AccessEAP blog

Support through a natural disaster

Australia is no stranger to natural disasters, e.g. bushfires, droughts, cyclones and floods. These events impact entire communities, including organisations, their employees and families. The disruption to daily life can be significant. People may be forced to evacuate their homes and workplaces leaving cherished possessions behind as they turn their focus to survival. It is common to experience a range of intense emotions following a traumatic event like a natural disaster. The immediate loss of control and personal safety is frightening and can lead to severe or acute shock, distress and anxiety. People who have faced potential loss, injury, or even death from natural disasters will experience a range of feelings immediately, weeks and even months later. The memories and associated fear that a similar event will reoccur can be long lasting.

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

1. Normalise reactions: Accept that people will experience a range of emotions and that it is normal. Once the event is over it doesn't mean people's feelings go away. Acknowledge their feelings and reassure people that their intense feelings are normal given the disaster.

2. Try to keep calm and lift spirits through community involvement: Provide reassurance that "we will get through this together" and focus on the things that were managed well, e.g. the brave responses of emergency services. People feel united in the shared experience and can support and comfort each other. This connection and sense of helping is critical to coping.

3. Ask how you can help: Ask if there's anything that you can do to assist employees or if there is anything they need? e.g. flexible hours, transport or belongings.

Information to help organisations during the cyclone crisis

At a time such as we are now experiencing, support for our clients and their employees is paramount. Over the coming days situations will change dramatically and people will feel the need for support at different times. Some may not feel the need for support at all.

We have provided the information below to assist organisations. We have also put together some information to assist your employees which you may find useful to distribute to as many people as possible. Please also remember to remind people that if they need counselling services to call 1800 81 87 28 where someone will be on hand to help.

Natural disasters like cyclones, disrupt lives physically and psychologically, creating intense emotional distress for individuals, families and whole communities. Organisations play a vital and valuable role in assisting and supporting their employees in the immediate aftermath and in the days, weeks and months following a disaster.

It’s important to be aware that everyone will respond differently and everyone’s need s will be different, initially and over time. Being prepared to provide initial and long term support for your employees will enhance and promote their own personal coping strategies and resilience.

If needed, allow additional time at home to tend to family matters.Establish an open door policy that allows employees to seek the appropriate care when needed.Create an environment that allows employees to talk amongst themselves about fears and hopes related to the disaster. Openly sharing with others has been known to promote personal recovery.Be mindful and respectful of individual needs. Some employees may feel uncomfortable sharing their feelings. Remember that there is no right or wrong way to feel.Encourage employees to communicate their needs, rather than assume you know what their needs may be.Promote self-efficacy by engaging people in meeting their own needs by helping them regain their confidence and ability to manage their current and future situations.Maintain communication if an employee is away from the workplace for any length of time.Give employees assurance that affected families will be supported in some form or another. A disaster such as the floods has the power to entirely consume everyone involved, especially when it has an impact on one’s family.If possible and when appropriate try to establish normal routines as soon as possible. This aids recovery by providing employees with an opportunity to be active and return to a sense of normalcy.Provide simple and accurate information on how to access services, specifically encourage, and make it easy for, employees to speak with a professional counsellor from their Employee Assistance Program. 

How to access the Organisational Support services

Tips to Keep Your Business New Year’s Resolutions on Track

The start of a new year is a great opportunity to take a fresh look at the goals you’d like to set for the next 12 months. For businesses this could range from financial growth to improved staff retention, or new service and product offerings. However, with only 8% [1] of people achieving their New Year’s resolutions, how can management and HR professionals hope to inspire entire teams to find year-long success?

The answer lies in effective goal setting says our Clinical Director, Marcela Slepica “It’s easy to get swept up in the excitement of setting a new goal, without thinking about the big picture. While having a common goal is great for team morale and motivating employees, the goals you set need to be realistic and in line with your organisation’s vision and values.”

Here Marcela gives more details on some of the tips we use to help organisations reach their goals.

S.M.A.R.T Goals

Organisational goals are like personal goals in that they provide structure to help us move in the direction we want to take. Within organisations, it can be easy to come up with ‘big picture’ ideas or strategic direction, however setting goals can be more challenging. The S.M.A.R.T. model is a great way of keeping your goals on track and giving them the best possible chance of success.

