More than half of Albury businesses have felt hopeless about their work during COVID shutdowns, a mental wellbeing survey of over 300 businesses has revealed.
While the NSW/Vic border was closed in October 2020, 70% of businesses surveyed said their worries often overwhelmed them and they had trouble staying focused. Alarmingly, nearly half of local businesses said they often did not feel in control of their mental health – a 25% increase on the national average pre-COVID.
These figures were revealed in a comprehensive mental health study in which 335 members of the local workforce were surveyed and provided with mental health support materials. The Better Place Project, a joint initiative by Albury Business Connect and The Personnel Group, has catalogued the mental wellbeing of Albury’s workforce during COVID-19 and the subsequent border closure. The study coincided with Mental Health Month, which shines a spotlight on mental wellbeing every October.
Findings from the study show that the mental wellbeing of the local workforce was significantly impacted by the pandemic. Albury Business Connect’s General Manager Carrick Gill-Vallance said this result was expected, with the change businesses have endured this year being ‘fatiguing’.
“Owners and managers have been forced to make difficult decisions, while employees have had little certainty or security around their ongoing employment”, says Mr. Gill-Vallance.
Many businesses surveyed also expressed the sentiment that it is difficult to access mental health resources in the border region, with wait times for mental health services sometimes taking up to six months.
Personnel Group CEO Tracey Fraser explains that there are services available to assist employees experiencing poor mental to maintain their employment.
“This includes Work Assist, which is a free Australian Government program we deliver here at Personnel Group,” Ms Fraser says.
AlburyCity Mayor Kevin Mack said it came as no surprise that business owners and employees had struggled during the lockdown.
“We always knew that COVID was taking a toll on people’s mental health, which is why we as a council worked hard to support the sector,” Mayor Mack says.
“We can be optimistic that with the right level of government assistance, our businesses can bounce back and thrive once again.”
The report recommends that a comprehensive support package be supplied to Albury businesses by the NSW Government. This would include providing dedicated personnel who can assist businesses individually with accessing support materials and financial grants.
“There needs to more on-the-ground support allocated to assist businesses, to help them recover not just financially, but mentally as well,” says Mr Gill-Vallance.
“It’s our responsibility as a community to look after each other, and right now the business community needs our support”.