Caring for your team

Supporting you to support your team

A mentally healthy workplace is a shared responsibility and in these unusual times this can be hard to maintain. All staff have a role to play. Recognising the signs that a staff member is not coping during COVID-19 can be difficult. This can be affected by a range of issues, including increased stress, new working arrangements and less work life balance. As a manager or team leader, you will be constantly reviewing resources to manage the service you are providing.

Recognising signs of distress amongst your team members

These can include:

  • Physical signs: constant tiredness, weight loss or gain, complaints of digestive disorders, constant headaches and an untidy appearance
  • Emotional signs: anxiety, depression, tension, frustration, irritability, feelings of emptiness, loss of confidence, and being highly emotional
  • Behaviours: interpersonal difficulties, increase in errors, insomnia, aggressive or passive behaviour in the workplace, unplanned absences, misuse of alcohol and other drugs, indecisiveness, deteriorating relationships with colleagues, not getting things done, erratic behaviour, inability to concentrate and changes to eating patterns
Responding to signs of distress
  • Find the right time to approach your staff. Find a quiet space if possible
  • Ask your staff if they’re okay and acknowledge signs of distress (eg being quieter than usual, losing concentration, putting off decisions)
  • Respond empathically by reflecting back what the staff member has said (eg. how they’re feeling and their reasons for feeling that). Using empathy will help create a connection to show you understand and open a pathway for resolution
  • Allow for an unhurried conversation if possible
  • Discuss practical ways forward including services such as the Employee Assistance Program (EAP) and other online resources. Try to work with your staff member to find a solution
  • Agree with the staff member to check back in at a later date (eg. in a couple of days or following week)
  • Headspace Weathering the storm together
  • The Black Dog Institute’s The Psychological Toolkit is a collection of practical resources available for health professionals to assist in the management of mental illnesses in their clinical work. The material includes questionnaires to assist health professionals in the assessment of depression, charts to assist with treatment protocols, tools for self-monitoring, and exercises for patients
  • JMO Wellbeing - the Black Dog Institute has worked with doctors in training to develop Shift - an app that is evidence-based, quick, confidential, and can be used as needed to manage the stress and pressure of work and life as a junior doctor in NSW. Find out more.


Additional resources:



Having honest conversations with your team and staff about the current situation is crucial during this time. It’s important to listen to feedback and help guide and support staff in a kind and compassionate way. Feedback should be given constructively. Don’t underestimate the importance of complimenting team members as a form of motivation. Everyone will deal with this situation differently.

It’s important that you, as a manager, are using self-care strategies to make sure you are caring for yourself and can demonstrate self-care behaviours to your team. Be aware where staff can access support services or direct them to Caring for yourself and your family resources.

Where possible try and rotate staff from high stress to low stress shifts or activities to avoid burn-out. Initiate and encourage work breaks and if this is not possible, speak to your manager. As you’re observing your staff, assess energy levels, allow for your team to be open about their feelings and take time to acknowledge them and the work they are doing. You don’t have to rush to respond. Pause. Give yourself space to respond in a skilled and kind way.


Resources for supporting Frontline staff


Resources to support remote working arrangements

HETI has developed a suite of resources to support teams who are working in a virtual environment.


Other resources

Organising and providing regular contact, check-ins or huddles with staff is essential during this time.

This could be face to face or virtually. Check-ins can be used to provide social support to each other for work and personal lives.

Keep an eye out for individuals who avoid check-ins as this can be a sign of anxiety or trauma, and remember that more introverted team members may prefer to use the chat function.

The Mental Health Foundation outlines the importance of random acts of kindness during COVID-19 and reminds us that small gestures go a long way. This could be an initiative that’s agreed among your team or through a buddy system.

Workplace Strategies for Mental Health have developed a Building Better Teams tool to provide activities that can be agreed and undertaken by your team to support each other