Harnessing EAP for risk management

It’s been a sobering week, with news of rising cases in Victoria and discussion of restrictions on travel between states. It seems that our growing sense of positivity and a sense that we were getting through this has had a reality check. On top of this, there have been some high-level media coverage surrounding jobs losses, redundancies and ongoing stand down impacting many Australians. In a recent AFR article, the IMF stated the global pandemic recession is deeper than feared, and that Australia will be impacted with a likely 4.5% contraction. The good news? Australia is the only advanced economy to have its outlook upgraded, and expected to contract less than the April forecast, which predicted a 6.7% contraction.

With this in mind, we turn our spotlight on how your EAP can help assist you to manage risk and support your people and organisation through challenging times.

Together we potentially face the deepest economic downturn since the Great Depression of the 1930s. We know from our conversations with many of you the issues that are dominating your thinking and current people strategies are around managing through the new normal, navigating through COVID-19 recession and being able to come out the other side. We are also positive that we will get through this together. The success of our economy is built upon the success of business and organisations. We’re here to help you successfully navigate the business and people challenges you currently face.

We’ve previously spoken about financial security, and this is an ongoing stress for many of us. We want to highlight how your EAP strategy and support can help you manage your business and people risks. We have created additional support tools. Our Manager Tool discusses some specific elements to help proactively identify and manage risks. Our Personal Tool offers your people some suggestions on how they can be in control of managing some of their personal risks.

Access via our Employer Login Area - COVID-19 Supporting your people:

Through conversations with your dedicated Relationship Manager, we can help you plan and implement a combination of proactive strategies to proactively identify, manage and minimise your people risks and the interventions and support required for those with specific needs. Reach out to your Relationship Manager to start the conversation with our Clinical and Organisational Development teams. Our people are here to help you and your people.

The importance of clarity in uncertain times

Reflecting on the lessons learned in the last few months, our reflection inevitably turned to two things – clear communication and decision making as leaders. One of the things that stood out was how we had changed our communication style. Our language evolves in response to the physical and psychological needs of our people, and where we have been as a team on the various stages of the COVID-19 journey.

This week our spotlight is on evolving our communication to continue to meet the needs of our people as we grow increasingly accustomed to the new normal.

At AccessEAP, we’re already in a blended workplace and continue to shape the blended workspace as we get better at actually doing it. We’ve openly shared with our people that we expect this to continue for some time and are actively looking for ways to support our people so they can better support your people. 

The phrase “clear is kind, unclear is unkind” (Brene Brown) is one that we often find ourselves challenging each other with. Looking back at how we have evolved our communication and messages over the past few months, something stands out. We’ve always sought to make a clear distinction between providing clarity and providing certainty. With so many unknowns to grapple with over the past few months, and more yet to come, we openly share when there are things we are uncertain about. Our people have been included as we’ve gone on this journey together. We’ve also made sure to clearly state that there is a difference between being uncertain and not knowing.

The power in the difference between the phrase “We’re not certain but let’s find out” and “we don’t know” is one that can have a direct impact on your people’s mental health and wellbeing. Uncertainty implies that you have some ideas on what’s required and that more thinking is needed to make the right decision. This can instil confidence in your people that you are being open, transparent and honest but have several alternative options that require a decision. Everyone has a part to play, and this approach encourages individual responsibility and ownership as we engage in creating potential solutions.

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Best practice for leading through crisis and change

Communicate, communicate, communicate. It's best practice for leading through crisis and change – both of which we've had plenty of over the past few months. It's time to take a moment; pause and reflect on what's happened and how we have led our people through COVID-19.

In the moment of reflection, it can become apparent just how much we have done and achieved over the past few months. It's also become apparent that information overload has taken on a whole new meaning throughout COVID-19. One of the contributors to exhaustion and stress is information overload. We've been bombarded by messaging across all platforms for some time. It's also important to recognise that communication through an extended period of crisis and change must evolve to continue to be meaningful, impactful and internalised.

This week we turn a spotlight on evolving communication for our people.

Knowing that our people may be feeling exhausted, experiencing information overload and sorting through information which has at times been unclear or uncertain, we can identify ways that we can adapt our communication approach to their needs. Now, more than ever, clear, concise and bite-sized chunks of messages are required. It's also helpful for consistency. It might help your people to think about how you can curate information or what's communicated to help this land better. There is a substantial amount of information that has been made available to your people from lots of different sources, including the state and federal governments.

Overall, trending presenting issues and requests for support confirm the effects of overload. 

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Stronger together: Mental Health Awareness during COVID-19

As we prepare for a return to work or physical workspaces with physical distancing requirements being eased, the impacts on our mental health will continue for some time. It is vital to be aware that many employees, colleagues and peers may be struggling. One of the troubling impacts of the COVID-19 epidemic on mental health is the increased risk of suicide. Raising mental health awareness is one of the tools we can each use and includes understanding the risks factors for poor mental health as well as knowing the signs.

