Newsletter

5 Health Pillars

There are many ways to exhale, and one particularly helpful one is cleaning out the unnecessary and outdated information in our brains. Like a spring clean in our house or car, a cleanout of the mind requires taking time and reflecting on all aspects of life to see where you are at right now. When looking at the five pillars of health (social, emotional, physical, financial, and spiritual), the exhale starts by reviewing all five aspects. Looking and rate each pillar from one to five (5 being the best); how well do you think you are doing the following?

When completing the rating, try to avoid comparison or judgment and just take some time to sit down and think. If you prefer pen and paper, use an exercise book to write down each pillar and its rating. Then list ideas of what may need to happen next with the above categories. Have a think about what is in balance in your life, what you are generally drawn to and what helps you heal – this may be a road map to assist you to see what you can do more of to get all five to a rating of 5.

Taking the time to reflect on how you process what is happening in the world and in your close environment (colleagues, family, and friends) is a big part of the exhale. Thinking about your approach to people and how you interact with them is a way to move after a big event. The reason being that those who are self-aware appear to have more empathy towards others; they are better listeners, can think more critically and report that their decision making improves. These all appear to be useful skills in a post-pandemic world.

If you are not sure where to start with your life audit, improving your wellbeing or would like some suggestions on how to self-reflect, start with our app, AccessMyEAP. Inside it has a wellbeing tracker that allows us to keep an eye on how we are carrying out our day-to-day wellbeing. Also, our friendly and supportive clinicians can also assist you with face to face, video or phone appointments focussing on self-reflection, growth or wellbeing. Contact AccessEAP on 1800 818 728.

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Joint Effort

The pandemic has forced us to look more closely at the way we work particularly in terms of team and people interactions and dynamics. The way that our teams function is crucial to our workplace culture and productivity. Whether your team dynamics have changed drastically or not so much, see our tips for an effective teamwork refresher below: 

1. Review Objectives and Goals

Successful teams have clear objectives that all team members are aware of and working toward. There is a clear vision and shared values. Team members are committed to the goal and live the values.

2. Participation

Active participation is evident and encouraged by all team members. Team members focus on their areas of strength for the greater good of achieving the team outcomes. Effective teams want the team to succeed and place team success above individual recognition and reward. Everyone carries their weight.

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Grow your Emotional Intelligence - a message from Sally Kirkright, CEO AccessEAP

Emotions, especially positive ones, can motivate us to create opportunities and find ways through difficulties. And emotions can be messy. They can get in the way of thinking clearly and they can pull us in opposing directions. Whether we are feeling on top of the world or quite down, it’s very helpful if we can bring awareness to what is happening for us emotionally so we can make wise choices on how to act.

This is where Emotional Intelligence comes in. Often abbreviated to EQ, it’s the ability to identify, understand, and handle emotions in positive ways to relieve stress, build wellbeing, communicate effectively, overcome challenges, and build healthy relationships. The term Emotional Intelligence first appeared way back in 1964 when it hit popularity with the writings of Daniel Goleman in 1995, and it has been in popular use ever since.

Emotions underlie everything we do, and they change the way we think. The ‘broaden-and-build’ theory of emotions, developed by Barbara Frederickson, says that positive emotions, such as happiness and joy, broaden our awareness, encourage curiosity, and build more creative and varied ways of thinking and acting.

As a leader, I am very aware of how important it is for me to be aware of my emotional state, especially when I am making important decisions or responding to situations. I want to approach decision making and situations with a healthy sense of self-confidence and optimism. I know I make better decisions when I feel like this. Responding form feelings of fear or anger are much more likely to lead to unforeseen and unwanted outcomes.

There are 5 main characteristics of EQ: self-awareness, self-regulation, empathy, motivation and social skills. It’s not just about our own emotions. EQ is also about getting better at noticing and identifying others’ emotions so we can relate more easily with other people, and build relationships based on trust and care.

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Identifying your Stress Signatures - a message from Sally Kirkright, CEO, AccessEAP

As we turn towards the second quarter of the year, it's a good time to reflect on how we are travelling and what we want to create as the year continues. With recurring lockdowns and travel restrictions, many of us did not have the break we were hoping for at the end of last year – and without that break, batteries could be a bit low and edges a bit frayed. And now we are facing floods and the loss which accompanies the damage. So if your energy levels are low, you're feeling overwhelmed or a bit "blah", it is not surprising. To support those that may have been affected by the recent events or if you have been directly impacted, please see our article, Support through the NSW & QLD Floods, which includes individual support strategies as well as information for managers and leaders.

