Workplace Stress and COVID-19
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For All Employees
It is normal for employees to feel stressed or anxious during this difficult time. There are several work-related conditions that can increase stress and anxiety across all workplaces as a result of COVID-19. These conditions include, but are not limited to, the following:
- Adjusting to and managing different workloads, roles, and responsibilities
- Adapting to a different workspace or a new work schedule
- Adjusting to new communication methods and tools (e.g., technology, virtual meetings) and/or new workplace policies and procedures
- Balancing work responsibilities with familial or caregiving roles (e.g., difficulties securing childcare, educating children at home)
- Concerns about the future of your workplace and/or employment
- Financial concerns due to reduced hours, extended time away from work, or unemployment
- Concerns about securing the appropriate technology and tools to effectively perform work tasks
For Essential Workers
Essential workplaces have played a critical role in preserving the life, health, and basic societal functioning of the community during the COVID-19 pandemic. An as essential employee, responding to a new and highly profiled infectious disease in the community can create a lot of uncertainty and stress, especially considering that COVID-19 is a unique and unprecedented scenario for essential workplaces. In addition to the stressors identified above, essential workers may experience specific conditions in the current environment that can increase stress or anxiety:
- Fear or worry about one’s own health status, or that of their loved ones, after interacting with the public
- Increased demands for services, resulting in long, frequent, and busy shifts and/or shift work
- Increased work pressures that require high-level decision-making (e.g., careful precautions while working with high-risk groups)
- Increased exposure to emotionally difficult or disturbing events (e.g., death of a patient)
- Concerns about securing the appropriate infection control supplies (e.g., PPE, hand sanitizer) and/or maintaining infection control practices in the workplace
- Concerns related to their own family circumstances (e.g., child care issues, school closures) and a general feeling of lack of control.
- Social avoidance by family members, friends, or the general community as a result of stigma and fear about COVID-19.
For Employees Who are Away from Work
As a result of COVID-19, many employees across Windsor-Essex County have been required to take time away from work due to workplace closures. Additionally, some employees have taken time off to manage their familial or caregiving responsibilities, to adhere to self-isolation requirements, and/or to protect themselves or other vulnerable household members from the risk of infection (e.g., employees or family members with compromised immune systems or chronic health conditions). The following work-related factors can increase stress or anxiety for employees who are away from work:
- Financial concerns due to workplace closures, job losses, or extended time away
- Concerns about the future of your workplace and/or job security
- Fear or worry about experiencing stigma or discrimination after successfully completing self-isolation and returning to the workplace
- Familial stress or tension while staying home with family members for extended periods of time
- Social isolation, loneliness, or boredom while away from work
Recognizing Signs and Symptoms of Work-Related Stress
As the situation continues to evolve, it is critical for employees to recognize the signs and symptoms of work-related stress as they occur and to try to avoid ignoring or suppressing them. Recognizing and acknowledging signs and symptoms of stress is the first step to establishing plans for building resiliency, managing symptoms, and seeking help as required. The following list provides several examples of how work-related stress may affect employees during the COVID-19 pandemic:
- Physical Symptoms: Elevated heart rates, fatigue or burnout, loss or change of appetite, difficulty sleeping, muscle tension, frequent headaches, persistent nausea, dizziness.
- Emotional or Psychological Symptoms: Anger, irritation, denial, feelings of uncertainty, nervousness, constant worrying, lack of motivation, loss of confidence, low self-esteem, racing thoughts, sadness, depression, hypersensitivity, feelings of guilt or lack of contribution.
- Behavioural Symptoms: Difficulty concentrating or the inability to focus, poor judgement, reduced decision-making, neglect of work and/or familial responsibilities, procrastination, reduced work performance.
Assessing Your Stress Levels
Assessing your stress levels can help you to develop a plan for managing feelings of stress and anxiety. The following surveys can help you identify your levels of stress and when it may be appropriate to seek help. Please note that these resources are offered by the Centre for Addiction & Mental Health for education purposes only and are not intended to diagnose any mental illnesses: