Don’t Go Through Financial Stress Alone

As we settle into February and the holiday period seems like a distant memory, many of us face the reality of festive spending sprees. With Australians predicted to have spent approximately $52.7 billion on Christmas presents across December 20191, it potentially leaves people with financial concerns. Last January, we saw requests for financial coaching support hit its highest year on year levels since 2016 and expect to see this rise continue this year.

Returning to work after the holiday period can bring a dose of reality. Someone who has spent more than they planned can feel out of control and anxious that they haven’t managed their funds well. While stress is a normal part of life, constant levels of distress can affect many parts of a person’s life, such as health, family, marriage and work, making it difficult for them to contribute to their teams.

While the holidays can worsen financial stress, research findings suggest the issue affects Australians year-round. According to the Financial Fitness Whitepaper, more than 50 per cent of Australians are concerned about their finances, with nearly 85 per cent saying this impacts their wellbeing2. This can have huge effects on productivity in the workplace, costing Australian businesses an estimated $31.1 billion per year in lost revenue3.

The stress of money worries can result in increased absenteeism, presenteeism and underperformance. With this in mind, employers can play a role in helping their employees cope with financial related issues by providing a safe environment to open up and seek help, as well as recognising the impact the issue can have on different groups in the workplace.

For example, Australia’s older workforce is facing many challenges, including preparing for retirement, paying for their children’s higher education and moving their parents into nursing homes. On the other hand, millennials are facing economic instability, student debt, and stagnant wage growth. By creating a safe and confidential environment where employees will feel more comfortable talking about their issues, they may be more open to seeking financial coaching support.

Continue reading

Coronavirus

The World Health Organisation has rated the Novel coronavirus as a world health emergency. The current risk to Australia is considered to be small. At AccessEAP we are assessing the risk to our people and will continue to monitor the situation and determine any actions we may need to take as a business. We are communicating this approach to our people so we are all aware that relevant precautions are being taken without causing undue alarm.

Ignorance and misinformation can lead to panic, fear and misunderstandings in situations such as these when personal safety is questioned. Clear and concise communication around risk mitigation based on information from official channels will assist in keeping people calm. For up to date and accurate information we are referring to The World Health Organization and NSW Health websites. These sites provide fact sheets and frequently asked questions in English and Mandarin to help individuals and organisations determine the level of risk associated with their everyday activities and interactions and modify behaviour as necessary. 

https://www.who.int/emergencies/diseases/novel-coronavirus-2019 https://www.health.nsw.gov.au/Infectious/diseases/Pages/coronavirus-resources.aspx

We encourage respect for each other in the workplace and close adherence to the normal policies around mitigating risks to co-workers associated with infectious diseases. It is very important that anyone with symptoms seek medical advice/attention. Australia has a very good health system and the Federal government is coordinating efforts around the country to contain the virus and support isolation of potential cases. It is also important not to make assumptions, particularly around who may carry the virus, it is advisable to adopt recommended hygiene practices and act on credible information. If you have any further questions relating to how AccessEAP can assist your organisation please contact your Relationship Manager or the Manager Support Hotline. As always, your EAP is here to support your people whatever the nature of their concerns, please contact AccessEAP on 1800 818 728.

Support through the bushfire crisis

We are reaching out to our customers both impacted and threatened by the current, devastating bushfires across Australia. We know this will affect everyone differently, given the magnitude of these bushfires, it is likely that people in your organisations will be impacted in some way. Some employees may lose homes, animals and pets, some employees may be concerned for family and friends, some may be working in the area fighting fires and supporting those impacted. Our thoughts are with all emergency personnel who may well be exhausted but remain committed.

We would like to remind our customers that we are here to provide immediate phone support to any employees or managers who have questions or need support.

At this present time, we believe most organisations will be focusing on the immediate situation and needs. Survival and protection will be the main concern. We are able to assist with onsite support when the risks and threats have been contained. The following information may also be of assistance:

For individuals, see our tips and strategies (download pdf here).

