other things are though that you don't just have to replace meetings with the same amount of time and method of Zoom. We actually see things like teams and chat and all of those mechanisms are actually really good for brainstorming and those sort of quick chats and integrative stuff that's there as well. And sometimes it's also useful to not have the visual cues and things, so email or picking up the phone, like emails have careful and considered kind of thoughts and communications as well are there. So we're actually have more autonomy and we're armed with more things. It's just about taking that step back and thinking about why are we doing this? And it's been a wonderful opportunity to reflect again around those meeting cultures and the why I suppose. Because the other thing is when you're on your screen all day, it's so important that that might segue even over to Linda around those recoveries or work detachment strategies that are particularly important because of that fatigue management and things that are particularly important as well.

Linda Sheahan:
So I guess probably the part I would add to this story is like many on the phone. I'm not on phone, we're on the screen. I'm based in Metro Melbourne. So I'm one of those people as well who's experiencing this. I've gone from a role which was not on the screen all that often. I could have days where I just log in quickly to do some emails, but otherwise it was a lot of physically based meetings. So I can see this both conceptually, but also I'm sharing this experience with a lot of you. I think for me, everything that Karina has said is we're implementing that day-to-day. Thinking of that wellbeing plan approach and work design, I think it's that ongoing experimentation with what works for you and really having the conversations with your team and your managers around how it's working.

So just to give a really practical example, I've found I need to be a bit stricter with my calendar, for example, these days. And it's you committed to a lot of external meetings, but there's a point where actually now I think Microsoft they send you the analytics and they book in your focused time. But I'm finding it's a little practical example, but it helps and it works for me because I need the time to send the emails and write the discussions and do all the things that happen between the meetings. Because that's on a screen as well, I think just the idea of even sitting at a desk all day can be a big adjustment for a lot of people. We're used to getting up, working around being on meetings. And other silly practical thing if your team will allow it, it might even be just taking calls in another room.

So you get a little bit of physical movement, if it's okay on your team's Zoom catch ups just to have a different backgrounds. But encouraging that movement, encouraging that different collaboration and living it day-to-day is really powerful and can be some really good things you can build into a wellbeing plan. So have a strategy, design it together, and make it work for you. And I think Karina's point and building on everything she said, for me, it's something that needs to be reiterated. And what I was doing a few months ago, some of that's not really working quite so well anymore. So I'm having to readjust it over time. So, yeah, I hope that helps.

Master of Ceremonies (MC):
Absolutely, absolutely. Interestingly, we do hear that reflection of both people who have more flexibility with Zoom meetings and digital, but also those people who end up with sort of meetings back to back and not having that transitions between meetings where they might be physically moving. So maybe just one last question I'll throw out there, which is... And you mentioned that you're living with the experience at the moment, Linda, in Metropolitan Melbourne around. And there's people who've been asking around any top tips around staying motivated, looking after their wellbeing of their teams now we're months in, and also some strategies around Metro workers coming out of their 10 weeks of isolation? So just a quick one.

Linda Sheahan:
Oh, so it's a big question. So I'll just reframe it quite narrowly. I think some key principles there, there's a lot of uncertainty still around Melbourne. So I think it's that focusing on what you can do. It's a bit of that reframing. And for me, for example, I'm trying to get my Zoom meetings a bit more right. That's something I can influence. I can't control when restrictions will open, but I can keep chipping away at making sure I try and walk my dog on time. I can do those little things. So I know you've probably heard those 100 times, but I think that discipline is hard and it's a hard one to keep working on.

The next part of your question, sorry, you mentioned managers as well. I think so many managers are tired and they've been supporting people for so long. Work design, ongoing design, and care for managers is so important at the moment. And it's not just self-care, but it's making sure we're looking at those roles as well and that they have the capacity and strength to keep everybody else going. I think probably the last point I'll make, and I haven't answered the whole question, I apologise, but a really important theme I think to close on is just the importance of self-compassion. I think in such an uncertain time, we are getting through a pandemic, it's a really big thing. And a lot of us it's moderating those expectations down a bit.

So stay close, stay strong. If you've never tried EAP or new access or calling someone before, give it a go. The worst thing that will happen is you don't like it and you don't go again. But I think try some of those care things you might not have tried before, give it the wellbeing plan and go and really lean into any of those supports that you might have. I know it's not perfect, but focusing on what we can do is what we can do here. So, yeah, thank you.

Master of Ceremonies (MC):
Thank you. And what a lovely point to conclude on. Linda, thank you so much. And that's really all the time we've got for questions today. There were plenty more that we didn't have an opportunity to really get into. For our audience, rest assured that we will look at all of those questions and comments that have come through and I'll certainly influence the materials and the resources that we continue to develop and we consider how we make sure we address those moving forward. And we are planning to have the recording of the webinar available following this. So we just make sure that everything's technically worked for us and we'll put it up there after that.

So look, on behalf of Comcare and the audience that's watching, I would really like to thank Ngaire, Linda, and Karina for your presentations and taking the ride on the hot seats to answer some of the audience's questions. You did really well. Thank you so much. So we've got one more webinar that's coming up as part of Comcare's safe work month webinar series. It's on Wednesday, the 28th of October, and it's focused on safety systems, safety culture, and COVID-19. And this session we'll be reviewing key elements of what a safety system is and discussing what contributes to making some more effective than others. Like our other webinars, you'll need to register. A link to the website will be placed in the Q&A section. So if you're looking forward, it's there, or on Comcare's website.

Finally, we'll be sending out a super quick survey to everyone who's registered and we really love to hear your feedback on it. So that's all we've got time for today. Once again, thanks for our speakers, Linda, Karina, and Ngaire. To all the production team behind the scenes, I thank you for taking the time to be a part of this safe work month event. Stay safe, stay well and see you soon.

Page last reviewed: 20 October 2020
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Date printed 03 Aug 2021

https://www.comcare.gov.au/about/forms-publications/transcriptions/covid-19-our-work-mental-health-and-wellbeing-video-transcript