We know the factors which protect our mental health are:

  • social support and connection
  • meaningful activity
  • maintaining a healthy lifestyle
  • rest and relaxation
  • a reliable source of income
  • and problem-solving skills.

Risk factors that can contribute to poor mental health:

  • an increase in drug and alcohol use
  • family history of mental illness
  • history of trauma
  • chronic or ongoing stress
  • loss of long-term relationship or person
  • social isolation not just physical isolation
  • financial stress
  • and poor physical health.

Signs that someone may be struggling:

  • dramatic changes in behaviour, mood or attitude
  • increased feelings of anxiety or depression
  • expressing thoughts of helplessness, hopelessness or worthlessness.

Many people find it difficult to talk about mental health with someone they are concerned about – and this is normal. It is natural for people to fear saying the wrong thing or making things worse. However, ignoring mental health issues won't make them go away. Having a conversation and expressing concern is vital.

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Managing your financial stress during COVID-19

There is no doubt that COVID-19 has had a wide-ranging impact on all of us. 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 several industries and employers, financially related stress may become overwhelming.

Financial worry is normal. Financial security, job security and a steady income are important basic things we require to provide for our loved ones, to feel safe and secure. Financial security supports our wellbeing, such as leisure time and activities. The loss of that security creates uncertainty and anxiety. If we are not careful to manage our thoughts and emotions, financial stress can dominate our thoughts 24/7 and impact on our health and wellbeing. The way we view our financial situation can shape our thoughts and feelings and harm relationships.

Some signs that financial stress is affecting your health and relationships include:

  • arguing with your partner or family about money
  • difficulty sleeping or relaxing
  • feeling angry or fearful
  • mood swings
  • tiredness
  • muscle pain
  • loss of appetite
  • withdrawing from interaction with others.

Financial stress can affect your health in many ways:

  • poor physical health
  • delaying accessing healthcare
  • poor mental health 
  • unhealthy coping behaviours.

Seeking help to fully understand your financial position and the options available to you is the first step in getting back in control of your finances and improving your mental and physical health. AccessEAP offers specialist Financial Coaching in addition to EAP counselling. For more information, Manager and Personal Tools can be accessed here or call 1800 818 728 to book an appointment.

How has COVID-19 impacted men's mental health?

Published in Human Resources Director 5th June 2020
 

Men are often stereotyped in pop culture into unrealistic images of masculinity that discourage them from getting help for their mental health, according to Marcela Slepica, Clinical Services Director, AccessEAP.

“This can be very detrimental and workplaces should help debunk these myths by talking about mental health and acknowledging that it is normal to have feelings of sadness or anxiety especially during these times of uncertainty,” added Slepica.

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What’s Next, COVID-19 Transition Planning

It is a promising sign when many of our conversations turned to “what’s next” this week. Recent media coverage has spoken about the return to work and the transition to the ‘new normal’. This language doesn’t recognise that many of us continued to work either in our workplaces or from our homes.

What we do know is that we are all caught up in planning the process of the return to the ‘new normal’. It’s time to talk about the impacts on your people, the workplace and the effect of the easing of physical distancing restrictions. While we recognise and have been talking about managing thoughts and emotions through COVID-19, our thinking is now shifting from crisis management in-the-moment to forward planning. The biggest lesson we’d like to talk about from these conversations is the unexpected outcomes people and teams who have already returned to the workplace have shared with us.

As we start a new phase of the COVID-19 journey, are we looking at a more hopeful stage as we can begin to move around more? Are we looking forward to the opportunity to interact with more people and physically connect in person? What will this look and feel like? How will our people react?

What we know is that there is no one size fits all solution. That’s why we have released a Transition Planning Guide, designed to help you think, plan and be able to implement a range of solutions to help your people, teams and organisation move through the transition to the ‘new normal’ as smoothly as possible. Find it in our Employer Login COVID-19 Toolkit. 

 

You may feel isolated, but you’re not alone

It has been just over two years since AccessEAP started working with Support Act to recognise the needs of a group of workers who were previously “left out” of traditional Employee Assistance Program support. Back then, due to the incredible fundraising efforts of Support Act and it’s founders, mental health services were made readily available to the music industry. That was a great achievement but Support Act saw the needs of so many others, in creative industries, being left unmet. Next came theatre industries and now all artists and art workers across Australia.

The twelve-month expansion of this essential service has been made possible thanks to the Australian Government, through the Office of the Arts. Clive Miller, CEO, says he is thrilled that Support Act can extend access to the Helpline to the wider arts community during this challenging time.

It is with immense pride that AccessEAP assists Support Act along this journey. The Helpline is delivered in partnership with AccessEAP and is a free, confidential service available 24/7, staffed by professional clinicians familiar with issues faced by people working in music and the arts.

