Annette Phung

At How Too, we have now settled into the new normal of working from home. As we move into a period of physical isolation due to the COVID19 pandemic, we are left with many things to worry about: How to efficiently work from home, how to do our bit to stop the virus from spreading, and how to not go absolutely stir-crazy. One thing we do need to be extra mindful of is the impact social isolation can have on our mental health.

In March 2020, 40% of Australian adults have reported that they feel lonely at least one day a week, an increase from 20% in March 2019. As outlined by the Australian Institution of Health and Welfare, social isolation has been linked to mental illness, emotional distress and extreme loneliness. So in a time where we are worrying so much, and feeling extra alone, what are we doing to make sure ourselves, our co-workers and our employees are having their mental well-being supported?

At How Too, we are proud to work at a company that values mental well-being. How Too employs many different strategies to support the team. When an employee feels unwell, they take their sick leave with no further questions asked. 

Even though we’re a fairly small company, we have an Employee Assistance Program (EAP) for any of us who need support. The service is completely anonymous, and we can talk about any issues that are troubling us, from professional stressors to personal difficulties. Here are just some of the topics that can be discussed with the EAP counsellor:

  • Improving relationships/communication with others
  • Facing crisis and trauma
  • Grief and loss support
  • Strategies for handling conflict with colleagues or managers
  • Facing alcohol, drug or gambling addictions
  • Feeling depressed or down
  • Improving work performance
  • Assistance with financial and legal distress

Further to this, during the COVID19 crisis, our EAP has provided us with seminars that give us information to protect our mental and emotional wellbeing while navigating such difficult times.

That’s not all we do to support each other. At How Too, we understand that mental, physical, and social health are closely interlinked. Since moving online, we've organised daily catch-ups, dress up days and walking meetings to maintain a healthy and supportive workplace culture. We are encouraged to go for daily walks and to maintain our exercise and increase our endorphins to have a positive impact on our mental well-being.

We are lucky to work in a collaborative workspace, The Studio, who even when their residents are not in the office, encourage cross-company socialisation through virtual afternoon teas and Happy Hour. 

Even more than that though, I am pleased to work for a company in which I know help is just an instant message away.

So I’ll leave you with this - in a time where we are physically putting distance between ourselves and other people, we should be seeking social nearing, and making a deliberate effort to connect relationally.