Domestic violence is a common problem in Australia with one in six women having experienced violence at the hands of a current or former partner. Violence against women is estimated to cost the Australian economy $21.7 billion a year. 94 per cent of employees agree that employers should take a leadership role in educating their workforce about respectful relationships between men and women. However, a National domestic violence and the workplace survey revealed that 48 per cent of respondents who had experienced domestic violence disclosed it to a manager and only 10 per cent found their response to be helpful.
As we approach the December period and prepare for the festivities, it’s easy to become distracted with long ‘to-do’ lists; calendars booked up with extra social events; and perhaps finalising work in preparation for a well-earned break. These distractions can impact on our relationships with the people we care about most, so here are some tips for maintaining positive relationships during "the silly season".
1. Take Time to be Present: it’s so easy to be on auto-pilot and not notice the passage of time. Stop yourself from “doing” and pay attention to the moment. Observe without judgement the sounds, smells, sights, and people around you.
2. Give Hugs and compliments: Research shows that hugs can alleviate feelings of stress, increase our self-esteem, and even improve our physical health. Everyone loves to feel valued, tell the important people in your life the things that you like or love about them, often.
3. Be Inclusive: A sense of belonging is critical to our wellbeing and overall happiness. Think about the people you care about, do they feel included? Have you invited them to join in, in conversations, activities or just asking them about their plans for the weekend or Christmas break? Everyone can make a small difference by asking.
4. Respond don’t React: If you feel upset by someone’s behaviour, take a pause or walk away. Be clear about why you’re upset, and if you want the person to know or understand why you’re upset, find a time when you can calmly express yourself.
The most wonderful time of the year … if only a few extra free days would appear in my diary! For many the festive season means making time for family, friends, community and workplace social events. For others the lack of social activity in their lives may become all too obvious at this time.
At AccessEAP relationship issues continue to be one of the major reasons that people seek our counselling services. Approaching the end of year with busier routines than normal, it’s particularly important to stay calm and be present in the moment. Connection to others is key to maintaining support and wellbeing. During this frantic time it can be easier to take out frustrations on those closest to us.
It makes sense and recent research findings certainly reinforce the importance of social connection:
- A study, of 25, 000 people published in August, found that when a person’s sense of social connectivity declines, within 12 months their mental wellbeing also significantly deteriorates.
Numerous studies link social connection to a longer lifespan. A 2010 review, found that feeling socially disconnected had more impact on mortality rates than smoking, obesity or alcohol misuse.
The result of the Marriage Equality Survey will soon be known and regardless of the outcome it may be a stressful time for some people in our workplaces and communities. At AccessEAP we encourage a culture of respect, diversity and inclusion. This can be a great deal more complicated than it sounds. In order to respect another's belief system or point of view there generally has to be a level of understanding and knowledge and/or a willingness to to seek understanding. This process can take time and individuals experiencing distress may benefit from using their EAP. Sessions are confidential and may be organised at a suitable location and time.
Published in HRD Australia 6th November, 2017
One in six women in Australia has experienced violence at the hands of a current or former partner, and employers have the duty of care to have a plan on how to handle domestic violence situations involving their workers.
“Often, for these women, the workplace provides a sanctuary away from the abuser,” said Sally Kirkright, CEO of AccessEAP, a corporate psychology organisation.
Mental health and wellbeing in the workplace has dominated the agenda for many companies focused on developing a healthy, sustainable and productive culture for employees, but what is missing from this conversation is the same priority for business leaders and CEOs to support their own mental health.
The culture of any organisation starts at the top, with the behaviour modelled by a company’s leader or CEO filtering down to employees. While CEOs take the world of their business on their shoulders, we have to remember that they are also people – susceptible to feeling stressed and overwhelmed by the immense workload and responsibility of running an organisation. It is this susecptibility or vulnerability, which is often difficult for leaders to acknowledge and show, thereby impacting their mental health and ability to function effectively.
Domestic violence is a common problem in Australia with one in six women having experienced violence at the hands of a current or former partner. Violence against women is estimated to cost the Australian economy $21.7 billion a year.1 Ninety four percent of employees agree that employers should take a leadership role in educating their workforce about respectful relationships between men and women.2 However, a National Domestic violence workplace survey revealed that 48 per cent of respondents who had experienced domestic violence disclosed it to a manager and only 10 per cent found their response to be helpful.3
Workplaces have an important role to play in supporting women experiencing violence. Often, for these women, the workplace provides a sanctuary away from the perpetrator. The organisation has a duty of care and needs to have an action plan in place outlining how to handle domestic violence situations. Many managers feel anxious about having conversations about violence with employees. With White Ribbon Day taking place on November 25th, it’s the perfect time to examine current policies and consider training managers and employees to understand domestic family violence.
