Reach out - a message from Sally Kirkright, CEO AccessEAP

Checking in and having important conversations with those around you.

Check-in and stay connected. We hear this so often in social media posts, news reports and written articles around keeping up our connections. But what does that actually mean and what does it look like when we do “check-in?”

This is incredibly personal and in fact, reflecting on what you have done in the past will be useful in building your approach to this. This doesn’t mean that you run down your entire contact list weekly and check-in with everyone with a stock standard message. It also doesn’t mean you are without boundaries around how much you can give and what you are able to offer.

My own approach to this is if someone crosses my mind and we haven’t interacted recently, I contact them and enquire about their wellbeing. I also take an hour out of my week and check that I go through my personal emails/messenger and texts to ensure that I haven’t forgotten to get back to people who have taken the time to reach out to me.

For most of us (if we are very lucky) we have a small group of people whom we trust and know we can contact. Being able to ask for help is probably the most vulnerable thing that we can do and although it feels counterintuitive – it helps to build our connections.

At AccessEAP, we hear that people feel disconnected and would like to have more human interactions, especially during this time of working remotely where there are fewer incidental interactions. There are those of us who feel that we give all of our energy away and there is not a lot given back. Perhaps we don’t give because we fear rejection or that we may be judged or we don’t think it’s worth reaching out to the people we work with, live with and love. Our challenge to you is to show up for these people – because in a pandemic we need you (and everyone else) more than ever.

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Men's Health Week 2020

It's Men's Health Week from the 15th-21st of June. The focus is on Men and Families - Working Together for Men's Health, find out more on the official website.

At AccessEAP, we often hear from men that they feel pressure to be seen as invulnerable, stoic, and fearless. This can lead to unrealistic expectations that as a man you should be able to cope no matter what, and "get on with it". Emotions become synonymous with weakness and powerlessness. Men may also dismiss their feelings as unimportant and worry about burdening other people with their concerns.

Men experience emotions just as much as women do, however, the pressure not to show emotion or vulnerability means that emotions will build-up and result in what appear to be random and unexpected behaviour. Reluctance to talk about or acknowledge emotion can manifest in all sorts of unhelpful ways including:

  • Excessive alcohol use
  • Addiction to gambling or betting
  • Ending relationships prematurely
  • Resigning suddenly from their job
  • Stopping activities of interest e.g. sports
  • Neglecting friends and family
  • Working longer hours
  • Communication only via emails or text messages
  • Aggression or violence
  • Excessive time watching fantasy films, or gaming

What can AccessEAP do to help?

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Bring your Pets to Zoom

Friday, June 26th is this year's Take Your Dog to Work Day. With many people still working from home, this June we encourage you to bring your dog and any other pets to your online meetings! At AccessEAP, we have set up a few wellbeing sessions throughout June so that everyone can connect with each other but most importantly, introduce their pets. If you would like to get involved in this initiative, make sure to set up an approved online session and make sure to take some happy snaps of your furry friends.

If you are still able to bring your dogs into your office on the day, make sure you check out the RSPCA Website for tips to make the experience run smoothly. 



Coping with COVID-19

Our Clinical and Organisational Development teams are creating a growing resource bank of tools for you and your people, including COVID-19 webinars.

We have released a new webinar for you on Coping with COVID-19. This webinar has been uploaded and is available for you to view right now. Click the below link and register your name and work email address to view the webinar.  You can also access the video and more resources under COVID-19 SUPPORT in our Employee Login Area.


AccessEAP COVID-19 Resources

To access our COVID-19 specific resources on Mental Health Awareness, Self-care, Domestic Violence support, Working from home and more, login to our Employee and Employer Areas of our website.

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Connection through COVID-19 - a message from Sally Kirkright, CEO AccessEAP

Make sure connection is more than a COVID-19 buzz word

Change is inevitable. Expected changes are situations we adjust to, but it becomes harder when it is unexpected. During the pandemic, we have seen the impact across all aspects of our lives. One of the hardest challenges for myself personally, and for everyone at AccessEAP, has been creating a sense of connection through technology.

