AccessEAP blog

Financial Health Check and Tools

This helpful website, from ASIC and the Australian Government, provides calculators and tips to help you make better financial decisions. Free and impartial financial guidance and tools are available to download and use to make the path to better financial control easier. Click on the image below to watch a short "How To" video. If you would like to explore some other free and paid options, our Financial Coaching partner, IMFG suggest the following: Pocketbook, Moneysoft and  Sort Your Money Out.

Are you struggling to reduce your credit card debt? Are you sick of never being able to build up your savings enough to go on that trip you dream of or buy the home you really want?

Click here to get started. This section of the website aims to get you in control of your money to help you achieve your goals. The following topics are covered:

  • Banking
  • Budgeting
  • Donating and crowdfunding
  • Get your money on track
  • Income tax
  • Managing debts
  • Saving

  

 

Financial stress - taking positive steps

It may not be surprising that a recent HR study found 80% of the top five health concerns for employees are mental health related, 41% admit to being distracted at work because of financial worries (presenteeism), 31% of employees say they have taken unexpected time off to deal with a financial issues (absenteeism).1 The 2018 Australian Securities and Investments Commission (ASIC) report showed 18.5 per cent of consumers were overwhelmed by their credit card debt load with outstanding balances now totalling $45 billion.2 We learn to live with underlying stress around our finances but these statistics show that the impact on both life and work can be significant. What can we do individually and as employers to take positive financial steps without becoming overwhelmed?

Resilience is the ability to recover and bounce back from adversity and life’s challenges. When applied to finances it is the ability to withstand external pressures during times of financial stress. Employees must understand that these external pressures are often outside their control and in order to be resilient it means taking responsibility and having a plan in place to feel confident about their financial standing. 

Employers can play a role in helping their employees cope with financial related stress by recognising the impact it can have on individuals as they move through different life stages. It is important to recognise that there are many varied reasons for financial stress. For example, our ageing workforce is facing many challenges, including their fear of entering retirement, paying for their children’s higher education and moving their parents into nursing homes. These life events can be both mentally and physically draining as they involve the security and happiness of the people we care most about. On the other hand, millennials are facing economic instability, crushing student debt, stagnant wages and looming uncertainty about the future. Employers can assist by providing information around financial literacy as many people struggle to understand their finances and are unsure of ways to seek information. Financial knowledge and understanding is often the first very important step in this process.

How individual employees handle financial stress varies greatly. Breaking down and understanding the underlying issues can be the key to helping employees become more resilient. Here are some basic tips on reducing finance-related stress:

  1. Learn to budget

Creating a budget gives you clarity and a tangible place to start in terms of understanding where your money is going and how you can reduce spending. If your financial situation is causing you stress, it’s vital to create a budget. Record all income and expenses. Start by being critical of what you are spending and cut down on any unessential items if possible. See the article in this month’s newsletter for budgeting tools.

A Day in the Life of an AccessEAP Ambassador

We recently had the pleasure of delivering a Day in the Life of an AccessEAP Ambassador as part of our AccessEAP Ambassador Program Conversational Series training. Our Program Lead, Michelle Donaldson, hosted the session live from AccessEAP Melbourne and was joined by our outstanding panellists: Doug Winger and Elaine Ross, two dedicated Ambassadors from Mirvac, along with Kate McPhee, one of our Senior Psychologists. We extend a big THANK YOU to our panelists for volunteering their time and sharing valuable insights with the wider AccessEAP Ambassador community.

 

 The Panel’s top tips for peer support are:

  • Keep the conversation going.
  • Ask for help as an individual and as an AccessEAP Ambassador.
  • Promote the EAP generally and around monthly themes.
  • Reduce stigma by seeking help yourself.
  • Have appropriate conversations – time and place is important.
  • Be politely persistent.

Check out the full video below.

Does your organisation value peer support? For more information about the Ambassador Program click here or contact your Relationship Manager.

Harnessing the Power of Positive Psychology - Team-Based Case Study Follow Up

At AccessEAP we are always looking at how we can use our individual and collective strengths to achieve the best possible customer and business outcomes. Following on from the great benefit our Relationship Management team derived from their first annual strengths assessment and with the arrival of some new team members, the process was revisited last month. 