Providing a supportive environment for employees experiencing domestic violence is vital but it’s not easy. There are a number of different ways employers can do this. Some workplaces include an entitlement to domestic violence leave in their enterprise agreements. Others offer flexible work arrangements, special leave, the ability to change extension numbers or leave a bag of belongings in a safe place, the possibility of working in another office, and domestic violence support information through workplace training and induction.
Education and training that identifies domestic violence as a workplace issue and equips workplaces to respond effectively can offer pathways out of violence for those experiencing it. I am pleased to advise AccessEAP is a White Ribbon approved trainer for training on domestic violence which is available to your organisation.
An important first step is for workplaces to begin a conversation about domestic violence so employers can send a clear message to their employees that:
Thank you to all our customers who took the time to respond to our September 2017 Customer Satisfaction Survey. We are pleased to report that approximately 90% of respondents felt their organisation had benefited from using the EAP and would recommend AccessEAP to other organisations. As always the real benefit of the survey is in highlighting areas for improvement.
There have been a number of changes in our Relationship Management area with the objective of providing better overall service. A realignment of customer accounts has occurred to appreciate the individual strengths, experience and interests of our Relationship Managers and ensure these are aligned to meet your specific orgnisational needs. We understand that these changes may have caused some short term disruption and are confident that the benefits to you will be welcomed and enjoyed in the near future, and will continue to build and increase to provide you with the quality of service you expect from us.
Your support and honest feedback is truly respected and appreciated. We at AccessEAP look forward to continuing to provide best practice EAP service to you and your employees.
A major source of stress for employees with mental health issues at work is fear of judgement due to the stigma which still exists around mental health. October is Mental Health Month and the campaign promotes the importance of early intervention practices for positive mental health and wellbeing and aims to reduce the stigma associated with mental health.
Published in HRD Australia 3rd October, 2017
This year’s Mental Health Month focuses on employers’ role to have early intervention practices for their employees’ health and wellbeing.
“It is likely that at any given time, someone in your team will either be vulnerable to developing symptoms or will actually be experiencing them,” said Sally Kirkright, CEO or corporate psychology firm AccessEAP.
Suicide remains the leading cause of death for Australians aged between 15 and 44 with more than eight deaths by suicide and a further 180 suicide attempts every day. Suicide rates are at the highest they have been for ten years so it’s even more important than ever to be having meaningful conversations particularly if you notice that someone may be struggling.
What is the AccessEAP Ambassador Program®?
The AccessEAP Ambassador Program® is a voluntary and complimentary program AccessEAP provides to all organisations as an additional way to both promote and de-stigmatise mental health concerns and seeking mental health support. This program provides training to employees outside of the HR arena on the Employee Assistance Program (EAP) as well as common mental health concerns and how to support those around them in seeking help.
How will this program benefit my organisation?
Peer support has been proven time and again to be most effective in normalising common mental health concerns and reducing the stigma around accessing counselling for such issues. Having employees outside of Human Resources take on such a role communicates that mental wellbeing is not just an HR initiative, but a company-wide initiative.
Who is an AccessEAP Ambassador?
This year, Share the Journey is one of the themes for Mental Health Month, with the focus around keeping connected. Reflecting on this here at AccessEAP, I see people having a laugh together in the office, stopping to listen to someone who needs a hand, or sharing stories enthusiastically over lunch. What I am observing is a team of people that truly value each other, and show a genuine interest in getting to know one other. This is an important part of our culture and one that provides a sense of community and wellbeing.
It's time to put ourselves first. The two biggest barriers for women not maintaining a healthy lifestyle is ‘lack of time’ and ‘health not being a priority’. Women’s Health Week is the time to put ourselves first, for just one week, and start making positive changes that can last a lifetime. We know women are leading busier lives than ever before and we have a tendency to let ourselves slip low on our priority lists. However, the health of those we love starts with us. By investing more time in ourselves, we are better able to look after the ones we love and care about. Click on the image below to find out more and register.
