AccessEAP blog

Covid-19 Resources

During this unprecedented and rapidly changing set of circumstances, we all find ourselves in, our Clinical and Organisational Development teams are creating a growing resource bank of tools for you and your people. This includes tools on how to support your people who may find themselves now working remotely due to social distancing requirements. It also includes tools to share with your people on how they can manage their own anxiety, support for parents and support for managing relationships. These resources can be accessed through the Employer and Employee Login Areas of our website.

Access the Employer Login Area here
Access the Employee Login Area here

 For more information and updates, see our previous blog posts on this topic:

If you have any further questions or would like to discuss specific requirements on how AccessEAP can assist your organisation and your people please contact your dedicated Relationship Manager or the Manager Support Hotline. As always, as your EAP we are here to support your people whatever the nature of their concerns, please contact AccessEAP on 1800 818 728.

Covid-19 Update - Support for your people

AccessEAP has continued to monitor the ongoing advice from the Commonwealth Department of Health and World Health Organisation to plan and manage responses to Covid-19. We are now experiencing the impact of infection here in Australia. We’ve had a number of people, our own included, ask for advice and support on how to manage individual, team and organisations in the current situation. As a result of these requests, we wanted to share examples of how we have approached this with our own people as it is an evolving situation we are all experiencing together, the scale of which we have not previously encountered. We believe it is important that we have a conversation and learn from each other.

AccessEAP has a Business Continuity Plan to ensure our ongoing operations and ability to support customers and their people during times of crisis. In addition to our Business Continuity Plan (BCP), AccessEAP has a Multiple Customer Support Plan. We have extended our BCP and created a specific Covid-19 plan based on the Commonwealth Government advice and risk levels. As a leadership team and organisation, these plans allow us to have clear, thoughtful discussions to manage how we can continue to provide support to our people and our customers. We’ve incorporated official WHO and Commonwealth Government advisory notes around general and personal hygiene strategies in our communication to our people. What we have learned in providing support to our own people is they need calm leaders focused on supporting them during what is an anxious time. We know from our experience that they can feel reassured when we communicate with them about how we are proactively managing risks to them and their wellbeing. We are putting their safety first.

We believe it is critical to remain abreast of current events, which we do by monitoring official government advisory releases and reputable news sources. We know from experience exposure to sensationalised, highly emotive media sources can directly impact the psychological health of individuals, and therefore their teams and organisations. This can be further compounded by exposure to social media, which does not always distribute correct information which can further exacerbate heightened feelings of anxiety and confusion. How have we addressed this with our own people? Our CEO Sally Kirkright has shared her own self-care strategy in an internal newsletter - selectively curate and choose what information to let in, reduce exposure to mainstream news coverage and focus efforts on supporting her own emotional resilience. We have encouraged conversations at work for our people to discuss how they are feeling and to reflect on and share their own strategies for managing their individual resilience, and through this to provide support to each other. We encourage you to have these discussions with your people.

If you have any further questions or would like to discuss specific requirements on how AccessEAP can assist your organisation and your people please contact your Relationship Manager or the Manager Support Hotline. As always, as your EAP we are here to support your people whatever the nature of their concerns, please contact AccessEAP on 1800 818 728.

 

Covid-19 response and being prepared

The Australian government has moved ahead of the World Health Organisation to introduce the first phase of the country’s emergency response plan preempting the elevation of coronavirus to pandemic status. Prime Minister, Mr Morrison referred to the decision as “being taken in an abundance of caution”.

At AccessEAP we continue to monitor government sources for updates and reinforce the measures we can all take to look after our people. What we are doing in response is to keep our people informed and clearly communicate that while the current risk is low for Australia, being prepared for a change in circumstances helps to maintain a sense of calm. These websites provide up to date and easy to follow information:

https://www.who.int/emergencies/diseases/novel-coronavirus-2019 

https://www.health.nsw.gov.au/Infectious/diseases/Pages/coronavirus-resources.aspx

Many of our organisations have already experienced having their people in a self-imposed work from home situation. It may be that your organisation will utilise work from home options further if required. If this is the case here are some factors to consider; feelings of connection may be strained and fear of illness and general anxiety may be increased as a result of COVID-19. Roles where travel and close contact with others is required may feel particularly impacted. There may be a greater reluctance to participate in face to face interactions, even with a counsellor. Phone, video chat and email counselling options are available and appointments can be made in exactly the same way as face to face sessions making support easy to access no matter the location.