Stress can show itself in many forms. As a leader, I am on the lookout for signs of stress and low energy in the people I lead – and in myself. Stress might take the form of headaches and tension; it might be losing your confidence or being irritable; it might be having difficulty concentrating or making decisions. Or stress might cause you to reach for that extra drink, that extra piece of cake, or you might lose your appetite altogether. These are all signatures of the effect of stress to be aware of. 

Resilience is a word that is used a lot when it comes to discussing how to respond to stress. The trick is to make the word meaningful for yourself and for those in your organisation, and not just an expression that is equivalent to 'move on and get over it'. The word resilience has been around since the mid-1600s. It's from the Latin meaning 'to spring back.' And that meaning is part of the problem. Sometimes springing back to the way we were is absolutely not what is needed. If I notice my golf-swing is not producing the results I want on a particular course, it may need to adapt to the unfamiliar conditions rather than persist with what I usually do. I like the definition of resilience given by CSIRO Research Fellow Brian Walker – "Resilience is… the ability to adapt and change, to reorganise, while coping with disturbance. It is all about changing in order not to be changed." Resilience is about:

  • having available to you a diversity of styles of responding
  • being self-aware and open to challenges
  • not being over connected with others and your environment (you might get overwhelmed), or under-connected (in which case you may not learn and you might miss the bigger picture)
  • being able to respond quickly
  • being ready to transform if necessary.

This is a much more nuanced version of resilience than the one we are often told about.

So, how might we all put this version of resilience into practice? I believe it starts with being curious. Curiosity lies at the heart of the joy and excitement of discovery, of finding new ways of doing things, of finding our unique approach to the world that uses our strengths and insights. Curiosity also means we aren't afraid to make mistakes. It's said that when a reporter asked him, "How did it feel to fail 1,000 times?" Edison replied, "I didn't fail 1,000 times. The light bulb was an invention with 1,000 steps." A growth mindset is vital.

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Reinvest in Resilience

Being resilient is the ability to bounce back after challenges. During this unprecedented time, we all find ourselves in, building resilience and trying to manage our stress levels can seem even more difficult than usual. As a manager or leader, you will be experiencing your own emotions as well as feeling responsible for your people or teams. As leaders, we are used to being in control and providing guidance and support to others, but we are also human.

Remember that feeling anxious, fearful, stressed, angry and irritable are common and normal feelings during uncertain times. Identify your responses and feelings and ensure that you look after yourself and get support if needed. It is difficult to support others when we are experiencing heightened stress. If you notice behavioural changes like being snappy in a conversation that you would not normally worry about, or being abrupt towards someone you care for, take a moment to use the STOP technique.

  • STOP whatever you are doing
  • TAKE a few slow breaths
  • OBSERVE what you are thinking and feeling –remembering that thoughts and worries are not facts
  • Feeling calmer? Go on with the task. Still tense? Get up and move, make a cup of tea, walk the dog, do the dishes. A five-minute break is really restorative!

Click below to refesh on our top ten tips for Resilience.

Stress & Resilience Training

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Showing Stress

Stress is a natural state which allows our minds and bodies to prepare for the unexpected. Some stress is good: It helps us prepare for a big task and protects against imminent threats. However, a constant state of stress is exhausting and bad for our physical and emotional health.

We show stress in four ways:

Physically: feeling the rush of adrenaline, headaches, muscle tension.

Emotionally: becoming snappy or teary with little provocation; losing our confidence and vitality.

Cognitively: black and white thinking; catastrophising and dwelling on unhealthy thoughts; being indecisive.

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A Taste of Harmony

Harmony Week is about inclusiveness, respect and belonging for all Australians, regardless of cultural or linguistic background, united by a set of core Australian values. Held on the 15th-21st of March, the week coincides with the United Nations International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination on March 21st.

The Australian workplace is changing at a rapid pace as we navigate towards global market trends and the process of working together with First Nations people and the inclusion of multi-cultural, gender diversity together with a growing ageing workforce. For more information on Celebrating Difference and what training we have to support you and your organisation, see here.

At AccessEAP we usually celebrate Harmony Week by participating in A Taste of Harmony, with each employee bringing in a dish to represent their cultural background and sharing the story behind it.

With changing workspaces and food sharing restrictions, how can we keep this great tradition going?

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Sleeping Well

Looking after our physical health is a significant part of looking after our overall wellbeing. Having a healthy lifestyle includes making the right choices such as healthy eating, being active and maintaining a healthy weight. Another aspect is getting a good night's sleep.

We know we need sleep but how do we get a good night's sleep? 