One of the most important questions that you can ask your employees as a manager can also be one of the hardest. R U Ok? Day evolved from a need to raise awareness around suicide and to have a conversation with someone if you are concerned for their wellbeing. These are very simple words to ask of employees, and colleagues, however often managers will tell us that they don’t feel equipped to deal with the potential response.
The statistics in Australia are very disconcerting revealing that suicide is prevalent in our community. It is estimated that 8 Australians die each day from suicide. Three quarters of these are men. Additionally, Indigenous Australians are twice as likely to die from suicide as non-Indigenous Australians. For those in employment, the highest risk of suicide is between the ages of 40-54 for men and 45-49 for women.
Whilst these figures are cause for action, understandably, managers will often described feeling somewhat overwhelmed by the perceived responsibility this brings. One key message that AccessEAP would like to convey to managers in these situations is that they are not alone. Help is available and it’s important to have someone to talk through these situations with. We offer managers professional advice by experienced clinicians via our Manager Support Hotline. Our experienced clinicians will help managers to develop a plan for supporting their employee moving forward, and depending on the urgency of the situation, this may simply include tips for having a conversation, or it may involve more direct intervention.
The following tips may help you to identify when and how to have a conversation with an employee, but also remember that every situation is different and if in doubt it’s important to always speak with a professional:
- Know Your Team
By having regular contact with your team you will be in a position to notice if there are any changes in their behaviour that could indicate that they are finding it hard to manage.
There are many things which can get in the way of prioritising ourselves and our own wellbeing on a daily basis. Whether it be dependent family members, a demanding job, or both, at the end of the working day it may seem that there is little time or energy for looking after ourselves. Eventually however the costs of not prioritising our own wellbeing can be significant. Here are some tips for creating and maintaining a self-care routine:
- Find the Time
It is easy to feel helpless about the day-to-day demands of life, and to feel that we have no control over how we spend our time. Do an inventory of how you spend the hours of each day for one week. You may be surprised at how much spare time you actually have, focus on the things you choose to do and those which you must do. A good way to measure this is by the consequences of not doing them.
- Create a Complete Life
There are many ways in which you can divide up the pieces of the “pie” of life, depending on your personal values, however some areas which are commonly important to people are: vocation, connection to others, physical health, and emotional wellbeing. Decide what regular activities ideally go into each of the important areas of your life. Then, pay particular attention to whether you are doing these things, and if not, make space for them.
- Mention Your Needs
It’s common to feel guilty about taking time out for ourselves when we know that other people need us. Taking others’ needs into account is integral to maintaining healthy relationships, however ensure that your needs are also part of a conversation with people in your life, at work and at home.
- Notice the Signs
Understand the warning signs that you are not taking care of yourself properly. This will be different for everyone so pay attention to your body, your mind, and your emotions. Notice if you are feeling stressed or irritable and take pause. Listen out for messages from others. These may be cues - you need to look after yourself.
Work out what is important to you: e.g. regular exercise, more time with your kids, regular holidays. Identify your life goals and work backwards from there. What does this mean? What does this look like?
- Set clear and specific goals for your time at home/work. Write them down and tell your family and workmates.
- Avoid taking work home as much as possible. Limit it to two nights per week at the most.
- Make time to have dinner with your family or friends.
- Let your workplace know about your choice to have more time at home.
- In your own way, plan to make your family time positive and encouraging.
- Aim to leave work on time, at least twice a week.
- Do some exercise at lunch time.
- If you do have to take work home – have a break first.
- Learn to diarise effectively.
- Make technology work for you- don’t be a slave to it. (Turn email alerts off, turn work emails, phones and computers off at home)
- Investigate your workplace’s Family Friendly Policy (If it’s not written yet, ask for this to happen).
Some things to look out for:
- Conflict with colleagues who don’t have families or don’t value personal time highly.
- The professional pressure to climb the ladder. It’s OK to not want to climb the ladder.
- Workplaces, or work practices that do not promote balance. E.g. Lots of overtime, after-hours meetings, unplanned schedules. Lots of travel.
- When you find yourself spending more time and effort at work, because problems are brewing at home.
- Community pressure to have the latest car, house, furniture, etc – the ongoing pressure to spend more, earn more and therefore work more.
For more information regarding Work Life Effectiveness and Supporting Working Parents please contact your Relationship Manager.
The majority of people reading this article would know of and work with, a woman who is a carer.
I can put my hand up and relate to the challenges faced looking after an elderly parent. It’s not just the physical aspects of care, it’s making the tough decisions and the emotional demands faced on a daily basis.