As a manager, there are a few things you can do to support your employees (download pdf here):

Continue reading

Teacher’s Wellbeing - Back to School, what your EAP can do for you

While it might feel as if the 2019 school year has just wound up, the 2020 classes have already begun. How did that come around so fast?

This may have felt like a strange, and at times tense, summer in Australia. Some people are coming back to work feeling more exhausted than when they went on holiday. Whether you are teaching in a community directly impacted by fires or somewhere kilometres from it all but seeing the impact on the news, it has been the overarching story of the new decade. As teachers, you are often called upon to be the emotional glue in your community while balancing teaching plans, marking and increasing workloads.

This is a time to get to know your community and to look after each other. Being mutually supportive at this time of year can help us to get back into the swing of life.  As well as being there for colleagues and friends, helping other people is a great technique of self care. We get an emotional boost when we are kind to others and when we offer support to others – it makes us feel connected, and strengthening social bonds allows us to draw on the support from others when we feel personally or professionally overwhelmed.

AccessEAP are part of your professional community. We offer 24-hour phone counselling if you feel that you are in a crisis, as well as providing face to face counselling at a few days notice. The ability to share your worries can help you to gain perspective and find solutions, and as your school allows you to have access to multiple sessions with a counsellor each year, we can provide an outlet valve for the stresses that modern teaching can bring. As well as educator, your role includes pastoral care of your students and at times, their families. So while you are available for a range of supports for those around you, AccessEAP is part of the network that is here to support you in supporting those around you.

Work stress often starts small – restless nights, feeling uncharacteristically snappy, or blue. Being on the lookout for changes in how you feel before they become significant can make it easier to address problems. Making contact with an AccessEAP counsellor earlier can make returning to normal smoother. And if there are issues that are impacting on the whole teaching faculty – like talking to students about the images we all witnessed this summer – we also provide training to organisations on a range of issues. We have training which can be delivered to your organisation or by webinar, with topics like Resilience through Change, Managing Challenging Behaviours, and Burnout and Compassion Fatigue. We offer direct support for managers who are holding teams together, by phone and in-person as needed through our Manager Support Hotline.

Continue reading

How to set realistic goals and objectives

Published in INTHEBLACK 1st February 2020

The goals you set need to be realistic and in line with your organisation while keeping in mind team morale and employee motivation.

You can't afford to take a set-and-forget approach. Unforeseeable changes that may occur can impact the relevance of your goals, or your ability to achieve them. Explains Marcela Slepica, Director, Clinical Services.

Read More

New Year, New Me - a message from our Wellbeing in Focus Team

One month of 2020 has gone already and for many, the New Year’s Resolutions that have been set with best intentions have gone with it as well. It is natural to want to improve and progress in certain areas of your life. Starting the New Year with a list of resolutions can feel virtuous, but if the list is unrealistic and we can’t keep to all of our 2nd of January dreams, it is easy to give up on them and revert to old habits and patterns. As we reflect on January and before we plan for the rest of the year, it is important to acknowledge the extreme conditions that have faced Australia, priorities may have changed for you and some of the self care suggestions below may be more helpful instead.

Stripping away the expectations and creating goals may feel less daunting. A resolution feels set in stone, whereas a goal is something you can move towards, resetting the goalposts as needed. If you want to work on physical health this year, be realistic in looking at your capacity at this point of the year. Running a marathon might not be on the cards, but joining a running group or a soccer team can have the physical impact with the benefits (and motivational factor!) of social interaction. If you are not a runner, can you be a walker? Wheelchair basketballer or bowler? Modest, achievable goals have better outcomes than lofty ones where you feel deflated by its enormity.

Summer holiday late nights and sleep-ins (for those who don’t have toddlers or kittens) can throw sleep cycles out of synch, leaving you exhausted when the alarm goes off for the work week.

Good sleep hygiene involves keeping your bed for its intended purpose. Reading in bed is a great way to wind down so a book can work wonders as can an e-reader. Reading on an iPad produces blue light which overrides your nocturnal melatonin production. If you are using a device to read, set it to night mode which makes the screen glow warmer, rather than a cool blue.

