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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.

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.

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):

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.

4. Do not catastrophise: It is common to reflect on the "what ifs" or "what might have been". Do not speculate on how much worse it could have been. Avoid comparison of stories as each person has a right to their feelings.

5. Encourage people to talk about their experience because keeping it inside isn't helpful - avoid reassurances such as "it could have been worse". It's common for people to want to escape their reality, they may deny or withdraw. They may need to delay their emotional response while they focus on survival or practical things so check in regularly and gently.

6. Avoid probing questions: Curiosity is part of human nature. Asking people for the details of a traumatic experience may bring it back or trigger other emotions, wait until they are ready to share their story.

7. Encourage a familiar routine: Routine and normal day to day activities provide a sense of control and security, which is reassuring when a natural disaster has a significant effect on their lives.

8. Returning to work: Having a sense of purpose and connection is essential to recovery and often work provides this. Facilitate this process by offering options such as flexible hours. The recovery process takes time, and there are often ups and downs so plan for people to have setbacks. Each individual will be different and recover at their own pace.

As a trusted partner your EAP is here to help: Remind your employees about their confidential EAP service and let us help you support your people. For further guidance call our Manager Support Hotline on 1800 650 204.

Our Continued Support of the H.O.P.E. Program

Newport & Wildman is proudly part of AccessEAP. H.O.P.E. continues to be the main recipient of our charitable funding for vulnerable families and children. At AccessEAP we are very proud of the donation of more than $500,000 for HOPE and programs to support vulnerable families, which was announced last month. Our contribution has been able to grow substantially each year and AccessEAP would like to recognise the support of our customers in making this donation. Through partnering with AccessEAP, you not only support your employees’ wellbeing but you also directly contribute to our chosen welfare programs in Australia.


We are pleased and proud to report that over the past 12 months the H.O.P.E. Program continued to exceed targets and these are very special targets because they are about helping more mums and bubs. 

  HOPE 2

The H.O.P.E. Program can make the world of difference for the outcomes of children born into families where there is a history of complex childhood trauma, isolation and homelessness. This Case Study on Madison and Ethan brings the term “outcomes” to life.

Madison was referred to the H.O.P.E Program by a FACS Child Protection Case Worker in November 2018. Her son *Ethan was 10 months old.  

The initial referral raised concerns about Ethan’s wellbeing in relation to Madison “hanging out late at night” and leaving Ethan to be cared for by other people. Concerns were also raised about Madison’s drug use. Also, there had been a couple of incidents where the police had been called to the family due to domestic incidents between Madison and her mother.  

After the breakdown of her relationship with her mother, Madison and Ethan left her home and moved in with a friend. There had been past concerns about Madison’s mental health with respect to depression. The referral requested HOPE to focus support with Madison around her role as a mother, establishing routines and focusing on Ethan’s development. Madison was quite isolated so it was vital to assist her to strengthen her support network, through playgroups or daycare, and ensuring that Madison was engaged with the local Early Childhood Nurse (as Ethan was behind in his immunizations and concerns had been raised that he was not meeting his developmental milestones).  

  • Parenting support 

One-on-one casework focusing around Madison’s role as a mum. This has been in supporting her to implement eating and sleeping routines for Ethan. Madison was then connected to local community resources including a playgroup. Work has focused on strengthening her knowledge of child development, and also encouraging her to engage in educational play and developing his language skills.   

  • Emotional and physical health 

There had been some previous concern raised about Madison’s mental health. Discussions have taken place with respect to her mental health, and the possibility of any specialist therapeutic support if she felt that her mental health was declining. Her mental health will continually be monitored given the high-risk factors she has for postnatal depression, such as a history of depression, and a history of complex childhood trauma. 

  • Housing 

Currently, Madison’s housing situation is stable. Future accommodation options are being explored with Madison, and all support is given through advocacy to assist her in securing a property that meets her needs.  

  • Financial/employment 

Financially the family appear to be able to meet their weekly outgoings. Madison is receiving all entitled benefits and is enrolled in an online TAFE course - Cert III in Individual Support for Disability. She is hoping to continue with some form of study following the completion of this course.     

