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29-Sep-2021

workplace stress | factors and how to overcome it
Work-related stress is a growing problem around the world that affects not only the health and well-being of employees but also the productivity of businesses.  Work-related stress arises where work demands of various types and combinations exceed the person’s capacity and capability to cope. According to Better Health, Work-related stress is the second common illness/injury in Australia, following musculoskeletal disorders  Work-related stress factors ORGANISATIONAL CULTURE Organizational culture is the selection of values, expectations, and practices which guides and informs the actions of all team members. This ultimately shapes employee perceptions, behaviours and understanding in the workplace  BAD MANAGEMENT PRACTICES Management practice is an important factor in creating a work culture and environment. Bad management practices can develop conflict in the workplace including, workplace bullying, power abuse (e.g., using fear to motivate people), ignoring good performance from team members and conducting ineffective meetings.  JOB CONTENT & DEMANDS Job contents and demands such as work overload or pressure can be a huge impact on your mental wellbeing. Being overly pressured and overloaded with work can cause high stress for employees. Stress can lower a person’s productivity, focus and motivation to complete their job content and demands.  PHYSICAL WORK ENVIRONMENT Numerous studies have demonstrated that characteristics of the physical office environment can have a significant effect on the behaviour, perceptions and productivity of employees. This is especially for office employees who often spend a lot of their time inside their environment. The physical environments influence their well-being and directly influence their work performance and productivity. The atmosphere of the building should have the right room temperature, enough air quality, good lighting and low noise conditions in the office for better work concentration and productivity.  RELATIONSHIPS AT WORK Building networks, connections and positive relationships at work are important. Having a workplace environment that acts as a team rather than individually makes employees feel they are supported by their employers and employees. This builds their confidence, therefore their productivity. However, if employees feel a lack of support in their workplace there can be disengagement in the workplace. Hence, the work environment will naturally be disconnected and less productive. CHANGES Sudden change in management and work environment can be stressful especially for long term existing employees who have been with the company. Typical changes that negatively impact a portion of the employees are salary cuts, loss of benefits, downgrading in job position, job loss or relocation to another city, state or country. This can create job insecurity for employees and can result in negative impacts on their mental health (p)  ROLE CONFLICT According to Safework, poorly defined or conflicted roles in a person conducting a business or undertaking (PCBU) can be a stressor for workers. Poor role definition arises from a lack of clarity in workers’ objectives, key accountabilities, their co-workers’ expectations of them and the overall scope or responsibilities of their job. Role conflict occurs when a worker is required to perform a role that goes against their values or when their job demands are incompatible. (p)  TRAUMA This can include:  Events such as death, grief, suicide, accident or injury  Organizational such as bullying, threats, harassment, betrayal, maliciousness, extreme isolation, chronic pressure, unresolved conflict, toxic work environment, uncertainty, fear for the future, downsizing or fear of unemployment  Physical stressors such as noise, chaotic environment, sense of no control over space, fear for physical safety, harsh or flashing lights, extremes of heat or cold, working amid construction, and other adverse physical conditions  External threats such as evacuation, lockdown, fire or robbery  These factors can affect the company's budget, employee turnover and overall profits. Moreover, A decrease in productivity and morale are signs employees may be struggling with the leadership being given. If employees have an effective leader and a good workplace structure or environment, there will also be better performance in hand. Hence, a greater profit for the organization.  Ways to overcome workplace stress   TRACK YOU STRESSORS Keep a journal to identify which circumstances create the most stress and how you respond or react to them. Jot down your thoughts, feelings, and details about the environment, including the people involved.  DEVELOP HEALTHY RESPONSES Any form of physical activity is beneficial. Also, make time for hobbies and activities. Getting enough good-quality sleep is also important for effective stress management  ESTABLISH BOUNDARIES & RECHARGE Establish some work-life boundaries for yourself. In today’s world, many people are addicted to their mobile or computer devices, checking emails and social media content. According to a study from NCBI, social media use can increase levels of anxiety and depression. Hence, This may mean a rule not to go on social media unless checking on your phone for very important matters.  Although people have different preferences when it comes to how much they blend their work and home life, creating some clear boundaries between these realms can reduce the potential for work-life conflict and the stress that goes with it  TALK TO YOUR SUPERVISOR Begin an open conversation with your supervisor. The intent is not to show a list of complaints but to come up with an effective plan for managing the stressors you have identified, to perform best at your job GET SUPPORT Your employer may also have stress management resources available through an employee assistance program, including online information, and referral to mental health professionals. If you continue to feel overwhelmed by work stress, you may want to talk to a psychologist, who can help you better manage stress and change unhealthy behaviour. If you are experiencing workplace stress and want to speak to someone now, our Cyber Clinic app can connect you with a psychologist through your phone and skip the wait time. Our services include medicare rebates. 