Together we support vulnerable families

AccessEAP is a not-for-profit organisation, for us it actually means profit-for-purpose. It is a very exciting time as we are funding a number of new programs in addition to our continued contributions to the HOPE Program for young disadvantaged parents.

HOPE - Many of the young mothers who are in the program have experienced significant complex trauma throughout their own childhood and often present with undiagnosed anxiety and or depression. Educational work with these young mothers focuses on nutrition and strengthening their understanding of a healthy diet for their baby/toddler. Often a new partner will be involved, it is a very important part of the program to educate these men on how to look after the children in their life. You can read more about the life-changing work we are funding through the stories of young mothers: https//accesseap.com.au/about-us/profit-for-purpose

Family Support: Children and families in crisis, comprises three distinct programs. Family Recovery is a pioneer in this area and the only program working with the children and young family members of alcohol and other drug users. Providing the family with effective coping skills has been found to reduce the alcohol or drug user’s consumption and encourage them to seek help. Intensive Family Care program works with families who experience hardship, difficulties and stress, all of which impact on their ability to parent their children. Families are given the chance to learn new skills and gain knowledge that will assist them to make better life choices for the children. Prenatal Support program is a counselling-lead program which works with vulnerable parents-to-be who are anxious or not coping with pregnancy.

CCareline is a free help line offering immediate advice, advocacy, counselling and guidance to help the most vulnerable in our community connect with support. The service is particularly for those facing crisis or disadvantage within areas of relationships, families, children, addictions and mental health. CCareline is a service in high demand and growing; between July 2017 and July 2018 it received over 20,000 calls. 

Volunteer to Halt Loneliness is a community action project to alleviate the burden of loneliness and isolation amongst the elderly through matching isolated elderly people with suitable volunteers.

Our people look after your people

We are pleased to be partnering with over 1 100 customer organisations to deliver on our Vision to have all workplaces mentally healthy. Over the past 12 months we have delivered close to 50 000 counselling hours, close to 900 Manager Support Hotline sessions, 805 Conflict Resolution hours, close to 1 500 CIR hours and around 3 000 training hours with 250 hours being for Domestic and Family Violence training. Use of our Nutrition Consultation and Financial Coaching are also showing healthy growth.

We are very happy with these results but what does it mean for you as our valued customers? It’s how our people look after your people.

Higher utilisation means we are helping more employees, especially in higher risk industries, which means support is getting through. Utilisation has increased to 4.0% (up from 3.6%). This remains below the global average of 5% and well below the mental health issues in the community of 20%. That said, the increase is certainly encouraging.

 

 

Government Employees Increasingly Seeking Mental Health Support

Government workers are increasingly likely to personally reach out for help with a range of mental wellbeing issues according a review of referrals made between 2013 and 2018 by public administration professionals

Up 14 per cent in this sector, self-referrals for mental wellbeing services make up almost three quarters (73%) of cases. Conversely, referrals by supervisors and managers (8%), HR (5%) and colleagues (5%) were collectively down by 9%.

Marcela Slepica, Clinical Services Director at AccessEAP says: “Government workers are familiar with the Employee Assistance support provided by their organisation and so utilisation has always been higher in the public sector. We have seen an increase in employees accessing the service due to ongoing changes occurring in the public sector. There are mergers with government departments and restructures, making the rate of these changes more rapid and frequent than before. People who go through this process face levels of uncertainty and anxiety and require support. Change also increases tension between employees leading to increase in conflict within organisations.”

Our data shows that in 2018, anxiety is the leading mental health concern for these workers, affecting almost one in three (31%), followed by relationships with partners (14%) and depression (10%). However, requests for help with depression have dropped by 4% since 2013, making way for an 8% rise in stress management, which only made the list of concerns in 2015, when it accounted for 4% of referrals from this sector.

In the workplace, stress has remained a constant as the leading request for help, affecting 15% of Governmental workers. Another prevalent issue is workplace conflict which has maintained a similar level. In 2013 conflict with managers (9%) overshadowed that with colleagues (6%), however this trend has balanced, as conflict with managers and colleagues now sits at 8% each.

Speaking Up for Women’s Workplace Wellbeing

Women are consistently more likely to seek counselling support than men, and account for three in every five people registering for counselling so far this year.