*Name has been changed

Support for those affected 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.
This tragedy will have the potential to re-trigger feelings of trauma and loss and memories may 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.
  • 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.
  • Be mindful and respectful of individual needs. Some people may feel uncomfortable or scared of sharing their feelings. Remember that there is no right or wrong way to feel.
  • There may be feelings of anger and hopelessness; there will intense feelings of anxiety and fear.
  • Establish an open door policy that allows people to seek the appropriate care when needed.
  • If possible and when appropriate try to establish normal routines as soon as possible.
  • Encourage people to communicate their needs, rather than assume you know what their needs may be.
  • Maintain communication if an employee or student is away for any length of time.

An incident of this nature has the power to entirely consume those involved, especially when it has an impact on one’s feeling of safety and one’s family. As leaders and managers it is within our control to provide support, reassurance and caring.

Please call our 24-hour line 1800 650 204

Alison Kelleher - Newport & Wildman, Director

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.

GLAD Image 2

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.

Talk to your Relationship Manager today and find out how to get thriving!

 “I came in this morning to be greeted with a lovely surprise! Thank you to the person who wrote the message to me. It was so thoughtful and kind. I feel very humbled. You’ve made my day! What a wonderful initiative.”

 “To our wonderful Wellbeing Team Champions, Thank you so much for organising such a heart warming initiative today.

 “A very big thank you to my Wellbeing fairy for your kind and heartfelt words.”

“We are a very amazing, unique and very special team and one that I am so proud to be part of I wanted to thank you for the amazing initiative from the Wellbeing champions with GLAD. Thank you. “

 “Gorgeous initiative and beautifully presented! Thanks Champs and wonderful colleagues :)

“This was a great touch, and a fantastic way to start the day. It’s great to have joined a team who value each other the way we do here – I’ve noticed lots of smiles this morning. To the Champions – yes you are! :)“



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.

Signs of normalised harassment

The three most common forms of sexual harassment are subtle, being: suggestive comments or jokes (55%); intrusive questions about one’s private life or physical appearance (50%); and inappropriate staring or leering (31%). These less obvious acts can be played down or attributed to simple misunderstandings.

Classic examples of this include statements such as: “I was only joking”, “what happened to your sense of humour”, “I was only asking” or “no one else seems to mind”, which all minimise a victim’s concerns.

In the same vein, approximately one in five (18%)[1] people have experienced behaviour which would constitute sexual harassment, based on the legal definition, but did not label or identify it as harassment.

“The important thing to focus on here isn’t the intention of the act, but its effects. The person who feels impacted by the behaviour should not be made to question whether their response is valid. These attitudes are dangerous and can reinforce the very behaviour which makes the victim feel unsafe and uncomfortable in the workplace,” Marcela Slepica, Clinical Services Director here at AccessEAP.

Courageous conversations

“Highlighting harassment can create anxiety and fears that our colleagues and our career will be detrimentally affected. This can also be compounded by our imagination, which can blow our concerns out of proportion There may be a power imbalance The first step is to trust your feelings and take a calm collected approach,” Marcela. This is not always easy so take time to think, plan and then respond.

  1. Be confident with your concerns

It can be easy to stop ourselves raising concerns by minimising their importance. For example, we may tell ourselves we are ‘just being silly’, we are ‘being too sensitive’ or ‘it’s not such a big deal’. These thoughts are counterproductive because the fear keeps you from being courageous. If the issue is impacting you or someone else negatively or if there are consequences to not raising the issue, then it’s important. Be clear about the reasons why you are initiating the conversation.

  1. Focus on the behaviour

Let the person know that it is their behaviour that is upsetting or concerning you. Be careful not to label the person as this can result in them becoming defensive. Counter their defensiveness by distinguishing the problem from the person, and invite their input in how to address the issue. For example instead of saying ”you’re harassing me or you are a bully”, lead with an example such as ‘when you say X I feel uncomfortable, or I feel bullied.”’.