In the face of COVID-19, we are already seeing how we rapidly adapt to change when required. At AccessEAP, we strengthened our connection to our customers and their people, by transitioning to a new remote telephone system. In two weeks, I witnessed how people embraced the new system and worked to meet this changeover. For many of us, there was an adjustment, learning the skills of working from home, the usual technology challenges as well as missing that in-person support from colleagues and teammates. Having the shared purpose of supporting our customers helped us to achieve an amazing feat in a short amount of time.

Internally, the importance of ensuring that teams are connecting so they can continue to work well and productively is the current focus.  At AccessEAP, many of our teams have scheduled online video team meetings to start the day, which includes planning the day but also the important opportunity to interact with colleagues. Professor Martin Seligman, one of the founders of the positive psychology movement, notes that happy people have high levels of social connection. We are social beings, and if our work is shaped around the ways we interact with each other in our organisations, then maintaining peer connections electronically becomes a vital form of stability and motivation.

Given this, a high-performing team working virtually is more important than ever for productivity, for job satisfaction and a sense of balance outside of the workplace. How does one achieve that? The factors that hold high-performing teams together, particularly as they negotiate crises, include communication, working with a common purpose and shared goals through effective teamwork and creativity.  Team-members who bond share similar personality characteristics, including hope, curiosity, perseverance and gratitude.[1] [2]

This is not to say that group-thinking and high optimism make for great teams. Some conflict and manageable pressure can be creative and energising. Good leaders in a virtual world ensure that staff feel psychologically safe to share, to challenge and to work through issues. By inspiring their teams with their own sense of hope, energy and clear communication, and by pulling colleagues into their shared vision of purpose, it helps to work towards a stable and productive future [3]. Trusted leaders encourage a sense of control and of achievement and value. Leaders need to notice if people are not sharing or are lacking in energy and try to understand what is happening. Asking questions is a great place to start. 

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Team Connection

Our work environments have changed drastically over the past few months. For many, that means working from home and having to navigate team dynamics from a distance.

Whether your team dynamics have changed or not, 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

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National Reconciliation Week 2020

What is National Reconciliation Week?
National Reconciliation Week (NRW) is a time for all Australians to learn about our shared histories, cultures, and achievements, and to explore how each of us can contribute to achieving reconciliation in Australia. The dates for NRW remain the same each year; 27 May to 3 June. These dates commemorate two significant milestones in the reconciliation journey— the successful 1967 referendum, and the High Court Mabo decision respectively.

In 2020 Reconciliation Australia marks twenty years of shaping Australia’s journey towards a more just, equitable and reconciled nation. 2020 also marks the twentieth anniversary of the reconciliation walks of 2000, when people came together to walk on bridges and roads across the nation and show their support for a more reconciled Australia.

Find out how you can get involved from the National Reconciliation Week Website.

Resilience through COVID-19 - a message from Sally Kirkright, CEO, AccessEAP

This month I’m writing about managing stress and building resilience. It’s been a stressful summer as the drought led to the worst bushfire season in memory. Then the rains that should have been so soothing caused floods in many areas. And no sooner did we accommodate that development, COVID-19 appeared.

Being resilient is the ability to bounce back after challenges. If you fail your driving test, you can lick your wounds and never get your license – or do more practise and try the test again. However, when one challenge after another appears, it’s harder to catch your breath and keep bouncing back. 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.

Managing stress goes alongside resilience, and this is certainly a stressful time for many people. Stress can emerge in small, sneaky increments. When a challenge arises, you feel a rush as adrenalin hits your system: It increases blood pressure and heart rate as part of our fight-or-flight mechanism. Sometimes our day has so many challenges that we load up on adrenalin before we have the time to work the last dose from our body. When we stay at that elevated level, our body is working above capacity. Short term, that’s OK. If it goes on without reprieve, we get worn out, making it harder for that resilience ‘bounce back’ to arrive.