Interestingly, referrals we’ve received since 2013 show that, for the first time, in 2018 workplace bullying has taken place behind workplace conflict as the second most common issue for attending counselling. While there are a number of behaviours that people label as workplace bullying, what they all have in common is that the behaviour is repeated and is targeted at a specific individual.

The rate of alleged harassment referrals, a different but equally important issue, is much less consistent. This needs further exploration in the context of the current #MeToo movement, and given that women still represent the majority of our clients.

The Working Without Fear survey conducted by the Australian Human Rights Commission (2012)[1] revealed that while women are more likely than men to experience behaviour that is legally defined as sexual harassment, most women do not label it as harassment. This may be because subtle forms of sexual harassment, for example, suggestive jokes, intrusive personal questions, or inappropriate staring, tend to be normalised in our current culture, and women may therefore not report it, or believe it will be dismissed as ‘normal’ or an overreaction.

Companies must step in to challenge normalised harassment, which can often arise due to power imbalances or fear of retribution. Commonly, women feel safer raising the behaviour with HR rather than the perpetrator and organisations should raise awareness and educate all employees about sexual harassment and its impact on individuals. The aim is to adopt a zero tolerance towards sexual harassment and inappropriate behaviours.

Knowing Your Options is Key to Men’s Mental Health

Around 1.5 million[1] Australian men identify as having a mental or behavioural condition, however, men still fall woefully behind women when it comes to seeking assistance for their mental wellbeing according to referrals made in the last five years.

In the first quarter of this year, men made up just one third of over 11,000 calls made to AccessEAP seeking support for mental wellbeing. Their concerns were significantly varied with anxiety (17%), relationship with partner (14%) and depression (14%) at the top of the list of their personal concerns. Meanwhile workplace stress (15%), career issues (10%), and fear of loss of job (8%), were the leading professional problems, and 12% were actively considering resigning their job.

Men’s reluctance to seek help for this range of issues could be due to a lack of awareness when it comes to counselling options. We visit hundreds of business places each year to discuss workplace mental health programs and one of the barriers we see men face is the concern that they’ll have to discuss their feelings or talk in person about their childhood.

While EAPs do offer face to face counselling support, it’s important that workplaces educate their male employees that programs can be catered for them. This could include telephone, email or video chat based assistance, with practical actionable coping strategies.

At AccessEAP we want to give men the tools to ensure their own wellbeing and remove the stigma of taking care of your mental health. You wouldn’t build a house without tools, so why build a life without them?

We Need To Talk Suicide Prevention

Suicide is a big problem for Australians, taking over 2,800[1] lives per year and being the leading cause of death among 15-44 year olds1. Here at AccessEAP we offer ongoing support for workplaces to talk in meaningful conversations to identify and help avoid potential incidences of suicide.

Most adults spend around one third of their waking hours at work, so companies can play a pivotal role in providing key health information and intervening if an employee is struggling with mental health or if they are having suicidal thoughts.

Meeting Eating - A Recipe for Success in Meeting Nutrition

Meetings are increasingly important in modern workplaces, accounting for up to 23[1] hours a week for senior managers, up from just 101 hours in the 1960s.

As workplaces embrace remote working and flexible hours, meetings take on greater significance, helping with communication and team bonding. Quite often there is a tendency to spend this time with food. However, the evolving nature of the modern workplace requires fine tuning.

Workplaces are complex and ‘workplace wellbeing’ encompasses a range of mental and physical health initiatives which can include nutrition. The greater importance placed on the time spent together in meetings, requires real benefit to be derived. Organisations can use this opportunity to show that they respect and value their people through healthier food options.

Often, meetings are spent with food, from carb loaded croissants to salty sandwiches. It’s a recipe for disaster says Melinda Overall, Nutritionist at Overall Nutrition and AccessEAP’s nutrition partner:

“What we eat plays a huge role in how we perform, with research[2] showing a change in diet can significantly impact alertness, memory recall and mental acuity. Ultimately, personal nutrition is up to the individual to manage, but there are lots of ways bosses can support healthy habits that can help everyone come to the table ready for success.”