  1. Be clear and specific

Anxiety about how someone might react can lead to messages being ‘watered-down’. We may give a lot of positive feedback in amongst the negative, or we might talk generally to a group about behaviour that bothers us without speaking directly to the person involved. The risk is that your message will not be heard by them. Say what you sincerely believe needs to be said, even if you know the person you are speaking to may not enjoy hearing it and be sure to phrase it in a way that is respectful towards that person.

  1. Listen

This can sometimes be the hard part because people can be defensive or angry after hearing your concerns and feedback. They may deny that there’s an issue and even convince you it’s ‘all in your head’. Before you launch into your opinion of the situation, listen first, don’t interrupt, explain, justify or defend. There are always two sides to a story and there will be time to respond later.

  1. Respond calmly

Depending on how the person has reacted to your concerns remaining calm can be tricky, however focus on clarifying the factual accuracies of what the person has said. Their feelings are subjective and you can’t change these. The person may be angry with you for some time. Confidently re-state your concerns, but remember if you start getting upset, call time out. You have to manage your own emotions first before you can respond well to others. You may need some time to think about what each other has said before you come to a resolution or compromise.

Advice for workplaces

Workplaces can also help by taking a unified approach to preventing and addressing instances of harassment in the workplace. Training entire teams to be vigilant for cases of harassment and educating them on how to deal with them will help change behaviours. In just over half (51%) of cases of sexual harassment, for example, the witness or ‘bystander’ reported having taken action to prevent and reduce the harm of workplace sexual harassment. Additionally, in 45% of cases the reporting of the incident resulted in the harassment stopping.

When dealing with a case of harassment it’s important to focus on the impact of behaviours, act quickly, clarify exactly what happened, create a safe environment and develop a strong action plan and preventative measures.


[1] The national 2012 Working Without Fear survey conducted by the Australian Human Rights Commission (AHRC)

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

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

While some people believe the show allows for authentic conversations about suicide, others believe the series exposes viewers to harmful suicide messages. One disturbing possibility is that it portrays suicide as a way of exacting revenge, solving problems and conflict.

headspace has created a blog post on the headspace website, which is available now, and provides young people and parents with information to consider regarding the show.

The blog post includes:

- tips for discussing the show safely

- points to consider before watching the show

- questions to help start a conversation.

You can access the blog post here: headspace.org.au/news/the-launch-of-13-reasons-why-season-2

Now the series is officially launched, people can be directed to 13reasonswhy.info where the resources will be available, including the information that can be found on the headspaceblog.

Further to this, eheadspace will be holding group chat sessions for young people on Thursday May 24 from 7-8pm AEST and Sunday May 27 from 7-8pm AEST. You can access the group chat sessions here: https://eheadspace.org.au/get-help/eheadspace-group-chat-session/

Finally, we would like to inform you that a range of measures have been put in place with Netflix to assist with safely launching Season 2 of the series. This includes:

• A designated webpage 13reasonswhy.info where resources and help seeking information will be provided.

• Inclusion of warnings and help-seeking information before, and at the end, of each episode of the show. The end frame directs users back to 13reasonswhy.info

On the webpage you will find:

o Videos - One will feature the cast of the show (coming out of character) to address issues depicted in the show, and the other features Australian young people talking about the importance of reaching out to family and friends and seeking help on mental health issues.

o Resources – Tailored discussion guides for young people, parents and schools o Help seeking information - Detailed help seeking information for young people.

It is important to note that 13 Reasons Why, Season 2 is rated MA15+ in Australia, therefore the resources have been developed for secondary schools, parents and secondary school aged young people. The resources are designed to promote help seeking and support having conversations with an individual young person and are not intended to be used for large groups or for classroom lessons.

This information has been provided by Kristen Douglas, National Manager headspace in Schools – Kidsmatter, Mindmatters, & School Support headspace, National Youth Mental Health Foundation

For further information: • http://www.nasponline.org/about-school-psychology/media-room/press-releases/guidance-regarding-13-reasons-why-season-2 (National Association of School Psychologists)

Also, should you be concerned about your own wellbeing or the wellbeing of someone close to you, please do not hesitate to contact the following: Lifeline 131 114 Beyondblue 1300 224 636 SuicideLine 1300 651 251

Understand Your Strengths

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

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

“VIA has been developed by leading figures in Positive Psychology and charts 24 traits that fall within six categories. By defining and focusing on these abilities, businesses can provide employees with more fulfilling roles and empower them to achieve their best work.”