If, after 15 minutes, you are still tossing, get up and do something else in another room, so you don’t begin to subconsciously associate being in bed with insomnia. Some mindful breathing exercise can be useful – experiment and find what helps to calm your mind if it’s busy and lastly although easier said than done, some self-discipline at night makes mornings easier. The addictive qualities of phones and tablets draw you in so easily: your 10 pm bedtime is suddenly 12.30 pm, and you wish you logged off two hours ago. (So seriously, put the phone down. They are sleep destroyers!)

Continue reading

Are your employees financially stressed after returning to work?

Published in Human Resources Director 17th January 2020

AccessEAP, Clinical Director, Marcela Slepica said returning to work after the holiday period brings a dose of reality. Someone who has spent more than they planned can feel out of control and anxious that they haven’t managed their funds well.

“By creating a safe and confidential environment where employees will feel more comfortable talking about their issues, they may be more open to seeking financial coaching support.”

Read More

Workplaces need proactive approach to mental health

Published in MyBusiness 9th January 2020

In light of the release of the draft report, CEO of AccessEAP Sally Kirkright highlights the important role that managers play in the support of their employees, stating that businesses “must take a stance against mental health”.

“While diseases and physical conditions tend to affect older generations, mental ill health inhibits our working lives, limiting the ability to secure and retain employment,” Ms Kirkright said.

Read More

Combatting Feelings of Festive Isolation

For many, Christmas is a joyous time, full of gift-giving and parties with friends and family. Unfortunately, for people who rely on work for social connection, the season can be far from merry.

More than 2 million Australians feel socially isolated during the festive period[1]. While loneliness isn’t a mental health problem, it can contribute to mental health conditions such as anxiety or depression, which can be a significant risk factor to those who are struggling with suicidal thoughts. This issue can be exacerbated by a lack of workplace relationships and the sense of purpose our jobs give us. Supportive social relationships and a sense of control which one feels at work can help make people more resilient.

The holidays can be an isolating time that some may even dread for fear of being alone. AccessEAP can provide out of hours support for employees, so it’s important for employers and managers to remind teams of this resource over the holidays.

The potential combination of stressful Christmas activities and isolation can be reduced by pausing, making plans, being mindful, and taking time to relax. The past few months have been particularly challenging for many Australian families with losses of life, animals and property due to devastating bushfires. More recently the tragic New Zealand volcano incident will leave many families grieving instead of sharing the holidays together. For these people, grief, loss and feelings of isolation will be intense and may require long term support.

Below is advice on how to take care of yourself over the festive season.

Continue reading

Workplaces Need to Stand Up to Australian Mental Health Crisis

A crisis in the mental health of Australia is costing the economy between $43bn to $51bn per year, according to a draft paper by the Australian Government’s Productivity Commission.

The Mental Health, Draft Report [1] revealed that beyond this alarming statistic, an approximate $130bn additional cost is created by diminished health and reduced life expectancy for the one in five Australians living with psychological conditions.

The draft highlights the complexities around defining a mentally healthy workplace but acknowledges the recognised risk factors and stressors that can impact mental health in the workplace. The role of Employee Assistance Programs (EAP) and the importance of investing in research and evaluating outcomes were also identified.

Workplaces must take a stance against mental ill-health. While diseases and physical conditions tend to affect older generations, mental ill-health inhibits our working lives, limiting the ability to secure and retain employment.

There are four main job-related factors that exacerbate psychological conditions, including: job demand and control, caused by a lack of control over highly cognitively and/or emotionally demanding jobs; a perceived imbalance between effort and rewards; job insecurity and exposure to trauma.

Continue reading

How to look after employees over the festive season

Published in Human Resources Director 18th December 2019

The festive season can be a joyous time, full of gift giving and parties with friends and family.

However, for many people who rely on work for social connection, the season can be far from merry.

Marcela Slepica, Clinical Director, AccessEAP, said that while loneliness isn’t a mental health problem, it can contribute to mental health conditions such as anxiety or depression, which can be a significant risk factor to those who are struggling with suicidal thoughts.

