Some public officers are frightened and anxious about the pandemic and its impact on their lives, the Government’s personnel chief revealed as she announced a series of initiatives to help workers cope.
Gail Atkins, the director-general of human resources in the Ministry of the Public Service pointed to research which indicated a “prevailing mood“ of “fear and anxiety” among “some” civil servants.
“There is great concern about the preservation of one’s health and that of loved ones,” Atkins told the Government Information Service. “Many officers have accepted and are comfortable with the ‘new normal’ of work from home arrangements, as it is believed that this mode of work will minimize health risks associated with interaction in large numbers.”
The Government’s human resources director has promoted its Employee Assistance Programme (EAP) which provides tip sheets and stress level tests to public officers.
Atkins said: “The tip sheets will provide strategies and or solutions to manage the health and well-being of officers, while the stress level tests will highlight the level of stress associated with varying issues and will be an indicator for extending counselling services through Network Services Centre, to those public officers in distress.”
And the EAP has taken some of its debriefing services online by providing “ brief interactive sessions” for officers, according to Atkins. The topics of the sessions include: Emotional Response to COVID-19: Dealing with Fear, Anxiety and Grief; Working from Home: Managing Mood and Motivation; Family and Relationship Dynamics: How to Interact with Loved Ones; and Managing Change and Transition: Strategies to Cope with Stress.
The EAP services include supervisory/management support, counselling and crisis support, and transition and re-engagement for public officers, said Atkins.
She pointed out this would allow individuals at all levels in the public service to “process their emotions and be appropriately debriefed in the current crisis”, according to a Government release.
Atkins said the EAP’s aim was to be preventative and proactive for early detection to help public officers resolve personal and work-related issues, which could harm well-being, job performance and productivity.
The EAP services have been outsourced to the non-profit counselling organisation, Network Services Centre, and Atkins gave an assurance that the counselling sessions are strictly confidential.
Atkins said: “As a means of ensuring confidentiality and to confirm proof of employment, employees are required to submit National Insurance numbers when seeking EAP services.”
Government meets the cost of the EAP and pays for three annual visits for individual counselling. Follow-up counselling sessions within the same year are discounted by 20 per cent.
Atkins indicated that public officers who want to access the Employee Assistance Programme (EAP) in the People Support and Wellness Unit of MPS should call 535-4565, or Network Services Centre at 228-3056 or 228-7773.
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