Seeing things from a different perspective, looking at the big picture and the how or why things are done, as well as finding inventive solutions to problems are all signs of what VIA defines as Wisdom. As a leader, it’s important to support these employees with opportunities to use their analytical mindset and creativity.


These employees say what’s on their mind, and value their authenticity, bravely sharing views that may be different to the majority if needed. Often determined and persistent, they are also often charismatic and hold sway with those around them. This character strength is interesting when it comes to workplaces as managers can often feel challenged by an employee with these traits. Consider thanking the employee for sharing their views and see if they can become involved in some collaborative solutions with other team members. 


Emotionally attuned and compassionate, these employees are often recognised as being well liked amongst their teams. They are inclined to creating harmony and are often the first to offer assistance to their colleagues.Those with humanity traits demonstrate a double-edged side to character strengths. It is important to give roles working with people, however, they will need help keeping boundaries, as they are likely to give a lot, and care should be taken to prevent burnout.


With a strong sense of right and wrong, these employees draw heavily on their personal values and are often inclined to offer guidance to the group, whether or not they are in a leadership role. They also work well in groups with a clear understanding of everyone’s roles.These employees do well in structured and process –oriented roles in team settings. When collaborating, this employee can create stability as a source of consistency and reliability for the team.


Positivity is a great indicator of Transcendence traits. This employee will celebrate colleagues’ strengths, and take an optimistic view of people and the world around them. They interpret situations with good humour seeing challenges as opportunities.This employee’s strengths will be a great asset, particularly during difficult times, as you will find that they boost morale and can offer hope in even the most troubling circumstances.


Balanced, calm and collected, these employees appear unperturbed by situations, good and bad. With a string control over their emotions, these employees take a measured and considered approach, weighing up all risks before taking action. Consideration takes time, so these employees are suited to slower paced roles that require thought and in-depth knowledge, rather than swift decisive action. They may require regular check ins to understand what they are thinking or feeling under their controlled exterior.

Positive psychology has the potential to equip managers and supervisors to better understand their team and help employees to work to their strengths. This creates greater team cohesion, drives productivity and allows for positive growth.

Case Study - Harnessing the Power of Positive Psychology at Work

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

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

Eleni van Delft, Accredited Strengths Coach and Director of Relationship Management, at AccessEAP, a leading not-for-profit Employee Assistance Program (EAP) provider in Australia, recently implemented a new positive psychology approach to team management. The results have driven team engagement, communication and productivity for the business.

Here, Eleni explains how using Positive Psychology during a period of impressive business growth, allowed her team to play to their strengths!

Defining the approach

A number of big wins in our organisation had made it imperative to grow our numbers. I quickly identified the need for a new approach to help shape our new team.

I am inspired and intrigued by Positive Psychology and in particular, exploring the key elements that make people flourish in life and at work. My management style has been influenced as an Accredited Strengths Coach, to lead by example and use positive reinforcement. So I knew early on that I wanted to help the team bond and define how they can best work together.

The recruitment of new staff was an ideal time for the entire team to identify and the individual strengths each person possessed and help each other grow to their potential. My intention was to cultivate our newly formed team of diverse, capable, and passionate individuals, from a range of industry backgrounds, into a cohesive unit who could appreciate what each other has to offer.

Introducing positive psychology

The idea of personal strengths was introduced to the team through ‘The Science of Character (8min "Cloud Film")’, a short film that excited and intrigued them. We then completed a couple of psychometric surveys and discussed the results amongst ourselves.

The first survey included value statements that individuals felt described them most, e.g. “Being able to come up with new and different ideas is one of my strong points”. The results provided each team member with an individual profile highlighting their strengths amongst 24 potential traits.