Read More

Support for customers impacted by the White Island volcano eruption

As you may be aware on Monday the 9th of December there was a volcanic eruption on White Island, New Zealand. Our thoughts are with those who are impacted, as always we are here to support your people. Following a traumatic event, it is common to experience a range of intense emotions. It’s important to be aware that everyone responds differently and everyone’s needs will be different, initially and over time. 

Organisations play a vital and valuable role in assisting and supporting their employees and their families in the immediate aftermath and moving forward. Being prepared to provide initial and long term support for people will enhance and promote their own personal coping strategies and resilience.

To support those that may have been affected by the event we have included documents for individual strategies (download pdf here) and tips as well as information for managers and leaders (download pdf here).

Should your managers need additional support as they support your employees during this time, please call the Manager Support Hotline. To arrange the Manager Support call, an appointment or onsite support please contact us on 1800 818 728 or in New Zealand 0800 327 669.

Our support and commitment are unwavering through White Ribbon changes

With the recent closure and now new ownership of White Ribbon Australia announced, I wanted to reassure our customers that nothing has changed in terms of the support and training we provide. However, it seems an appropriate time to reflect on what the White Ribbon name has come to mean for domestic violence.

It’s important to note that White Ribbon (WR) started with men taking up the challenge to do something about men’s violence against women and has continued to specifically engage men in this cause. WR explores the underlying reasons that violence against women continues to be a major social and economic issue in Australia and around the world.

This movement has a history dating back to 1981 but came into being in response to the Dec 1989 Montreal Massacre of 14 female students. WR was founded and a white ribbon chosen to represent peace as well as being a neutral colour men would be comfortable wearing. In 1992, the movement was brought to Australia by the Men Against Sexual Assualt (MASA) group. This incredibly powerful history of men and women working together to eliminate men’s violence against women must continue without pause. As leaders, we are in a position to ensure this happens.

At AccessEAP we are undergoing the accreditation process and will continue the process as we recognise the important work of the international White Ribbon movement. Regardless of what the new WR will look like violence against women is a pressing and prevalent issue within our society and our commitment to continue with the accreditation process stands firm. 

As a White Ribbon approved training provider we will continue to provide Domestic and Family Violence Awareness Training. We have received positive feedback from organisations that we have supported in achieving their accreditation and raising awareness on this matter. For organisations that are considering the accreditation process or are in the process of doing so, AccessEAP encourages all organisations to continue addressing and raising awareness of such an important issue. 

Continue reading

How to improve mental health in workforces

Published in Human Resources Director 6th December 2019.

Sally Kirkright, CEO AccessEAP, said workplaces must take a stance against mental ill-health.

“Businesses need to be mindful of the impact they have on employees’ mental wellbeing through the job itself, workplace culture and organisational support including recognition, stigma and the physical environment,” added Kirkright.

Read More

Prevent burnout

Published in INTHEBLACK 1st December 2019.

Marcela Slepica, director of clinical services at AccessEAP, says burnout is now occurring in a broader range of sectors. “There has always been burnout in certain industries, such as the caring professions or first responders – police or emergency medics – but I now see it moving into other industries, including professional services.”

Slepica says workload, constant change and workers feeling misunderstood by senior managers are common complaints.

Read More

New podcast: suicide awareness in response to VIC legislation

Recent news on workplace manslaughter laws, introduced to Victorian state government earlier this month, raise difficult questions regarding the responsibilities and requirements of employers to proactively support mental health and safety in workplaces.

As reported in The Age “the laws will cover deaths caused by mental injuries, including trauma from bullying or other forms of abuse, sustained on the job as well as accidents and illnesses caused by unsafe workplaces. The new legislation will apply to all employers in public and private companies whose negligence resulted in a death of an employee, be that by providing a dangerous workplace or failing to provide appropriate mental support."

At AccessEAP, our customers already demonstrate a commitment to safeguard the mental health and wellbeing of their people. However, we believe this current proposed amendment to legislation will further define the responsibilities of employers in this area. We are developing resources to start a conversation with and between our customers to help understand the potential impact of the legislation and proactive approaches to implement in the workplace.

The first of these resources is now available in the form of a podcast on Suicide Awareness and Psychological Safety in the Workplace.

