Like many of you, I have been impressed by the speed at which our country is moving to combat the spread of COVID-19. In just the last week, the number of changes I have seen on the national level and in my own neighborhood is staggering. I am certain you are seeing similar, and maybe unprecedented, activities in your own hometowns. Suddenly, the facts of daily life are not facts: childcare and schools have closed, friends and relatives cannot visit due to their high-risk status, and even your favorite restaurant, gym, or movie theater are closed. It is easy to become glued to the news, saddened by the situation, or stressed about the future. It is critical to take care of yourself and your loved ones during these challenging times, which can test our coping mechanisms.
As I have noted before, education and communication are the strongest tools we have to fight COVID-19, but they are also the best tools we have to remain healthy in other ways. At DHS, we have many resources to help deal with stress, managing finances, childcare and eldercare concerns, mental fitness, and social wellbeing. You can read our blogs about relationships, social connectedness, or learn about mindfulness. Follow up with family or friends you haven’t had time to catch up with recently. Email, calls, and webchats keep us engaged no matter where we are, and connecting to one another is vital to our overall wellness (even while we are practicing in-person social distancing). Read about how finding time for exercise is also critical to our overall health, sleep, and stress reduction. If your gym is closed, put on those walking shoes (the fresh air will do you good) or an exercise video to keep active. Pick up those hobbies and projects that may have fallen by the wayside. Keeping active and in touch, as well as taking time for your own wellbeing and building resilience, will help when we need to jump back into our normal routines.
In addition to our Employee Resource page, which is available on our public-facing website for your loved ones to read, your local public health department is a good source of education and information. State and local health departments are charged with protecting and assuring your health. A state health department is a centralized unit of state government with overarching responsibility for protecting, assuring, and improving the health of the state's citizens. While every state and local public health department is different—funding, staffing, and capabilities vary from state to state and county to county—during this COVID-19 situation, they are the offices implementing the guidance from the CDC and the Department of Health and Human Services. Your state and local public health departments likely have a website with local actions they are taking and recommending for protecting their citizens (e.g., school closures, social distancing, educational handouts, etc.). You can find their contact information and websites here to get the most current information for your family’s health.
More important than even staying active and educated during this time, remember that if you need help, do not be afraid to talk to someone. Our Employee Assistance Programs are available 24 hours a day and are confidential, free, and do not affect your security clearance. These services can be provided remotely, either through video chat or over the phone (email firstname.lastname@example.org if you need more information). A special resource page has been developed by the local EAP to put these resources at your fingertips; this page includes a recorded webinar on coping with uncertainty, guidance for successfully transitioning to a remote work environment, and even a guided relaxation exercise. The EAPs can also connect you to counselors and services rapidly. What you discuss with EAP is never reported to your supervisor. Just like monitoring your temperature for the first signs of a fever, monitor your stress and act as soon as needed. There is no shame in getting help.
As I have said before, basic actions are still the best. Refrain from handshakes or hugs as greetings, practice social distancing, wash your hands for at least 20 seconds, and practice proper sneeze and cough etiquette. Even if you are not in a high-risk group, use good habits to protect others. Stay informed through the CDC and DHS, and follow the guidelines of your local, state, and national public health and government leaders. Do not be afraid to report flu-like symptoms or to talk to your supervisor about flexibilities to support you and your family. We are in this together, and we need to communicate and connect.
Remember, social distancing doesn’t mean we socially disconnect—more to follow.
Chief Human Capital Officer