A natural discussion followed, with individuals commenting on when they had seen their colleagues use their strengths and how they seemed to be “in their element” when doing so. The effect of the program was immediate. The atmosphere in the room lifted and people became more energised. There was more comradery and a greater understanding and appreciation of the diversity of strengths within our new team.  Each individual also gained more self-awareness and came up with their own ideas for using their strengths more effectively.

Encouraged by this initial success, I was keen to push forward with the Positive Psychology approach to build on these insights.

I introduced a second questionnaire, which enabled us to identify 60 specific strengths that were directly relatable to work. The results were more detailed and provided individuals with their individual strength profile. The profiles and corresponding strengths were divided into 4 quadrants:

strengths behaviors table

Creating positive results

Traditional approaches to motivating change in others, from parenting through to performance management, focus on people’s limitations and areas for improvement. Research shows however that these traditional approaches don’t have the intended effect and instead tend to lower individual confidence, performance, and team morale.

I could see the influence of these traditional approaches when we first began the exercise, with most team members wanting to focus on their weaknesses during the strengths debriefing. A major shift occurred when we turned attention to people’s strengths, and this has had lasting benefits. As a daily reminder of what they bring to the team personalised mugs were created for everyone.

Through appreciating and identifying one another’s perceived strengths, the team have formed strongly collaborative and cohesive working relationships. We’ve also seen improvements in productivity, individual performance and a reduction in days missed through sick leave.

This approach has given the team greater confidence, opened them up to learning and growing within their roles, and invigorated them to do their best work. For example, there has been an increase in the number of ideas put forward on how to create more effective processes, or do things in more innovative ways. Another outcome is that one of the team identified a strength for presenting to groups that was not being utilised in their role at the time, and so we created an opportunity for this to occur.

The benefits of using Positive Psychology through strengths coaching have been acknowledged at an organisational level too. There is a keen interest in how we can better utilise people’s potential across the business here at AccessEAP by creating opportunities that harness their strengths.

Having gone through this process, it’s become clear that focusing on strengths, rather than weaknesses, has and will continue to improve the performance of our colleagues, teams and even the entire organisation.

[1] Gallup: Strengths-Based Employee Development: The Business Results, 2016 http://news.gallup.com/businessjournal/193499/strengths-based-employee-development-business-results.aspx

Avoiding loneliness in the digital age

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

This issue seems especially relevant now as more people work remotely from home, commute longer distances for work and live alone. Being more separated from colleagues, family, friends and community can negatively impact our mental wellbeing, often involving feelings of social anxiety, low self-esteem, lack of confidence, and depression.

A recent Australian survey found that 60 per cent of us often feel lonely and more than 80 per cent believe that the feeling of loneliness is on the increase in our society.

Here are some useful tips to help employers and managers combat workplace loneliness;

  • Provide platforms for employees to develop inter-organisational networks, e.g. peer supervision, team meetings, toolbox talks, team projects, or working groups.
  • Encourage colleagues to consult with each other, and acknowledge collaborative efforts and achievements.
  • Acknowledge individual efforts publicly so that people feel seen, visible and like they belong within the organisation.
  • Put practices in place that will ensure employees are supported and heard if they are struggling or need assistance.
  • Promote opportunities for inclusiveness, e.g. whole team lunches so people who cannot stay back for drinks after work can still mingle with colleagues, or ensure that people working remotely are kept in the loop with regards to important communications.
  • Ensure managers are regularly checking in with their teams, and that they know their staff well enough to see or hear if someone is not okay.
  • Use technology to your advantage and make the most of facilities like video chat and teleconferencing with colleagues working remotely. It is difficult to build meaningful connections using only email and instant messaging.
  • Have anti-bullying protections in place to prevent technology being used to intentionally isolate people in the workplace, e.g. by excluding people from communications, or using email to publicly criticise or ostracise someone.
  • Create a work environment where employees feel able to ask for help if they are experiencing feelings of loneliness.

Consequences in the workplace for sleep deprived Australians

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

Having sufficient, regular, good quality sleep is essential to maintain a strong, robust immune system so we can function effectively in our busy lives. Constant fatigue can really start to impact our productivity, accuracy and efficiency in the workplace. This can become extremely dangerous for employees and their employers, especially those working with machinery.