"My team members are always striving to do better and developing and growing their knowledge and skill base with every customer interaction/engagement. I want to make sure that as a team they are recognising each other's strengths and the best ways to work together to provide the best possible customer experience," says Eleni van Delft, Accredited Strengths Coach and Director Relationship Development, at AccessEAP.

We recently received very positive feedback from our customers on our response and support to those affected by the recent terrorist attack in Christchurch. Following the event and during our internal debrief I asked our customer experience team to reflect on the strengths they used on the day of the event and in subsequent days.

They responded with :

Perseverance, leadership, bravery, perspective, teamwork, kindness, judgement (decision making) and hope. It was important for the team to have the opportunity to reflect on their strengths, identifying and acknowledging the part they played in supporting our customers through a tremendously difficult time. This was not only very insightful for each individual but also reinforced that when things happen and we can all become overwhelmed in the moment they each have the strengths and resilience they need to see things through to the best possible outcome. One team member commented, “ I now know I can handle these sorts of challenges in the future”.  

Support for customers impacted by the tragic events in Christchurch

Traumatic events such as the mass shootings in Christchurch 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 this tragic event.

The immediate focus is to ensure that your employees and their loved ones are 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 employees or students 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.

The people of Christchurch have recently experienced and lived through the trauma of the earthquake. Many people are still dealing with the aftermath. This tragedy will have the potential to re-trigger feelings of trauma and loss and memories will surface. Over the coming weeks, it is important to reassure, support and connect with each other. Patience is required as everyone will feel and respond differently. People will need time, to acknowledge their responses and to process.

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 for, employees/students 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 longer term when people need support from a counsellor or their Employee Assistance Program.

Creating a thriving workplace this Feel Good February – Sally Kirkright, CEO AccessEAP

 At AccessEAP we love curiosity, being curious is one of our values and can really help to create a thriving workplace. This morning I received a card (like the one below) with an anonymous, personal message from one of my colleagues. Themed GLAD it highlighted four positive things about me. I must admit it not only made me feel good - it made me feel happy, proud, humble and overwhelmed – it brought a tear to my eye. It was a deeply emotional experience. Around our state offices these cards were being opened and experienced by all our people. I have included some of the reactions below and pictured are some smiling members of our Client Services Team!

This Feel Good February initiative was the work of our Wellbeing Champions. Informed by feedback from our Employee Engagement Surveys and as part of our internal wellbeing strategy we have recruited a team of Wellbeing Champions. These champions represent each of our divisions so bring a wealth of clinical, marketing, service, financial and management experience to the table. There brief is to implement initiatives which are valued and enhance the wellbeing of our people.

Each month the Wellbeing Champions work with their teams, creating initiatives to remind us to focus on our own mental health and wellbeing. Not every initiative will hit the mark and that’s OK but when they do they have a powerful, positive impact on mental health and workplace wellbeing. We will share these gems with our customers via our Wellbeing In Focus Calendar.

Initiatives such as these increase engagement and satisfaction related to recognition for work accomplishments; relationships with coworkers and supervisors. Organisations that are the best in engaging their employees achieve earnings-per-share growth that is more than four times that of their competitors. Compared with business units in the bottom quartile, those in the top quartile of engagement realise substantially better customer engagement, higher productivity, better retention, fewer accidents, and 21% higher profitability. Engaged workers also report better health outcomes.1.

1.Gallup Employee Engagement Poll. These findings are based on a random sample of 30,628 full- and part-time U.S. employees working for an employer from January to June 2018.

Support through a natural disaster

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

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

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

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

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

Information to help organisations during the cyclone crisis

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

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

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

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

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

How to access the Organisational Support services

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

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

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

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

S.M.A.R.T Goals

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

Together we support vulnerable families

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

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

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

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

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

Our people look after your people

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

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

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

 

 

Government Employees Increasingly Seeking Mental Health Support

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

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

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

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

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

Speaking Up for Women’s Workplace Wellbeing

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

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

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

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

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

Knowing Your Options is Key to Men’s Mental Health

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

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

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

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

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

We Need To Talk Suicide Prevention

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

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

Meeting Eating - A Recipe for Success in Meeting Nutrition

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

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

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

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

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

The inter-generational workplace

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

Support for those impacted by drought

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

Welcome to Newport & Wildman customers

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

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

Ending the Normalisation of Harassment with Courageous Conversations

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