Coronavirus

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

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

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

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

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.

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):

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.

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!)

Combatting Feelings of Festive Isolation

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

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

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

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

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

Workplaces Need to Stand Up to Australian Mental Health Crisis

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

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

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

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

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

Support for customers impacted by the White Island volcano eruption

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

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

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

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

Our support and commitment are unwavering through White Ribbon changes

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

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

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

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

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

It’s time to change the conversation about mental health in the workplace - a comment from Sally Kirkright - CEO AccessEAP

There has been a significant increase in the number of conversations about mentally healthy workplaces in Australia in recent weeks. This is largely due to the release of the Productivity Commission’s draft report into Mental Health. As a founding member of the EAP industry in Australia, AccessEAP welcomes the recommendation that “Psychological health and safety should be given the same importance in workplace health and safety laws as physical health and safety.” This is a significant shift in how we as employers manage our workplaces but it’s a shift we have been working towards with our customers. With an estimated cost associated with mental ill health and suicide to the Australian economy between $43 and $51 billion per year, governments will take this opportunity to change policy direction. For employers, lower economic participation and lost productivity represents approximately 23% to 33% of this cost.1

The draft report’s introduction highlights the complex nature of workplace mental health but fails to recognise the function of full service EAPs.

“There is limited evidence of what actually constitutes a ‘good’ workplace or a ‘good’ job in terms of mental health, but there are a number of recognised risk factors or stressors that are specific to the workplace that can undermine the mental health of those in the workplace.”

There are no real surprises in the draft report however AccessEAP challenge the Productivity Commission’s view on the role EAP’s have to play. There is a widely held misconception that an Employee Assistance Program (EAP) is merely a counselling service. That view of an EAP is outdated. Today’s EAP industry responds to the changing nature of work and provides solutions to meet the current needs of employees and workplaces. Organisational and workforce needs are evolving to remain relevant and respond to the unprecedented levels of disruption, change in workplace demographics and expectations of employees and employers. Working with organisations, we have seen the increasing sophistication of your people and the expectation of a workplace culture to support ALL your people. In partnership with our customers we co-create people solutions tailored to unique needs. Just as with individuals, no two organisations are exactly the same. The solutions require a degree of curiosity to learn the intricacies of your organisation, teams and individuals, ensure the best possible alignment between expectations and services and deliver a return on investment.

Last week Urbis and the iCare Foundation released a research report demonstrating that for every $1 invested in mental health in the workplace, $65 in social and economic benefits can be created2. We know that it makes good business sense to include human capital management as a core strategic priority and most leaders agree that a businesses success depends upon the people within it.

New podcast: suicide awareness in response to VIC legislation

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

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

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

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

Support for parents of teens

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

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

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

Good sleep

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

It’s Time to Address Domestic Violence in the Workplace

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

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

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

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

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

White Ribbon Australia closes but the important work continues

Although White Ribbon Australia have made the very difficult decision to close their doors, they have advised the following, ‘For all those who are already planning for White Ribbon Day, we encourage you to continue with those plans alongside the international White Ribbon movement. Continue to raise your voice.’ 

With White Ribbon Day at the end of November and many organisations in the midst of White Ribbon Accreditation, there is a level of uncertainty with how to proceed. Here at AccessEAP, we are currently going through the accreditation process ourselves. We will continue with our accreditation and our commitment to the process as we recognise the important work that White Ribbon was trying to accomplish. Violence against women is a pressing and prevalent issue within our society and our commitment to continue with the accreditation process stands firm. 

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

At AccessEAP we are sensitive to the complexities that surround Domestic and Family Violence, and our aim is to continue to support you via training and organisational consultancy. At AccessEAP our mission is to create thriving workplaces and hope that you will join us in supporting increased awareness and education involving violence against women. 

If you or your organisation needs further advice please contact AccessEAP on 1800 818 728.