We feel stress, physically and emotionally. Knowing where your body holds it – tight neck, sinking feeling in your gut, heartburn, a sensation of pounding blood in your hear or chest – allows you to stop and see what’s happening. You or those around you might notice behavioural changes, like being snappy in a conversation that you would not normally worry about, or being abrupt towards someone you care for. Sleep disturbances, needing a drink after work, difficulty concentrating (or obsessing on bushfires, floods or viruses!) all indicate that we are stressed.

Use a STOP technique at a moment like that:

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Handling Stress

Workplace stress can present in physical symptoms and manifest as fatigue, headaches, indigestion, insomnia and anxiety. Managing stress can be a key factor in feeling more productive and enjoying your work. Here are some tips to help you manage your stress levels:

  • Work out your priorities

Write them down each morning, rank them and take one thing at a time. Include the important people in your life as priorities and attend to these relationships. Make tasks achievable.

  • Prioritise relaxation and exercise

Set aside time each day for recreation and exercise. These are not optional extras for handling stress, they are essential. Gentle exercises such as walking, swimming, cycling, meditation, yoga, dance and even hobbies are all excellent. Find what suits you best.

  • Practice saying ‘no’

If you feel overloaded, think hard before committing to other people’s expectations. Talk this over with someone you trust. Practice saying “Not immediately, but next hour/day/week/month” to buy yourself time.

  • Accept that change is a part of life

Make allowances for the fact that stress can make you more sensitive in reacting to others. Discuss your feelings with the person responsible for your agitation. If it’s impossible to talk it out, do some physical activity at the end of the working day to relieve tensions.

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April 2020 Public Holidays

With the Easter Long Weekend (Friday 10th until Monday 13th) coming up, followed by Anzac Day on Saturday the 25th, there are a lot of April Public Holidays.

Please be assured our counselling and support services are available 24/7, 365 days a year however our other business functions observe the Australian National public holidays.


Building Resilience Wellbeing Tips


See our 10 Tips for Building Resilience below.

For assistance or more information on our Stress Awareness and Building Resilience Webinars & Training, speak with your Relationship Manager today.


Mythbusting Sleep

There is a plethora of information available on sleep, it's in the media, dispensed by family and friends and of course at the touch of a link via “Dr Google”! It can be overwhelming sifting through numerous and sometimes conflicting articles. What sleep routine should we follow? How many hours constitutes enough sleep and how much is too much? Here at AccessEAP, our clinical team have put on their myth-busting gear and provided simple, actionable information on getting some important shut-eye.

We all need sleep and it is often the thing that when we are busy we cut down on, however sleep is essential to our wellbeing and to our coping. It enables us to physically and cognitively recover and integrate things that have happened during the day. It helps us recover from daily stress and restore energy, without our recommended 7 to 9 hours sleep (for adults aged 18-64 [1]) over time this can lead to an increase of physical pain, anxiety and depression as well as compromising our immune system and general energy level [2].

A normal sleep cycle is 90 minutes and during this time our body temperature drops, muscles relax and heart rate and breathing slows. The cycle includes dreaming REM (rapid eye movement) that enhances learning, memory and enhances positive emotional health, which are all vital to us functioning to the best of our ability during the workday.

Research by Sleep Health Foundation [3] found that 33-45% of Australian adults are sleep deprived most nights, causing irritability, fatigue and undermines our productivity and relationships. The study found women are more likely than men to have trouble falling asleep and staying asleep, while men are more likely to be diagnosed with sleep apnoea, where breathing repeatedly stops and starts, causing sleep disturbance. A sleepy fatigued person is accident prone, judgement impaired and more likely to make mistakes and poor decisions [4] whether that’s at home or in the workplace.