It's important to have sufficient, regular, good quality sleep so we can function effectively in our busy lives and help to maintain strong, robust immune systems. 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. That means no phones, tv, tablets etc.
  • 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 bedtime.
  • Darkening the room so your body automatically prepares itself for rest can be helpful.
  • 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 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 body and mind, so you can get optimised times of rest and rejuvenation.

Connecting Mind & Body- a message from Sally Kirkright, CEO AccessEAP

As we head further into 2021, I’ve been thinking about ways in which we can take control over areas of our lives and how this increases resilience and overall health. In particular, the connection of mind and body, looking at where Eastern and Western understandings of health can both give guidance.

Finding ways in which we can regain a sense of control in our personal lives despite what is happening all around us can help us with managing our feelings of anxiety and uncertainty. What are things we can do in terms of looking after our physical health? And what are the flow-on effects in terms of our mental health? In the West, we used to look at the mind and body as related but separate systems and illness as a faulty body part. While your sore wrist may be RSI from using a mouse, one way of treating it would be painkillers and maybe a steroid injection. A holistic response looks at your posture, how much time you spend on a computer, what forms of exercise you are engaging in. The Eastern understanding of the body would look at is as a connected system that includes diet, social connections, spiritual engagement – the totality of your life away from work.

A simple way to bring all of our systems together is to have awareness of what we eat and how we move. Both of these activities impact the body and mind. We know the relationship between exercise and mood. There is now a growing understanding of how food impacts our mental clarity and emotional wellbeing: what we eat and how we move influences how we feel, how we sleep – and how we think and work.

Problem-solving capacity increases after exercising – so the idea of clearing your head by going for a walk is an easy starting point; it also increases endorphins, thereby lifting mood.   The previous image of the dedicated employee who only eats lunch at the desk has been replaced by a workforce – led by compassionate leaders who lead by example – think walking meetings! At AccessEAP, we know how quickly time passes, so our Wellbeing Champions work with our employees to implement initiatives to remind everyone to take mindful and active breaks. As a leader, role-modelling good habits is essential. Recharging your batteries increases satisfaction and productivity and minimises burnout. Getting away from the workplace, whether on a break from your workspace or around your neighbourhood and enjoying the season – the shade of a tree in summer or bracing wind while rugged up in winter – activates a range of our senses, a key aspect of mindfulness. If you haven’t exercised much, start with a walk, and increase the time and the intensity. No matter what your current level of fitness is, working towards a physical goal promotes mastery and self-esteem.

High sugar/high-fat foods give a short term lift which is often followed by a sugar slump or binge-regrets. I’m certainly tempted by the array of quick and easy local café options but the majority of what I eat I try to be mindful about. The gut and the brain are intimately linked – what you eat affects the production of neurotransmitters. Serotonin is produced in the gut, and so good gut health has a significant impact. Looking after the gut means a high-fibre diet, low in processed food and sugars – which includes regulating your alcohol intake. As with exercise – make changes gradually, so you don’t set yourself up to fail. You may also notice that regular exercise and mindful eating will impact the quality of your sleep.  You can get the benefits of small changes as well as a sense of control in a year which still feels unusual.

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Diversity & Inclusion Resources

This month we will be celebrating International Women's Day and Harmony Day within Harmony Week. Harmony Day is about inclusiveness, respect and belonging for all Australians, regardless of cultural or linguistic background, united by a set of core Australian values.

These are just two days that are highlighted but we encourage you to celebrate and implement diversity and inclusion in the workplace across all of March and throughout the year. To support your organisation through this, below are two great resources.

National LGBTI Health Alliance
Inclusive Language Guide: Respecting people of intersex, trans and gender diverse experience 

Learn how to use inclusive language in a respectful way with this Inclusive Language Guide

Universal Music UK
Creative Differences: A handbook for embracing neurodiversity in the creative industries

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Celebrating Difference

The Australian workplace is changing at a rapid pace as we navigate towards global market trends and the process of working together with First Nations people and the inclusion of multi-cultural, gender diversity together with a growing ageing workforce.

Our business leaders can no longer afford to overlook diversity and inclusion in the workplace. The challenge to organisations is the 'how to' effectively harness and embrace the richness of difference in a way that generates wide ranging solutions and boosts the wellbeing of staff. The current workforce is looking to their leaders to ensure all employees are considered when programs and opportunities are offered - that unique strengths and struggles are taken into consideration.

What do we mean by diversity and inclusion?

Diversity means all the ways we differ, all the ways we are unique. This includes, for example, cultural heritage, gender, sexuality, age, physical and mental ability. Some of these differences we are born with and cannot change. Inclusion puts the concept and practice of diversity into action by creating an environment of involvement, respect and connection where the richness of ideas, backgrounds, and perspectives are harnessed to create business value. Organisations need both diversity and inclusion to be successful.