Leaders to Challenge Stigma of Mental Health

October 10th Marks World Mental Health Day

Employees with mental health issues report that that they are unlikely to tell their managers about their issues for fear of being judged. There is still a stigma around mental health is some workplaces. This fear and not speaking out creates more stress for employees and possibly impacts on absenteeism and presenteeism. While many companies are making an effort to move mental health and wellbeing to the top of the agenda, a lack of time and resources are often used as excuses for not following through.

The 10th October is World Mental Health Day and encourages us to unite in efforts to improve the mental health of people around the word and challenge the misconceptions about those experiencing mental illness.

According to research, 45% of Australians have experienced mental health issues in their lifetime[1], and while the workplace is not the main reason for people developing a mental health issue, it is definitely a contributing factor. Long hours, stressful workloads, job insecurity and lack of engagement are sometimes normalised within companies, yet they affect the mental wellbeing of employees and can lead to issues such as anxiety or depression.

“As a manager, you are in a unique position to promote positive mental health at work, explains Marcela Slepica, Clinical Director here at AccessEAP. “Given the prevalence of mental health issues in Australia, it is likely that at any given time someone in your team will either be experiencing symptoms or will be vulnerable to developing symptoms.

“There are so many ways in which you can actively challenge stigma and help a person in your team remain connected, stay productive and feel valued at work, whilst they experience mental health concerns. One simple action that organisations can take is to nominate a mental health or wellbeing ambassador, someone within the team who can have peer-to-peer conversations with colleagues about mental health issues and encourage them to seek help.”

The key to being more productive at work? Sleep on it

Businesses dedicate significant funds to initiatives that drive employee performance, but one basic, yet crucial element may be overlooked, warn leading workplace psychologists. A study has shown that 39.8 per cent of Australians [1] are not getting enough sleep and that sleep deprivation is equating to productivity losses of $17.9 billion.

“We’ve become an ‘always-on’ society and while it may seem like a win for businesses, what they gain in hours is lost inefficiency,” says Marcela Slepica, our Clinical Director at AccessEAP.

“Keeping our phones and laptops within arm’s reach at all times to work at any given time has a significant impact on our mental and physical health. In this fast-paced environment, something has to give, and for many it’s sleep. We are in a dangerous cycle of not getting all of the work done because we’re sleep-deprived, and not sleeping because we’re not getting all of the work done,” Marcela continues.

Lack of sleep negatively affects our ability to think clearly, learn, concentrate and retain important information, which affects efficiency in the workplace. In a recent study, employees who reported ‘almost always’ feeling tired during the day had 4.4 times more productivity loss than those who reported ‘almost never’ feeling tired [2].

Insufficient sleep also impacts our mood and emotional wellbeing. Whilst extreme lack of sleep can induce serious psychological effects such as paranoia and memory loss, more subtle consequences such as anger and impatience can also prove challenging in a professional environment. Teamwork and cooperation play an essential role in business success, so when short tempers flare, relationships between colleagues become strained. 84% of people feel more irritable as a result of poor sleep [3], and with a volatile work atmosphere, staff members can become disengaged and negative, which contribute to poor team culture and low morale.

Support through a tragic event

Traumatic events 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 and their families in the immediate aftermath and in the days, weeks and months following tragic events.

The immediate focus is to ensure that everyone is safe. At this present time, particularly with intense media coverage and access to information on the internet, it’s important to acknowledge that this is a heightened state of emotion for everyone involved. It’s important to be aware that everyone will respond differently and everyone’s needs will be different, initially and over time. Being prepared to provide initial and long term support for people will enhance and promote their own personal coping strategies and resilience.

What your people will need right now is (download pdf version here):

  • If needed, allow additional time at home to spend time with family and friends - this helps them to feel safe and connected, and reassure others of their safety.
  • Make sure your people have access to support information and numbers - specifically the EAP and any other services you may have in place.
  • Give people assurance that affected families will be supported in some form or another.

Over the coming days, and in time, what your people will need is for you to provide simple and accurate information on how to access services, specifically encourage, and make it easy to speak with a professional counsellor. Most people will not want to speak to a counsellor in the initial days or weeks as they support each other. It is in the long term when people need support from a counsellor or their Employee Assistance Program.

Create an environment that allows people to talk amongst themselves about fears and hopes related to the tragic events. Openly sharing with others has been known to promote personal recovery. There is also comfort in a shared community supporting one another.