Serotonin is released during sleep (not stored in the body) and is a mood regulator for general wellbeing. Also, weight gain can be exacerbated by not getting enough sleep because insulin is produced in the middle of the night which assists in food digestion. If we are tired we tend to overeat to gain energy. Another health implication supporting the benefit of sleep is the release of the hormone melatonin that suppresses the development of tumours and assisting the nervous system against degenerative diseases [5].

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How to Improve Mental Health in the Workplace

- Awareness and education is the key for developing a good understanding of mental health and how to support employees who are at risk. Develop and implement policies that raise awareness of mental health and work towards reducing stigma in the workplace. Leaders and managers talking about mental health openly and honestly goes a long way towards acceptance of mental health in the workplace. This in turn helps to build empathy for co-workers and an acknowledgement that there may be high stress levels in the workplace that impacts on individuals and their wellbeing.

 - A culture of trust and support is a great place to start. It is critical we all work towards reducing the stigma so employees can feel safe to talk about their mental health without fear of consequences and trusting that there will be help and support. The Mentally Healthy Workplace Alliance is a national initiative to encourage workplaces to become mentally healthy and is a great source of information for helping employers determine how they can improve workplace mental health.

- Develop a long term mental health strategy, addressing policy and providing mental health resources in order to address areas of bullying, poor decision making, long working hours, inadequate communication and job insecurity.

- Protective factors can be developed and implemented, such as training that is related to leadership, positive morale, collaborate decision making, good communication and team collaboration. The evidence shows that acceptance and good working relationships, especially with managers, are a strong protective factor.

- An integrated approach to wellbeing. There is no one way to improve mental health in the workplace, but an action plan that develops and implements supportive measures to help improve wellbeing, both physical and mental, has been shown to help improve employee productivity, lower absenteeism and promote a positive workplace culture.

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International Women's Day- Each for Equal

International Women's Day is held each year on the 8th of March. This year's theme is #EachforEqual.

An equal world is an enabled world.

Individually, we're all responsible for our own thoughts and actions - all day, every day.

We can actively choose to challenge stereotypes, fight bias, broaden perceptions, improve situations and celebrate women's achievements.

Collectively, each one of us can help create a gender equal world.

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Seeking Diversity - a message from Sally Kirkright, CEO, AccessEAP

Imagine that your number one priority is to hire a new recruit at your organisation. 100s of applications land of your desk. You immediately throw away every second CV without looking at it. Why would you disregard half of your potential recruits without even assessing their skills?

If this was 1920, not 2020, you would have been seen as a manager with the right mindset. It would have been common to omit applications based on gender. Only men have the right abilities for the world of business – according to early 20th century management training. So you ignore half of the potential workforce!

From the 21st century, this thinking looks archaic. So strange it would almost be funny. So we are better than that now, we want to believe. And yet not always. Women hold 14.1% of chair positions and 26.8% of directorships, and represent 17.1% of CEOs and 31.5% of key management personnel1. 34.0% of boards and governing bodies have no female directors. By contrast, only 0.9% had no male directors2.

With International Women’s Day on the 8th of March and Each for Equal as the theme. “An equal world is an enabled world. How will you help forge a gender equal world? Celebrate women's achievement. Raise awareness against bias. Take action for equality.” I ask myself “how am I doing as a business leader?”.

Research shows that companies continue to exhibit bias by hiring based on privilege, school, skin colour, postcode, ethnicity and religion. While there is anti-discrimination legislation in place, it is almost impossible to prove that particular candidates were hired over others based on ethnicity, religion or gender. Some female dominated industries are hard for men to break in to, so gender bias runs both ways.

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Taking on 2020, what your EAP can do for you

While it might feel as if 2019  has just wound up, we are already in March of 2020. 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 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. 