Businesses can maximise the productivity and efficiency of their diverse workforce through:

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Self-care through changing workspaces - a message from Sally Kirkright, CEO AccessEAP

In the face of the changes we all went through last year, now is a good time to reflect on how our workplaces and activities will change. What will this mean to leaders of organisations as we optimise our work environments? This month I look at two related concepts: big-picture, structural changes to our workplaces; and how we respond quickly to ensure that our best assets – our teams – are supported.

Managers have always looked at how they can improve productivity, support customers and engage with employees to deliver on goals.  Previously this might have looked at maximising resources like the real estate where offices are located. Hot desking was loved by management but not embraced by employees. Concepts of touch-free, physical distanced workspaces, rosters which stagger staffing levels and even downsizing office space are being discussed at companies and departments, and these changes will make their presence felt over coming months. For those who have remained at their workplaces, managers have had to adapt to ongoing changing/fluctuating restrictions and help their employees through these changes.

The concepts of physical and mental health overlap significantly. When employees feel that their physical environment is safe, their job is safe; then it is easier for them to feel emotionally safe and remain productive. While we can’t guarantee how safe anyone’s employment is, we can provide a calm, caring presence for our employees, and encourage them to take steps to look after themselves within the workplace and at home.

Encouraging (and role-modelling!) self-care is not only a kind and ethical approach to leading our people. It increases self-esteem and productivity by giving employees a sense of autonomy and control, and the effects carry across to home life.

Working hard is admirable – and setting a realistic boundary is as well. As the economy and the collective soul of the country recovers, I’m aiming for balancing constructive work with exercise, closing the laptop at a decent hour, and connecting with family and friends. At AccessEAP, these are discussions that leaders frequently have with their teams: our KPI discussions now include talking about mental health and wellbeing as well as outcomes and results.

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Keeping Constructive

The pandemic has forced us to look more closely at the way we work particularly in terms of team and people interactions and dynamics. The way that our teams function is crucial to our workplace culture and productivity. If your organisation adopts an approach of creating teams based on aptitude, skills and diversity it can create endless potential but also a natural breeding ground for differences in approach and opinions, and if this isn’t acknowledged, it could lead to potential conflict. 

From time to time we all encounter situations where we dislike a person’s behaviour and we feel we need to say something. It may be that your job requires you to have these conversations with people on a regular basis. A common myth is that raising the issue might make things worse, however, a carefully constructed conversation might save things from getting worse.

Constructive Conversations Training

To arrange a training session for your organisation, please speak to your Relationship Manager.

Here are some tips for initiating a potentially difficult conversation:

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The G.L.A.D. Technique

One of our internal Wellbeing Initiatives is the G.L.A.D. challenge. An opportunity to do something for each other to actively recognise how much time we spend at work and with our colleagues. Using an adapted version of Donald Altman’s G.L.A.D. technique from The Mindfulness Toolbox, we ask everyone to participate and write a G.L.A.D message for their assigned colleague.

How does it work?

  • You will need a list of names for those that are participating. This can be an organisation wide initiative or just a team activity depending on the size of your organisation.
  • Allocate everyone a person; this can be random or just split into pairs.
  • Email everyone their designated person with instructions asking them to fill in the G.L.A.D. message. Whether they pick one letter or all of them.

Grateful- One thing you are grateful for

Learned- One thing the person has taught you

Appreciate-One thing that you appreciate about this person

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Emotions at Work

Workplace culture has changed since the days where people started work, did what the manager told them to do and 'logged off". Today, workplaces need to engage and motivate their employees by understanding what employees need from their work. We know employees want to grow, want to be valued, involved, and to feel part of the organisation.

Each generation may have differing needs and not factoring in employees’ values, needs and expectations leads to strong emotions at work which can lead to decreased productivity. Engagement is key to a mentally healthy and productive workplace culture – organisations need emotionally intelligent leaders who know how to respond in a way that facilitates positive workplace behaviour.

What do we unwittingly do that creates negative/positive emotion?

Insight and awareness around the impact of behaviour on others is a skill that can be learned and developed – paying attention to body language and others’ reactions is key. It’s important that you choose your moment to seek feedback or deliver information.

Are negative emotions in the workplace bad?

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Financial Check-Up

There is no doubt that COVID-19 has had a wide-ranging impact on all of us. We know that one thing that Australians often worry about is their financial situation. Many of us may experience financial stress as a result of physical distancing requirements and the impact this has had on employers and jobs. It is perfectly normal to worry about our financial situation, even in the best of times, as we try and provide a good life for ourselves and our loved ones. With so much uncertainty across a number of industries and employers, and if our partners or loved ones have lost their jobs, financial related stress may be a key concern for many.