Continue reading

Support for parents of teens

Teenage years are characterised by rapid learning, risk-taking, building relationships and establishing a sense of self. Parents are often bombarded with news articles on the very real dangers of alcohol-fuelled accidents and violence, party drug experimentation and risky behaviours. Particularly at this time as teenagers come to the end of their schooling and participate in “schoolies” and Summer music festivals, parents worry about risky behaviours becoming dangerous.

As parents, it is important to keep the communication open, to talk through choices and consequences, to show understanding about risk-taking and partying. We want our kids to make choices, to not be afraid to say “no” and to call us, as parents, if they are in trouble or scared. It is important to talk to them about looking out for each other, not to leave their friends alone or with strangers.  

This stage of development is intense for our teens as they experience significant brain and hormonal changes whilst navigating external demands and influences from peers, teachers, parents, carers and of course, ever-present and unforgiving social media. We are witnessing an exponential increase in mental health issues among teens. So how can we support teens to proactively manage stress through these tumultuous times?

Good sleep

Poor sleep often accompanies stressful times. Teenagers experiencing stress might lie awake worrying at night and be too tired to function well the next day. This can set up a poor sleep pattern. The Sleep Health Foundation recommends these tips to help your child establish healthy sleeping patterns: avoid screen time an hour before bed and encourage reading or listening to relaxing music instead to help wind down; support your teen to establish and stick to a routine around bed and wake-up times; encourage them to get around 7.5 hours of sleep per night, which is the optimum amount of time for teenagers. Read more here.

Continue reading

It’s Time to Address Domestic Violence in the Workplace

According to research, 2.2 million Australians have experienced physical and/or sexual violence from a partner, whilst 3.6 million have experienced emotional abuse from a partner[1]. As a national welfare issue, domestic and family violence not only affects the victim in their personal lives but in their professional life too.

Employers have an important role to play and need to take the issue seriously, the cost of domestic violence to the Australian workplace could rise to $9.9 billion annually by 2021/2[2]. AccessEAP acknowledges the role employers and work play in supporting women dealing with this issue. Domestic violence has very real impacts on employees and the workplace. For the victim, health and economic costs can increase and mental health can deteriorate. For organisations, this can lead to lower productivity, efficiency, staff retention rates and motivation, as well as higher absenteeism.

What’s more, some of these employees’ suffering doesn’t end once they leave the house. Victims of abuse can still be subject to unbelievable pressures when they reach the office, such as email and phone harassment, with partners trying to force them to resign or get fired. In extreme cases, they may even be targeted by their abuser at their place of work. This type of behaviour then affects the workforce as a whole, with staff exposed to the abuse in person.

Many organisations recognise it is important and relevant to have a Domestic Violence policy in place to support employees and to provide training to managers and their staff about how to respond and how to offer support. Victims should always feel that there is someone they can confidentially talk to in the workplace, yet only 20 per cent of employees feel comfortable helping a colleague who is experiencing domestic abuse[3]. Work can often become a sanctuary away from abuse and as an employer, it’s important to encourage a working environment that is safe for employees. By creating a non-judgmental space where victims feel confident to talk about their experiences, it can help raise awareness and make sure that someone is getting the help they deserve.

AccessEAP is committed to creating safe workplaces and encouraging workplace wellbeing to the forefront. We can assist organisations in developing domestic violence policies with training based on three elements; Recognise, Respond, Refer.

Continue reading

DV must be better addressed in the workplace

Published in Wellness Daily 15th November 2019.

AccessEAP clinical director Marcela Slepica said employers and work play a significant role in supporting women dealing with this issue.

“Domestic violence has very real impacts on employees and the workplace. For the victim, health and economic costs can increase and mental health can deteriorate. For organisations, this can lead to lower productivity, efficiency, staff retention rates and motivation, as well as higher absenteeism,” she said.

How can employers create a sense of purpose?

Published in Human Resources Director NZ 8th November 2019.

A sense of purpose can significantly improve psychological wellbeing, said Marcela Slepica, Clinical Director, AccessEAP.

Poor mental health and a lack of purpose in work can negatively impact employees and could make them feel worse.