As the global outbreak of COVID-19 develops, IRC’s Duty of Care program has developed guidance to assist IRC staff and their family members to maintain resilience during this challenging period. Section one below offers suggestions for enhancing overall wellbeing during the outbreak while the second section offers additional guidance for staff in self-isolation.

  1. General psychosocial wellbeing guidance for IRC staff and family members
  • Expected stressors associated with outbreaks: Outbreaks of communicable disease create an environment of stress for everyone involved. Normal life can be disrupted by public health control measures such as cancelation of group events or travel. Panic-buying of health care supplies and staples of daily life are common. Constant media coverage and rumors spread through social media can contribute to a climate of anxiety. Individuals who work in healthcare, who may come from COVID-19 affected areas, who have recovered from COVID-19 infection, or even who may have inadvertently been in contact with individuals affected by COVID-19 may face stigmatization.
  • Feeling stress is normal: Feelings of stress, fear, and anxiety during outbreaks are normal and expected. Accepting that stress will be a part of our lives during this period can be helpful with coping.
  • Social supports: Stay in close contact with the people who are important in your life. Talk often with family and friends, and try to avoid socially isolating yourself.
  • Remote counseling support: IRC has an excellent program through which all staff and their family members can access free professional counseling support. Click here to access more information about the employee assistance and resilience (EARP) program. Remember that this service can be accessed remotely by telephone, Skype, WhatsApp, or other web-based communications platforms.
  • Maintain a healthy lifestyle: When faced with additional stress, maintaining a healthy lifestyle is more important than ever. Try to exercise at least 20 minutes a day. Eat a balanced diet and avoid taking in high amounts of sugar, processed foods, caffeine, and alcohol. Focus on getting 7-8 hours of sleep per night.
  • Limit media exposure: Media coverage increases tremendously during outbreaks. Try to limit your exposure by only checking news sites 1-2 times per day. Avoid rumors spread through social media, and focus your attention on credible sources of health information like the WHO and CDC.
  • Actively use stress management techniques: In addition to the basic tips above, there are many proven behavioral techniques which can help you to manage stress. IRC has assembled a number of excellent tools on our Digital Health and Wellbeing Resources page. Here you can access high-quality free apps and websites including guided meditations, mindfulness instruction, and other behavioral techniques which can be useful for managing stress.
  • Plan for your self-care: For any staff (or their family members) who would like help in planning for their own resilience, IRC offers an excellent free service called “Customized Self-Care Planning.” Through this remotely-provided service, staff and their family members can explore their strengths, vulnerabilities, coping techniques, and personal goals with a counselor who will help them to develop a personalized plan for optimizing their own self-care. This service is 100% free and confidential. Please consider taking advantage of this great service.
  • Personal choice: All IRC staff have the right to make personal choices related to their safety guaranteed by our Global Safety and Security policies. Any staff member who wishes to unilaterally decide to stay home or cancel travel due to COVID-19 concerns is free to do so, but they are expected to work remotely if their role allows. For staff who wish to make this choice, but are unable to work from home, paid time off and unpaid leave must be used to cover the absence. IRC will preserve their job during this elective period of leave.
  • Ask questions: If you have any questions about the COVID-19 outbreak, or how best to promote your health and wellbeing, please feel free to reach out to DutyOfCare@rescue.org. We are happy to assist in whatever way we can.
  1. Specific health and wellbeing guidance for staff in self-isolation due to potential COVID-19 exposure
  • For staff who have been asked to self-isolate at home due to potential exposure to COVID-19, this can be a stressful time. Please read the guidance outlined above for general wellbeing and consider the following additional recommendations as well:
  • Work from home: If possible with your role, please work from home during the self-isolation period. This is constructive for both IRC’s business continuity as well as your personal wellbeing. Staying busy is a helpful strategy for managing the stresses associated with periods of quarantine.
  • Paid leave: All staff who are asked to undergo self-isolation will be paid for their time regardless of whether they are able to work from home effectively or not. If you are unable to work from home during self-isolation or if you test positive for COVID-19, you will be able to access up to 15 days (3 full work weeks) of sick leave from a specially created COVID-19 sick leave pool. This time will not draw on any of your accrued sick leave. Only after these three weeks of paid recovery time will normal sick leave policies be accessed.
  • Seek social support: When in self-isolation, social support is more important than ever for remaining healthy in mind and body. Make plans to stay in regular touch with the important people in your life through phone calls, Skype/Teams conversations, and emails. Try to set a schedule, and avoid socially isolating yourself.
  • Integrate stress management into your daily routine: If you have personal practices which help you to manage your stress, try to make these a regular part of your daily routine. If you are new to behavioral techniques to control stress, we invite you explore IRC’s Digital Health and Wellbeing Resources. On this page you can find links to websites and apps with guided mindfulness meditations, high definition nature sounds for relaxation, breathing exercises to control stress and more. Consider using this time to explore different stress management approaches and find ones which work for you. Having these routines established will assist you in maintaining resilience long after the self-isolation period is complete.   
  • Stay physically active: Staying as active as your circumstances allow will help to discharge stress and maintain a healthy body. Follow these links for excellent free online yoga classes and guided workouts, many of which you can do with no equipment.
  • Stay mentally active: Keeping your mind busy can help avoid boredom and overconsumption of media. Crossword puzzles, Sodoku, and other games and puzzles can be a good way to keep your mind sharp and engaged.
  • Ask questions: If you have any questions about the COVID-19 outbreak or how best to care for your wellbeing during self-isolation, please feel free to reach out to DutyOfCare@rescue.org and we are happy to assist in whatever way we can.