Employers can play a role in helping their employees cope with financial related stress by recognising the impact it can have on different groups in the workplace. It is important to recognise that there are many varied reasons for financial stress. For example, our aging workforce is facing many challenges, including their fear of entering retirement, paying for their children’s higher education and moving their parents into nursing homes. On the other hand, millennials are facing economic instability, crushing student debt, stagnant wages and looming uncertainty about the future.

How individual employees handle financial stress varies greatly. Employers should aim to reduce the impact that this type of stress can have at work in the form of presenteeism. Breaking down and understanding the underlying issues can be the key to helping employees become more resilient.

Here are some basic tips on reducing finance-related stress:

1) Learn to budget: If your financial situation is causing you stress, it’s vital to create a budget. Record all income and expenditure and know exactly what you spend on non-essential items. Be critical of what you are spending and cut down on any unessential items if necessary.

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Reflecting on 2020 - a message from Sally Kirkright, CEO AccessEAP

We endured 2020, and many of us learnt something about ourselves and the resilience of human nature. It had tough and challenging moments – as well as some really poignant times when we embraced a "we're in this together" mentality. While looking back at how hard it was, it is just as important to reflect on the learnings, the wins and the positives of 2020.

I am amazed and proud of my team's resilience and of all people in the organisations we work with, especially those in essential services, hospitals, health care, aged care, transport and retail, who continued to show up and provide support, care and services. For those of us who worked from home, spare rooms and dining tables became impromptu office spaces. New processes and new ways of working came along, and we changed our thinking about the way we do things, focusing on our safety, health and wellbeing. From looking out for each other and loved ones to time spent on walks or exercising instead of the daily commute, the one constant was uncertainty and change. Each of us were challenged to think about how do we thrive during these times. For leaders, we were challenged and experienced the responsibility of looking after our people's wellbeing whilst balancing the needs of our businesses.

Being at the helm of AccessEAP means being close to the emotional pulse of the country. I aim to look outwards on behalf of our organisations and their people and see what matters are relevant and important on many levels; local, national and international – and also to look inwards to see how my teams are managing and what they need to thrive. What transpired for us were record numbers of managers and employees reaching out for support. This highlighted and reinforced how mental health support and a focus on wellbeing is an integral part of running a business and is increasingly a priority in any organisation's strategy for the future.  

My role here has given me an amazing insight into how adaptable people can be. Change is a challenging concept for people and companies. The uncertainty can induce a lot of stress. In the face of the biggest changes that we have faced in generations, staff have shown flexibility, and managers have shown compassion and incredible kindness. AccessEAP will work with you as we face similar or new challenges in 2021 whether that includes a transition to the office or to a new normal (whatever that may look like) for your people, through individual support, coaching for managers and people leaders, and learning and development opportunities for teams.

We have seen ordinary Australians show what extraordinary things they can do when called upon. This gives me great hope about how quickly we will recover and move forward to thrive with whatever 2021 brings. We must acknowledge the individual losses of friends, family, work and mental health. But as a community, we will come back and support each other and those bonds will make the recovery faster.

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AccessMyEAP - Wellbeing Tracker

 

Track your Wellbeing with AccessMyEAP

We’re making it easy for you to access your own EAP and wellbeing services with our intuitive and dynamic app. Download free via Google Play and the App Store

  • Put yourself in control of your mental health and wellbeing.
  • Make a booking to speak with one of our counsellors.
  • Read tips, strategies and new ways to support your mental health and wellbeing journey.
  • Choose your own wellbeing tools and resources based on your preferences, goals and interests.
  • Take your Wellbeing Check regularly. The questions are based on the positive psychology PERMAH model. 
  • Monitor your results with your personal Wellbeing Tracker.

This free service is provided to you by your employer as part of your EAP services. 

We’re here to help you be your best at life and work. Get started today. 

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Realistic Resolutions

We've reached 2021 and with that, another year of expectations and resolutions for the year ahead. Chances are, at some time in your life, you've made New Year Resolutions and then broken them only to repeat the cycle the following year. It is common for people to get caught up in a pattern of resolving to make important changes across life and then not following through. This year, keeping these few simple tips in mind may help to increase your chances of success.

Pick Realistic Goals

The surest way to fall short of your new year’s resolution is to set your goals too high. Remember to keep your goals realistic, small and achievable.

Define Those Goals

A common pitfall for people is that they are too vague about what they want to achieve. Spending time developing a specific, concrete action plan with the details of each small step will help increase your chances of success.

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Become an AccessEAP Ambassador!

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?

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