The pressures of modern life mean we all experience stress from time to time, including in the workplace. Add in the unprecedented situation of the COVID-19 pandemic, and now many of us are having to work differently, with remote and flexible working arrangements increasingly common. So how can people with disability maintain good mental health when working during these challenging times? JobAccess is the national hub for disability employment information, and they share their advice.

Stay connected

Many organisations have introduced working from home arrangements in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. While there are many benefits to working from home, it can be a challenging experience for some. Staying connected with your manager and colleagues is an important way to reduce feelings of isolation. This can be as simple as a daily phone or video meeting with your team, where you talk about what you’ve been working on that day, and provide updates on ongoing projects.  

Apart from discussing work, you may also wish to share personal stories or tips to help ease the experience of working remotely. At JobAccess, we held a competition for staff to share funny photos of working from home. Many featured pets and small children. It’s always nice to share a joke or celebrate milestones with colleagues. This can still happen even if you’re not in an office together.

Make your (home) office work for you

Working remotely still means working in a safe and effective manner. Some employees with disability will have workplace adjustments and supports in place, such as assistive technology on their computers, specialist chairs or other equipment. If this is the case, talk to your manager about having these transported and set up in your home. Feeling supported and confident to perform one’s duties is an important element of good mental health at work.

Maintain open communication with your employer

Have an open discussion with your manager and find a mutually agreeable working arrangement while setting reasonable expectations on deliverables. For example, some people may require different start or finish times due to their condition or the added responsibility of being a carer of small children or elderly relatives. Regardless, having a clear understanding of how, when and what you will be working on can help alleviate stress for both you and your employer.

A woman sits at a desk. In front of her is a computer. On the screen we can see three of her collegues, they are all on a video call. Behind the desk is a window and under the window is a couch. The woman has long dark hair, and wears a pale pink jumper. Her face is turned away from teh camer towards the computer screen.

Use credible information sources to stay informed

Much has been written about COVID-19 and it’s easy to become overwhelmed or confused. If constant exposure to news is affecting your mental health, consider limiting your media consumption. And try to consult reliable information sources:

  • The Disability Information Helpline provides information and referrals for people with disability who need help because of coronavirus (COVID-19). You can contact the helpline on 1800 643 787.
  • Australia.gov.au is the central Australian Government website for daily COVID-19 updates, health advice, as well as state and territory resources.

JobAccess is here to support you

JobAccess is the national hub for workplace and employment information for people with disability (including mental health conditions), as well as employers and service providers. If you feel like your mental health is impacting your employment, we may be able to assist.

We operate a national call service (1800 464 800). This service is delivered by a team of front-line professionals who provide free, confidential and expert advice. Our advisers are available to answer your questions on matters related to disability employment or can direct you to other support services. JobAccess also has a comprehensive website with information and advice on disability employment.

We also coordinate workplace adjustments and modificationsthrough the Employment Assistance Fund (EAF). Workplace adjustments can help people with disability get work, keep work and be more productive. They can include changes to work routines such as flexible working arrangements and assistive technology. As well as awareness training and specialist support including counselling and mentoring. If an employee with disability is required to work remotely due to their condition on an ongoing basis, employers can also contact JobAccess to organise adjustments through the EAF.

Take time to look after yourself

Finally, do not underestimate the importance of self care during a work day. Set up a dedicated work area that you can either close or pack away when your work day is done. Regular breaks during a working day, whether that be for a cup of tea or quick walk in the fresh air, are not only important to maintain productivity but also our mental health and well being.

Funded by the Australian Government, JobAccess is the national hub for disability employment, and brings together a wide range of resources to support jobseekers, employers and service providers. For more information visit www.jobaccess.gov.au or call 1800 464 800 to speak with a JobAccess Advisor.

Ready to read more? Try these Inform links:

NDIS 101: Supporting evidence

When simple changes matter most at work

Five ways to support your immune system

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