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How leaders can better support staff amid pandemic flow-on effects

By Jack Campbell | |5 minute read

The workforce is still recovering from the effects of the pandemic. The Australian Institute of Health and Welfare noted that mental wellbeing was affected substantially during this time.

This is all the more reason for organisations to do their part to assist employees through these unpredictable times.

“Research into the effects of the pandemic showed that there was a split between the trust and safety in relationship to the organisation and to people managers themselves, and people are still fearful to express the way that they’re feeling. We’re also seeing a lot of resistance and hesitation to reintegration into a physical space, and that’s bringing up social anxiety and really putting flexibility into the limelight,” said mental health advocate and Heart On My Sleeve founder Mitch Wallis.


“Right now, companies that are listening to their employees instead of mandating are getting the best results as a leader. Vulnerability and strength don’t trade off. They have to meet in the middle, and that is called a human two-way relationship.”

Employers may be struggling to find ways to assist staff through this transition back into “normal” life. Mr Wallis said being empathetic and listening is key.

“The biggest way employers can support their staff, first of all, is to listen and just allow the people to feel understood for what they’re going through so that it’s not an ignorant dismissive nature of mandating a way forward,” he said.

Simply taking the time to connect with employees and hear their concerns can be enough to assist them.

Mr Wallis continued: “Have regular check-ins that are outside of work and performance reviews where you say, ‘How are you between one and 10?’ And give them the opportunity to take up that invite. Now, people might not want to open up. That’s okay. What’s more important than the conversation actually occurring is the opportunity for it to occur in the first place.”

Leading by example is as important as ever, as many are coming back to work confused as the way we work has shifted.

“Leaders that can role model what it’s like to have good mental health practices, to be regularly talking about it, to be walking the walk. That’s the difference between mental health being a value or something that we signpost to during tough times, and actually people believing that they work in a psychologically safe environment and that they too can utilise the services on offer and will follow suit,” added Mr Wallis.

Notes from the editor: If you’re currently experiencing any of the sensitive issues we’ve discussed in this podcast and would like to reach out for help, you may wish to contact Lifeline: http://www.lifeline.org.au/.

To learn more about Heart On My Sleeve, click here.

The transcript of this podcast episode, when quoted above, was slightly edited for publishing purposes. The full audio conversation with Mitch Wallis on 3 March is below, and the original podcast article can be found here.


Jack Campbell

Jack Campbell

Jack is the editor at HR Leader.