I can’t help but feel exhausted yet encouraged, deficient yet privileged, sad and yet optimistic, as we all experience various and similar impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic.
We have all seen the tragedy in our aged care facilities, countless layoffs, schools, business and childcare centres shut down, and the uncertainty of border closures, lock-downs, family separation, and tighter family budgets just add to the stress of not knowing when this will end and we can all find a sense of normality again.
As the effects of COVID-19 are being felt by individuals, families and organisations across the country, there are alarming figures of mental stress being exposed through impact surveys. One was Australian Institute of Family Studies: Families in Australia Survey – Life During COVID-19, another was the Xfactor Collective’s Reset 2020 National Impact+Need Research Study which was launched in April 2020 and uncovered a huge COVID-19 mental health toll on the work force, particularly of the NFP sector.
How have families experienced the social and economic impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic?
COVID-19 has not only hit the financial pockets of the not-for-profit sector but continues to have a significant flow on effect to workers and volunteers. Many have been left feeling inadequate, anxious, fearful, unprepared and under skilled to deal with the pandemic, the changes to service delivery and the impact of COVID-19 restrictions on the very people receiving their services. People are being stood down from meaningful jobs and depression is emerging.
Our employers also have a responsibility to keep business ticking over, as well as continue to check in, engage, connect and value its employees. Julia Keady (founder and CEO of the Xfactor Collective) suggests that now is the time to recalibrate and focus on wellbeing, re-engineer how we think about organisational resilience, and the communities we serve.
For some of us, working from home has always been considered a privilege, a welcome break from commuting and the busy/noisy office environment. Working from home gave us some ‘brain space’ to focus on a particular task or project. However, to be thrust into working from home as a necessity or requirement may quickly become a challenging reality for some of us when coupled with the 24-hour care (and therefore attention) of children and/or elderly members of the family.
How have families adapted to COVID-19 related restrictions and lockdowns?
The Families in Australia Survey – Life During COVID-19 urged me to look at how the effects of the pandemic has forced us as individuals and our workplaces into a situation that not only gave us limited time to get our heads around the logistics of change, but also plan for what that might look like and how we might manage from a practical, financial and psychological sense.
How many of us walked the tightrope of responsibility and juggled working from home (if you were still gainfully employed), caring for kids, disabled or elderly parents during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic? How many of us are now doing it all again as a new surge of active cases descends up on us and leads once again to school closures, empty shops, iso and lockdown?
How have families supported each other, even when living apart?
Some families are yet again forced apart, living in different states, or countries. Most have found solace in facetime or other mediums, but for some that separation meant a total block out – no conversation, no contact. But we all continue to practice social distancing and self-isolation knowing that it means keeping our loved ones well and safe.
In the Families in Australia Survey, some parents extended their workday in order to fit everything in, some renegotiated work hours in order to help with home schooling or to care for their elderly family members. Some felt abandoned by their workplaces, that they were left to fend for themselves to navigate this uncertain, precarious and fickle environment. One parent even asked to be stood down in order to meet her family obligations.
The impact of divided attention and conflicting priorities on one’s psychological safety is potentially enormous, but we must continue to practice self-care and keep the lines of communication open with our loved ones AND our employers. I encourage everyone to take advantage of the programs available to assist individuals and families in order to keep ourselves well and safe, as we move into what some are touting as the ‘new normal’.
While parents worked from home, 40% always or often ‘actively’ cared for children during work.
“Felt like we got abandoned by work to sort out our own arrangements with little to no understanding of maintaining our productivity whilst having young children with us 24/7.”
Families in Australia Survey – Life During COVID-19
How have families protected their physical and mental health?
Our kids and other family members need to feel and be safe, supported, included and loved. A positive experience can be had by families but making the most of family time. Quality time with children and families can turn even the most mundane tasks special. Try cooking and eating meals together, doing the laundry, getting creative together or playing games. These types of activities help children feel more connected, safe and happier. But most of all it is essential we take care of ourselves, so there is enough ‘us’ to go around when its needed.
Here’s 12 self-care tips to help you and your family protect your health:
- Stay hydrated
- Go outside (enjoy the fresh air, garden, sights and sounds)
- Get lost in an adventure (or other) novel
- Listen to music
- Watch an inspirational movie
- Play with or pet a dog/cat
- Set screen limits
- Get organised – declutter
- Write down your thoughts and impressions
- Get enough sleep
- Try some breathing exercises, meditation or mindfulness
There’s a few things COVID-19 hasn’t changed
COVID-19 has changed many things, but the requirement to operate as a child safe organisation remains a high priority for all Australian businesses.
Whether your organisation offers services to or works with children and young people, or your staff are working from home and have family commitments, children and Australian businesses are interacting now more than ever. If you need support to ensure your child safety policies and procedures comply with National and State regulations, our tailored consulting service can support you.