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 organisation allows you to have access to multiple sessions with a counsellor each year, we can provide an outlet valve for the stresses that modern workplaces can bring. As many of us try to balance multiple responsibilities including carer roles it is helpful to remember that 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 your organisation, 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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Harmony Week 2020

Harmony Week on the 15th-21st of March, celebrates Australia’s cultural diversity. It’s about inclusiveness, respect and a sense of belonging for everyone. Harmony Day which falls on the 21st of March coincides with the United Nations International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination.

With around 45 per cent of Australians born overseas or with at least one parent who was, Harmony Week has always been a popular way for workplaces to showcase and acknowledge their cultural diversity. Celebrating Harmony Week can take any form you wish – big or small, simple or challenging. Events can be a simple multicultural morning tea or a guest speaker at an all staff meeting. It creates an opportunity to think, talk about and recognise how our differences and our similarities make our workplace stronger.

For more information see the Harmony Week Website.

 At AccessEAP we will be celebrating with a week of lunches where everyone brings a dish on their designated day and shares the background behind it. It is such a wonderful opportunity to learn something new about your colleagues and of course try some amazing food!


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Let’s Make it Clear - a message from Sally Kirkright, CEO AccessEAP

Last year I had the pleasure of seeing research professor and social worker Brene Brown when she came to Australia. Her ‘Clear is kind. Unclear is unkind.’ approach really resonated and made me think about those all-important but difficult conversations that we all need to have at some point.

Being clear and assertive, in a way that enables you to state your needs or deliver constructive feedback, without attacking or offending the other person can be challenging and confronting, thus often it’s easier to avoid these kinds of conversations. Unfortunately, avoidance doesn’t mean the issue goes away, to use the metaphor of sweeping something under the rug, we end up with a very lumpy rug, that people start tripping over. Related to this is the fear of offending others or hurting their feelings. In a challenging conversation, it’s easy to err on the side of a white lie. How do we weigh up the conflicting ideas of not hurting someone’s feelings with a desire, to be honest?

Unfortunately, the outcome of avoiding or “softening” the issue can drag out the pain, and similarly, we can do more harm than good if we are not clear in our meaning. Sparing someone’s feelings by not saying what we mean leaves the situation unresolved. If we want someone to do something different but don’t clearly state what our needs are, resentment will build when there is no change. We risk veering into passive-aggressive communication styles if we dance around expressing our needs and then become frustrated when our underlying (unspoken!) intent is not acted upon.

I can’t help thinking about the Band-Aid analogy. If a difficult conversation needs to happen, doing it promptly and expressing the situation clearly is, in the long term, less painful than dancing at the edges. If you need to tell an employee that they are underperforming on a task, bring it to their attention sooner rather than later: if you delay, they can reasonably ask why this is suddenly a problem. You waste time and emotional energy for both if you have to back-track and say that the behaviour has been an issue for some time. A reasonable question from the employee could be ‘Why didn’t you tell me as soon as you thought there was a problem?’ Trying to explain that you didn’t want to hurt their feelings is unlikely to help if they are already upset. Saying you hoped that the situation would resolve itself can lead them to ask how they are expected to resolve a situation when they didn’t even know it was a situation. Fair call! And all because you thought you were being kind.

Similarly, your manager might ask you to take on a new project that the organisation has just been given. Hoping that you can accommodate it into your workload – because you want to be seen as pulling your weight, accepting challenges, a team player etc. – can backfire down the track if it turns out you didn’t have the time to fit it in after all. Having to go back to your boss and explain that the new project has fallen over could have been avoided if the less comfortable conversation (‘Sorry, I really can’t fit that in on top of my current workload’) had happened rather than hoping you would somehow make it work.

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Courageous Conversation Tips & Training

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 - Wellbeing Calendar Hot Topic

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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Self Motivation and Goal Setting for 2020

Start the year off well, with our tips for self motivation.

1. Revisit your New Year’s resolutions

2. Think of undesirable tasks as a means to an end

3. Think about all the ways in which your job benefits others

4. Set goals

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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


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.