Inadequate sleep can affect learning and decision-making as well as increasing the risk of mental and physical illness. In 2016, 3,017 deaths were linked to sleep deprivation including 394 deaths from industrial accidents or road crashes due to lack of sleep. Lack of sleep causes a large proportion of motor vehicle accidents – estimated to be 23% of the total.

Evidence suggests that sleep loss contributes to poor health outcomes such as diabetes, cardiovascular disease and possibly even cancer. The Australian Institute of Health and Welfare reported that ‘sleep disturbance’ was the fourth most common mental health problem for Australians aged between 12 and 24, after depression, anxiety and drug abuse.

It can be an expanding circle; a lack of sleep creates fatigue which impacts physical and then mental wellbeing and getting between eight to nine hours sleep a night can be difficult to achieve. However, if we review our sleep pattern there are probably some small things we can do to make our routine healthier – and we’re likely to be surprised by the difference they make.

Here are some useful tips on how to get a better night’s sleep:

  • Aim to go to bed at a similar time every night
  • Spend a quiet period immediately prior to turning in to help your body and mind settle
  • A warm bath or shower before bed can help the body and mind calm down
  • Get to know your body and the effects of alcohol, spicy food and other stimulants too close to your bed time
  • Keep your bedroom free from distractions, including computers, phones, TVs, iPads etc.
  • Darken the room so your body automatically prepares itself for rest
  • If listening to music, keep the volume low and the music soothing
  • Never underestimate the importance of short “nana naps”, as well as brief, still ‘zone out times’ during the day to help us to refresh your mind and body
  • Learn relaxation techniques or mindfulness to help your mind relax
  • Try formulating your own list of practical, healthy, accessible methods to soothe your body and mind, so you can get optimise times of rest and rejuvenation.

Profit for purpose funding Puberty Clues app

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

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

The support we provide is two-fold. As advocates for mental health awareness and providers of workplace wellbeing programs, our services positively impact the lives of workers and workplace culture. The profits from this rewarding work are then distributed to help those most in need. In an indirect way, our customers can positively share in the knowledge that they are also helping to make a real difference to people’s lives. 

Puberty Clues is a safe, fun way for 10-12 year olds to learn puberty changes through interactive exercises illustrating the physical and emotional changes they experience and the impact it has on their personal development. There is general information and specific resources for boys and for girls, guiding them through the journey to become healthy, responsible adults. The app includes illustrations, educational resources and common questions. The resource is developed as an addition to classroom teaching for students, parents and teachers. The app can be used as a standalone resource for family interaction to use in their own time.The app is now available for free download at Google Play and the App Store.

Workplaces must play a role in preventing domestic violence

Domestic violence is a common problem in Australia with one in six women having experienced violence at the hands of a current or former partner. Violence against women is estimated to cost the Australian economy $21.7 billion a year. 94 per cent of employees agree that employers should take a leadership role in educating their workforce about respectful relationships between men and women. However, a National domestic violence and the workplace survey revealed that 48 per cent of respondents who had experienced domestic violence disclosed it to a manager and only 10 per cent found their response to be helpful. 

Workplaces have an important role to play in supporting women experiencing violence. Often, for these women, the workplace provides a sanctuary away from the abuser. The organisation has a duty of care and needs to have an action plan in place outlining how to handle domestic violence situations. With White Ribbon Day having just taken place (November 25th), it’s the perfect time to examine current policies and perhaps consider introducing a structured plan.

AccessEAP assists companies by providing White Ribbon approved training and by educating employees as part of a domestic violence action plan based around three elements; Recognise, Respond, Refer.


When a woman is experiencing domestic violence, it is likely that her patterns of behaviour will change. Managers should remain connected to their team to be able to recognise any changes. Some behaviours to look out for may include;

  • Frequently arriving to work very early or very late

  • Frequent personal phone calls that leave the employee distressed

  • Difficulty concentrating and making decisions

  • Not attending out of hours work functions or engaging socially with colleagues

  • Stress

  • Ill health and increased leave usage

  • Wanting to resign or relocate


If someone has taken the difficult step of sharing their experience of violence or abuse, it is vital to respond in an appropriate and supportive manner. Firstly, you should believe the person and listen without judging. Be supportive, encouraging, open and honest. There are also some practical considerations which will help make the person feel safer and more supported.

