Emerging from one of the world’s longest coronavirus-imposed hibernations, some Melburnians are now feeling nervous about a return to their old work routines.
Ann Wilde, who owns a pilates business in Melbourne, said more than eight months in lockdown had forced her to think more creatively about how to promote her business online to keep her clients engaged. She came up with a subscription package of 20-minute pre-recorded classes that her clients could do at their leisure. The online classes gave her a second source of income and she markets the classes across the country and will continue to build on them.
“It was something I had never thought to do,” she said.
“It was the great unknown and scary, but in hindsight I have been able to pivot and create a second stream of income that is now here to stay as opposed to being just a means of survival for COVID.”
Like other parents, Ms Wilde was forced to juggle her family life and home-schooling with her business responsibilities that included keeping her staff and clients engaged.
Getting out for a long walk helped provide a necessary “breather” for an hour each day.
And despite feeling “boxed in” after the long months of isolation, she and her clients and staff are now feeling some anxiety about venturing out again. She will reopen her studio on November 9 after a seven-month closure.
“We will feel quite anxious to be going back to normal. We are still being encouraged to wear masks,” she said. Apart from wearing masks and keeping big windows wide open, pilates classes will remain small with clients widely spaced apart.
A new survey by job site Indeed has found a broad range of responses to the impact of the coronavirus pandemic. The survey found that people aged 50 to 65 in employment felt least affected while younger workers felt under pressure. Of the older workers, 72 per cent said they did not feel their motivation had changed and only a quarter were worried about losing their job.
Of the younger workers aged between 18 and 29, almost four in 10 said they felt less motivated to complete work tasks during the pandemic. Nearly half of respondents under the age of 40 were worried about losing their job.
Many of them, 64 per cent of the 18-to-29-year-olds and 43 per cent of those aged 50 to 65, knew someone who had lost their job. They were also more prone to feeling stressed and anxious, isolated working from home and more concerned about their own job security.
For social services manager Frances Head, having friends in the arts who lost their jobs has added to the stress she has felt managing foster care for children separated from their families. That involved developing strategies to keep them safe from COVID-19 infection.
“Initially my partner lost a lot of work,” she said. “The uncertainty of that and the thought of taking on the financial load was stressful.
“There has been a lot of guilt with my friends who lost their jobs and who still don’t have a job.
“I still have a job and didn’t feel like I could complain about the stress I was feeling at work to my friends who had lost jobs.”
Ms Head said it was difficult working from home in a shared house.
She found that getting out for a daily walk was essential to helping maintain her mental health.
But she won’t be “rushing out to cafes and bars” with the lockdown being lifted. “I’m not going to rush out apart from getting a haircut,” she said. “I will be going slowly and continue to support cafes with takeaways.”
The Indeed survey found many people who knew someone who had lost their job felt they needed to “over-deliver” to stay employed and many of those also found it harder to concentrate.
The longer people had been employed in their job, the less likely they were to feel negatively affected by the pandemic. A third of people who had been in their job for five or more years were worried about losing it. However, 67 per cent of people who had been in their job for less than five years were more anxious about becoming unemployed.
Jay Munro, head of careerinsights at Indeed, said the survey had shown that employed Australians were also feeling the toll of the pandemic.
“This group’s experience has been a varied one, with some very interesting influences at play. Age, tenure and work environment have played a role in determining their experience, with proximity to job loss also emerging as a very important determinant of one’s mindset in the workplace,” he said.
“It was really encouraging to see that the majority of Australian workers feel their employer has done everything they could to avoid layoffs and has taken their emotional wellbeing seriously.”
Data from job search company SEEK has also found that more than half of Australians have become more aware of their mental health during the pandemic, but many feel reluctant about speaking to their boss or manager about their mental health.
A national survey by Wesley Mission found feeling a loss of control was causing mental health concerns for nearly a third of people, and isolation was making it worse.
A Red Cross report has also found that COVID-19 has been causing great distress in the community, particularly for people on temporary visas who face uncertainty and do not have a safety net. For many, their insurance does not cover counselling and they are unable to afford support or medication.
In response to greater demand for mental health services, Notre Dame University will next year launch new postgraduate programs in mental health nursing.
Associate Professor Joanna Patching, who helped develop the mental health program, said it was likely that more people were experiencing “extremes of stress, anxiety, hardship and trauma during this pandemic”.
“As rural communities are especially impacted on by the shortage of healthcare workers and in need of additional support, nurses living in rural regions and anywhere in Australia will be able to complete the new qualifications online,” she said.
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