Think about how many women you know who provide some type of informal care on a daily basis, for example, ageing parents, partners, or children, with mental illness, disability, or physical incapacity. More than two thirds of all unpaid carers in Australia are female and the majority (96%) of the time care is provided to a family member*. On top of this, at least 56%* of primary carers are also engaged in the paid workforce.
What do we know about the impacts of caring on women’s personal wellbeing? Research tells us that financial stress is one of the main contributors to stress and anxiety for primary carers. Female carers’ ability to participate full-time in paid employment is impacted by the needs of those they care for, and the average annual income of carers is well below that of non-carers. To add to this, there are many out-of-pocket expenses associated with being a carer, for example, to compensate for gaps left after government subsidies and pensions. The unique demands associated with being a carer places many women at a significant financial disadvantage across the course of their lifetime.
Perhaps ironically, carers will also tend to place others’ needs over and above their own, often neglecting themselves and their own health. Carers have the lowest wellbeing of any large group measured by the Australian Unity Wellbeing index. They are also 40% more likely to suffer from a chronic health condition than non-carers, including anxiety and depression. Free time appears to be a rare and precious luxury for carers. Between looking after others and keeping up an income to subsidise the needs of those they care for, it seems that there is little time left for them. Carers often also report feeling guilty about taking time out for themselves, and so will choose not to. Yet it seems that self-care and respite are two of the key factors to long-term resilience for carers.
Half of all Australian men will have a mental health problem at some point in their life and 1 in 8 will experience depression, yet they are far less likely to open up about what is affecting them than their female counterparts. With a recent focus on promoting a healthy body and healthy mind, AccessEAP is doing its part in building awareness in some of the more male orientated workplaces such as construction sites and mines.
Talking about what’s affecting them and taking action are proven ways for men to stay mentally healthy but it’s still difficult to get men to take that all important first step. Often in male dominated industries, the macho mentality still exists where men are reluctant to show sadness or vulnerability for fear of the perception of weakness. If men don’t feel like they can open up and access help, it can have a detrimental effect on their mental health, physical health and overall wellbeing.
AccessEAP has introduced toolbox talks in an effort to raise mental health awareness. These sessions focus on increasing awareness of mental health issues and helping men to see that everyone needs help and that help is available.
AccessEAP has already provided tailored toolbox talks to organisations in the manufacturing, mining and construction industries and is amazed by the immediate effect it has had on participants. Often at the beginning of a session, we struggle to get men to talk but by the end, they can be reluctant to leave and AccessEAP has witnessed large scale discussion amongst participants about issues that may be affecting them in their personal or work life long after the session has ended. The toolbox talks are not only helping men to reach out for help, but also show them their organisation cares about them and values their wellbeing.
Recent research has highlighted the importance of having sufficient, regular, good quality sleep so we can function effectively in our busy lives and help to maintain strong, robust immune systems. Seven to nine hours a day is the standard health professionals suggest, while realising that for many people, because of multiple competing demands, this is often difficult to achieve. The importance of short “nana naps” cannot be underestimated, as well as short, still “zone out times” during the day to help us to refresh our brains and bodies.
If we review our sleep pattern there are probably some small things we can do to make our routine healthier – and we’re likely to then be surprised by the difference they make.
SOME USEFUL TIPS
- Aim to go to bed at a similar time as often as you can so you can have enough hours to help repair and heal the body from the stressors of the previous day.
- Spend a quiet period immediately prior to turning in to help your body and mind settle.
- A warm bath or shower before bed can trick the body into calming down, loosening.
- Get to know your body and the effects of alcohol, spicy food and other stimulants too close to your bed time.
- It is preferable to keep your bedroom as distraction - free zones - no fax, internet, phones, TVs, iPads etc.
- Darkening the room so your body automatically prepares itself for rest can be helpful
- If listening to music, keep the volume low enough and the type of music soothing enough, so you are likely to drift off.
- If you regularly wake up during the night and have difficulty falling back to sleep, remember that it may help to get up, have some water or a soothing tea, sit and gaze at the stars or quietly breathe, rather than lying in bed tense and frustrated that you are awake. Once we notice you are feeling more soothed and settled return to bed.
- Some people find it helps to read for a while or have a shower before trying again. It is to do with interrupting the pattern of tension and trying something different that may help to soothe your mind and body.
It is worth formulating your own list of practical, healthy, accessible, common sense ways to soothe your bodies and mind, so you can get optimise times of rest and rejuvenation.