  • Screen their phone calls or install caller ID on their phone

  • Change their email address and remove their details from the organisation’s directories

  • Encourage the employee to alter their daily travel route

  • Arrange for priority parking close to the building entrance

  • Organise for them to be accompanied to and from their car

  • Alert key staff with full consent and ensure they are discreet at all times

  • Ensure employee’s workstation is not easily accessible for someone entering from outside


While provisions such as additional special leave, financial assistance and security measures will go a long way towards supporting women to remain in the workplace, other external supports may also be required. Referring employees to an expert domestic violence service can provide crisis counselling, information on crisis care facilities and refuges, information on domestic violence orders and court support and information on longer term counselling services.


Support, respect and the Marriage Equality Survey

The result of the Marriage Equality Survey will soon be known and regardless of the outcome it may be a stressful time for some people in our workplaces and communities. At AccessEAP we encourage a culture of respect, diversity and inclusion. This can be a great deal more complicated than it sounds. In order to respect another's belief system or point of view there generally has to be a level of understanding and knowledge and/or a willingness to to seek understanding. This process can take time and individuals experiencing distress may benefit from using their EAP. Sessions are confidential and may be organised at a suitable location and time.

It’s important to support anyone who is experiencing distress and, if possible, help them avoid difficult and confronting situations. A standard response for your employees when dealing with the public may be beneficial. Be aware that everyone will respond differently and everyone’s needs will be different, initially and over time. Being prepared to actively provide support for people will enhance and promote their personal coping strategies and resilience. Here are some ways to promote a supportive environment:

  • If needed, allow additional time at home to spend time with family and friends.
  • It’s particularly important for Managers to reinforce or establish an open door policy that allows employees to seek the appropriate care when needed.
  • Create an environment that allows people to talk amongst themselves about the correct information and their feelings. Openly sharing with others has been known to promote personal recovery. There is also comfort in a shared community supporting one another.
  • Be mindful and respectful of individual needs. Some people may feel uncomfortable about sharing their feelings and concerns. Remember that there is no right or wrong way to feel.
  • Encourage people to communicate their needs, rather than assume you know what their needs may be.
  • Maintain communication if an employee or student is away for any length of time.

Employees can Make an Appointment or Email a Counsellor using this website or our EAP In Focus App. In addition, our Manager Support Hotline can assist Managers with how to manage employee’s reactions and how to help their teams find the best way to move forward as soon as possible. Please contact us on 1800 818 728 or speak with your Relationship Manager.

CEOs must lead by example on workplace mental health

Mental health and wellbeing in the workplace has dominated the agenda for many companies focused on developing a healthy, sustainable and productive culture for employees, but what is missing from this conversation is the same priority for business leaders and CEOs to support their own mental health.

The culture of any organisation starts at the top, with the behaviour modelled by a company’s leader or CEO filtering down to employees. While CEOs take the world of their business on their shoulders, we have to remember that they are also people – susceptible to feeling stressed and overwhelmed by the immense workload and responsibility of running an organisation. It is this susecptibility or vulnerability, which is often difficult for leaders to acknowledge and show, thereby impacting their mental health and ability to function effectively.

Reducing the stigma during Mental Health Month

A major source of stress for employees with mental health issues at work is fear of judgement due to the stigma which still exists around mental health. October is Mental Health Month and the campaign promotes the importance of early intervention practices for positive mental health and wellbeing and aims to reduce the stigma associated with mental health.

Getting serious about mental health during October’s Mental Health Month

Suicide remains the leading cause of death for Australians aged between 15 and 44 with more than eight deaths by suicide and a further 180 suicide attempts every day. Suicide rates are at the highest they have been for ten years so it’s even more important than ever to be having meaningful conversations particularly if you notice that someone may be struggling.