The inter-generational workplace

Sally Kirkright, CEO, AccessEAP recently presented a seminar on The inter-generational workplace - creating a safe and thriving culture at the Safety First Conference in Sydney. In this video recording of the event, Sally explains the issues workplaces face when, for the first time, we see up to five distinct generations in Australian workplaces. Focussing on communicatiuon styles and motivations Sally guides the listener through ways to effectively manage the challenges.

Support for those impacted by drought

The deepening drought in New South Wales, north-west Victoria and eastern South Australia, in addition to the continuing drought in Queensland, has a far reaching impact on individuals, families and whole communities. These impacts are both physical and emotional; disrupting lives and resulting in great emotional distress. The longer the drought continues, waiting and hoping for rain slowly turns into feelings of hopelessness. Financial hardship increases and with it despair; family tensions may build along with the day to day trauma of watching livestock and crops fail seriously affecting mental health and the ability to keep functioning.

Welcome to Newport & Wildman customers

As of the 1st of July, 2018 Newport & Wildman will be proudly part of AccessEAP. This marks an expansion of our EAP and workplace wellbeing services into Tasmania.

For our Newport & Wildman customers this will mean business as usual, Tony Newport and the clinical team will continue to provide local clinical services. Tony will also work in the business to ensure the unique relationship you have with Newport & Wildman will be retained in order to best meet your needs.

Ending the Normalisation of Harassment with Courageous Conversations

Harassment is defined by the Australian Human Rights Commission as unlawfully treating a person less favourably on the basis of particular protected attributes such as a person’s sex, race, disability or age. However, harassment can be so deeply engrained into workplace culture that it has become normal.

Headspace resources for parents and schools, 13 Reasons Why, Season 2

In order to support parents in the workplace and people working in education, we are sharing some important information and resources made available by headspace, National Youth Mental Health Foundation. The Netflix series 13 Reasons Why caused a great deal of concern in the school and wider community about this time last year. Season 2 of the series was launched last Friday. The first series, based on the novel of the same name, revolves around the aftermath of a teenage girl’s suicide. This series is graphic, making real and distressing reference to suicide, self-harm and rape.

Understand Your Strengths

Management is one of the most important factors in developing an engaged, productive team, as maintaining and improving performance can often be complex and demanding task. However, positive psychology, and in particular strengths coaching, provides a way forward.

Here, AccessEAP’s Clinical Services Director, Marcela Slepica discusses Virtues in Action (VIA), a prominent approach to defining personal strengths.

Case Study - Harnessing the Power of Positive Psychology at Work

The concepts of positive psychology can have many benefits in the workplace. This powerful tool is used to focus on employees’ personal strengths skills, and capabilities, as a foundation for developing their performance.

Recently, a global study found that workgroups that received strength based interventions showed an average increase in employee engagement of up to 15[1] per cent, reductions in staff turnover of up to 721 per cent, and 591 per cent less safety incidents.

Avoiding loneliness in the digital age

Loneliness is a growing problem in our modern world, despite the prevalence of digital technologies that allow us to stay in regular contact. Regardless of how many people we come into contact with everyday, whether physically or via social media, email and other technology platforms, we still feel alone. Rather than the amount of contact we have with others, it’s our sense of belonging, feeling connected to and valued by, others that instead seems to keep loneliness at bay.

Consequences in the workplace for sleep deprived Australians

In Australia, sleep deprivation is highly prevalent with 40 per cent of Australian adults experiencing some form of inadequate sleep. The blurred lines between work and home, increased anxiety and the need to sacrifice something to fit everything in are some of the reasons for this. Surviving on little sleep has almost become a badge of honour but fatigue from sleep loss can result in sleepiness during the day impacting our productivity and performance at work which can lead to reduced alertness, concentration and memory capacity. With the new year welcoming positive change, it’s the perfect time to remember the value of being rested and recharged.

Profit for purpose funding Puberty Clues app

On behalf of the Curran Access Children's Foundation, we are pleased to announce that the Puberty Clues app is now complete and ready for download. The Foundation has funded this project since inception and its a great example of profit for purpose in action. 

AccessEAP distributes surplus profits directly to community programs and via the Curran Access Children's Foundation. Our purpose is to provide support for emotional, social and human related problems. Our commitment to providing generous and meaningful funding for often intensive and life-changing welfare programs is one of the reasons we strive to achieve absolute best practice in all we do.