The second wave of the coronavirus pandemic in Victoria has meant the reintroduction of restrictions, leading to further tightening of many sectors including early childhood education.
As centres across Metropolitan Melbourne adjust to stage four restrictions, it’s important to incorporate a focus on supporting staff and their mental health and wellbeing as we navigate through this challenging period.
While early childhood education employees continue to be classified as essential to the workforce during this time, the limitations on who is permitted to access early childhood education has resulted in a drastic reduction of occupancy for the time being. In some cases, centres have been forced to close their doors and many early childhood educators are finding their hours reduced. With so many areas of potential stress for the early childhood workforce, supporting staff is important— perhaps now more than ever.
Effective ways to support staff in early childhood education
Thankfully there are many ways you can offer support to early childhood employees during these difficult circumstances. Supporting staff through this period is vital and can minimise the negative impact experienced by all. These key strategies can go a long way to ensuring your employees (and yourself) feel supported:
Most people are aware of the challenges being faced by communities across all sectors, so transparency is encouraged. Tell your employees exactly what is going on and why certain changes are being made. Let them know you’re doing your best to be fair and support everyone. Give staff an indication of what you believe the future could hold and what management is doing and planning to navigate the coming weeks and months. This honesty will be appreciated and help your employees to feel respected and valued, which will in turn contribute positively to their sense of self-worth, mental health and wellbeing.
Connectedness is a valuable resource. Many employees are likely facing similar challenges but sharing with others who can relate can really help.
Create a dedicated time when you and your team can get together online and catch up. Regular communication will give everyone something to look forward to and plan for. You might like to arrange one-on-one time to chat with your employees too to address any individual concerns.
Whether it’s for yourself or your staff, taking care of yourself can go a long way to promoting good health mentally and physically. Eating well, getting enough sleep, going outside daily for a walk and making time for things that you enjoy are practical ways to enhance wellbeing.
Direct employees to support resources
There are many resources available for anyone finding themselves struggling or needing support. They can be someone to talk to, practical tips to try or professional guidance including their GP, counsellor, psychologist or psychiatrist. We have compiled a number of these resources which you can utilise for yourself and share with your employees.
Mental health and wellbeing support
Encourage your staff to reach out for support and help them to find the suitable resources where they can go for help. These resources below offer professional support, catering to each individual’s preferred means for receiving support. From reading, watching or listening to resources, to chatting online, texting or speaking over the phone, there are mental health resources that are free to access and can make a world of difference.
Resources to listen to
- Guided meditations from the Black Dog Institute
- Not Alone podcast by BeyondBlue
- Expert Insights expert knowledge via the Black Dog Institute
- Lifeline Australia – 13 11 14
- Headspace: Phone support for 12-25 year olds – 1800 650 890
- BeyondBlue – 1300 22 4636
- Kids Helpline – 1800 55 1800
- MensLine Australia – 1300 659 467
Text and chat support
- Coronavirus Mental Wellbeing Support Service – Web chat by BeyondBlue
- Lifeline Crisis Chat online chat
- Lifeline Crisis Text
- Headspace Group Chat for 12-25 year olds
Stop, Breathe & Think
Stop, Breathe & Think is a personalised meditation and mindfulness app that helps you develop skills to manage life’s ups and downs. It invites you to check in with your emotions, and recommends short guided meditations customised to how you feel. Foundational meditations are free, and there are additional activities and features for a paid subscription.
ReachOut Breathe is a free app that helps you reduce the physical symptoms of stress and anxiety by slowing down your heart rate with your iPhone or Apple Watch.
ReachOut WorryTime is a free app that gives you a place to store your worries until later, so you don’t get caught up in them and can get on with your day. WorryTime will alert you when it’s time to think about them. Instead of listening to negative thoughts or pushing them away, research shows that postponing worries and only giving them attention at a set time helps you manage worry.
The Check-In is a free app developed by Beyond Blue for anyone who wants to check in with a friend whom you are worried or concerned about. It guides you through four steps on how you could plan a conversation, and give you advice on next steps.
Government support and advice for ECEC
For Melbourne centres who require support, the Department website outlines measures introduced to manage the impact of the pandemic and its current related restrictions:
- Services can access the higher Transition Payment of 30 per cent of pre-COVID revenue for services in Stage 4 affected metropolitan Melbourne. It is advised that this should be used to keep early childhood staff employed, in lieu of JobKeeper payments.
- There is also an additional top-up payment available for eligible services in Stage 4 affected metropolitan Melbourne receiving lower CCS payments and experiencing greatly reduced attendances.
Ensure you have the latest information about the restrictions and Government support for the sector so that you can do the right thing by your staff and families. The Department provides all the most up-to-date guidelines pertaining to the ECEC sector and the coronavirus pandemic in one spot. There is also Government advice for centres, including funding, operations and health information available to you.
Remember when supporting staff to maintain perspective and remind yourself that this is only a temporary situation. Focus on the future and start planning now for what you can do to best prepare for an easing of restrictions.
Our team at Selmar is here to help you in supporting staff where we can — please feel free to get in touch.