There are many other groups of people who provide incredible value but work outside of regular employment conditions. Volunteers, carers and association members would not usually be covered by EAPs however, in many cases, they are groups with significant needs. AccessEAP recognises that the one size fits all approach isn’t appropriate when mental health and wellbeing are in the balance. AccessEAP provides a range of other assistance programs to cater to the specific needs of these groups and just like Support Act we are always looking to expand our programs to ensure the best wellbeing outcomes for people at life and work.

The Support Act Wellbeing Helpline is now available to all arts workers and can be accessed by calling 1800 959 500 within Australia, or via email. Zoom video calls are also available. “You may feel isolated, but you’re not alone”. This short video is a great way to promote this service to those in the creative arts.

Support for teens going back to school after isolation

While many lives have been put on hold due to COVID-19 social distancing restrictions, some argue that certain groups have been affected by the loss of physical contact more than others. Teenage years are characterised by rapid learning, risk-taking, building relationships and establishing a sense of self. Having to spend more time than usual in the family home can cause added tension with fewer outlets for release. With many high schools around the country returning to the classroom, there is some sense of normality being restored; however, for tertiary education students, the path back to campus is still unclear. 

As parents, it is important than ever to keep the lines of communication open; 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.

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How to build resilience through COVID-19

Published in Human Resources Director 7th May 2020

Marcela Slepica, Clinical Services Director, AccessEAP, said in the current climate, it’s important to manage the demands of COVID-19, such as social isolation, caring for our families and home-schooling children while juggling work.

“It’s vital to remember that we are not born resilient. We can develop coping strategies, including practised traits and learned behaviours that will help us remain positive and deal with new challenges,” she said.

Workplaces play a part in maintaining a semblance of normality, by providing employees with structure, some social connection and purpose.

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COVID-19: AccessEAP Healthcare Hotline

The public health challenges of COVID-19 may no longer be in the news several times a day, but our healthcare workers continue to be on the frontline of this crisis and under immense pressure. Healthcare workers need easy access to support as early as possible to ensure the best mental health outcomes. Launched last week, the AccessEAP Healthcare Hotline responds to the specific needs of our healthcare customers during the pandemic. 

How does AccessEAP's Healthcare Hotline work?

  • The dedicated, 24/7/365, toll-free Healthcare Hotline number will be recognised and answered by our client services team. 
  • Healthcare clients will be offered same day counselling appointments via telephone or video. 
  • Healthcare clients will have access to AccessEAP's most senior clinicians and psychologists with expertise in working in the healthcare sector and/or a hospital environment.

Visit the Primary Healthcare Toolkit within the Employer login area for more information or to discuss how AccessEAP can further support your organisation, please reach out to your dedicated Relationship Manager.

COVID-19 Major working from home struggle facing employees during the pandemic

Published in Yahoo Lifestyle 2nd April 2020

With many people all around the country now working from home due to the outbreak of COVID-19, Marcela Slepica AccessEAP Director Clinical Services, believes there’s definitely an increased risk of workplace exhaustion.

“For example, working parents who have young children at home, have to to juggle teaching, supervising and keeping children busy while also trying to work and meet deadlines. In addition to this, there are fears of not wanting to risk losing their job, which means they may be working late at night and doing overtime,” Marcela said.

“The pressures and demands can be significant. Those working alone who are isolated may struggle with loneliness, motivation, and feel disconnected from their colleagues. This may impact their feelings of anxiety, may affect sleep, and could also cause them to work longer hours as they fear losing their jobs.”

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COVID-19 Supporting each other in a time of crisis

Published in mybusiness 1st April 2020

Communicate often, according to Marcela Slepica, AccessEAP Director, Clinical Services.

It’s important for employers to check in with their team members. Regular check-ins help people to feel connected, and managers should try to provide structure for employees. The situation is constantly changing and evolving, so reassuring people we are in this together is vital. 

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How can workplaces better support working parents?

Published in wellnessdaily 21st February 2020

AccessEAP clinical services director Marcela Slepica said that in order to support those parents and contribute to better mental health, businesses must take the time to help and assist their employees and offer flexibility whenever they can.

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The road to recovery: dealing with grief and loss

Published in Human Resources Director 20th February 2020

The impact of natural disasters, such as the bushfires across Australia, will have significant long-term effects, according to Marcela Slepica, Clinical Director of AccessEAP.

The workplace can provide a sense of community, and communities that support each other through difficult times is key.

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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.

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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):

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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.

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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.

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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!)

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AccessEAP acknowledges the traditional custodians of the land we work on and their continuing connection to land, culture and community. We pay our respects to Elders past, present and future. 
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples using this content are advised that it may contain images, names or voices of people who have passed away
.

indig_flags.jpg

AccessEAP acknowledges the traditional custodians of the land we work on and their continuing connection to land, culture and community. We pay our respects to Elders past, present and future. 
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples using this content are advised that it may contain images, names or voices of people who have passed away.