26-Jun-2019

are hologram doctors the future of mental health services? maybe not, but digital health is
            Australia has launched its first ever Productivity Commission on mental health and as far as solutions go, digital health needs to be front and centre. There was a time in Australia when construction workers didn’t wear hard hats onsite, factory workers had to work 12-hour days, and no one had even heard of an OH&S safety demonstration.  Government regulations and workplaces evolved over the past 100 years for two important reasons – to protect workers and to protect the economy. It simply wasn’t good business to have once productive employees laid up in bed with broken bones or exhaustion – safe and supportive workplaces meant better productivity for companies and a better Australian economy overall. In 2019, our ‘lucky country’ now has some of the most stringent workplace safety laws in the world. But, the nature of work has changed dramatically in the 104 years since the Australian industrial relations system began. While physical health and safety must always be a primary concern, the mental load workers are placed under in our highly pressurised society is taking a toll – on them, and our economy.  AN INVISIBLE CRISIS Just last month the World Health Organisation (WHO) estimated that the loss of productivity resulting from depression and anxiety is costing the global economy US $1 trillion each year. Here in Australia, four per cent of our GDP is lost every year due to productivity losses as a result of workers’ mental health issues – that’s at least AU $60 billion! However, in an extremely welcome and encouraging move, the government has established Australia’s first-ever Productivity Commission to ‘examine the effect of mental health on people’s ability to participate in and prosper in the community and workplace, and the effects it has more generally on our economy and productivity’.  Initial submissions are open until 5 April this year, and I encourage everyone to make their voices and concerns heard during this important process.  But, given the staggering economic impact of mental health on Australia’s economy why has this commission taken so long to be convened? Well, recognising and diagnosing mental health issues is much more difficult than identifying physical hazards in the workplace – we struggle as people to fix what we can’t see. And, importantly, solutions for improving the mental health of employees aren’t as easy to come by as clearly marking fire exits and limiting work hours.   REMOVING BARRIERS In 2014, an IBIS report on the Employee Assistance Program (EAP) sector suggested that the usage rate of EAP services in certain industries could be as low as five per cent. The research indicated that employees generally don’t trust EAP services, are concerned about the confidentiality of such programs, and that they are perceived to have a poor quality of care – practitioners are inexperienced, or not well-matched with their clients.  In this environment, many businesses are increasingly looking to alternative solutions. Digital health is easy for employees to access, especially remote workers or those in rural areas, and can be used at their convenience, so after hours or even on weekends.  Most importantly, digital health platforms like Cyber Clinic use sophisticated algorithms to better match practitioners with patients, measure quality of care, and ensure trust and confidentiality are the foundation of all practitioner-patient relationships.  A 2019 report identified that a barrier to using telehealth in Australia was the perception of the loss of the ‘human touch’ aspect of care – only 14 per cent of the population said remote appointments using hologram doctors in their home would have the most impact on improving healthcare today. But we don’t need to beam doctors into homes or workplaces to see positive outcomes – the digital health platforms that connect patients and practitioners via video can be just the right mix of technological innovation and human care. Digital health can change lives, improve productivity and increase Australia’s GDP, and my hope is that one day mental health support in the workplace will be as clearly visible as a well-marked fire exit.  

26-Jun-2019

my top workplace productivity tip for 2021: talk about mental health
An employee or colleague who is struggling can’t leave their issues at home - having workplace conversations about mental health is the best thing you can do to improve your business. It’s a new year and my LinkedIn feed has been flooded with optimistic messages of people’s hopes, dreams and goals for their work and their business. I love this time of year - that uplifting and euphoric feeling that comes with new beginnings is infectious and anything seems possible.  But, unfortunately, that feeling rarely lasts and for many of us it will give way to feelings of stress, anxiety and depression as work starts to pile up and personal issues begin to strain our relationships. Looking at the months ahead, how can you identify an employee or colleague who is struggling, and what can you do to help them? NO MATTER THE TRIGGER, PROVIDE HELP Research conducted by beyondblue in 2014 revealed that one in five Australian employees had taken time off work due to feeling mentally unwell in the preceding 12 months. While some mental health issues can have workplace triggers, such as job stress, toxic cultural environments and overwork, many others are triggered by personal factors in an employee’s life. However, this does not mean help shouldn’t be provided within the workplace.  During my time working with dozens of companies and organisations around Australia, I’ve witnessed first hand how helping employees improve their mental health can be one of the most important steps to improve a worker’s productivity, as well as the health of the entire organisation. In fact, 75 per cent of Australian employees believe workplaces should provide support to someone who is experiencing depression or anxiety, but many employees (35 per cent) don’t know what mental health resources exist in their organisation or don’t have access to them. That’s why providing an open and safe environment to have mental health conversations is so crucial.   DOES SOMEONE YOU KNOW NEED HELP? Employees are often fearful of raising mental health concerns with their employer due to stigma and concerns about future job prospects. Which means, it’s not always enough to wait for an employee or colleague to come asking for help – sometimes you have to go to them.   If someone you work with closely seems increasingly withdrawn or disengaged, is easily distracted, no longer producing work to their usual standard, is increasingly irritable or more absent than usual they may be struggling with their mental health.  You spend hours with your workmates, often in highly stressful situations, so if you find yourself saying “they’ve changed”, “that’s not usually like them” or “they don’t seem ok” then your instincts are probably correct. But, what do you do next? SUPPORTING SOMEONE WHO IS STRUGGLING Raising your concerns with an employee or colleague about their mental health can seem like a daunting task, and, perhaps you might question whether it is even your place to do so at all? But silence is the very thing that feeds depression and anxiety and allows it to grow – caring too much about someone is never a bad thing.  So, firstly, plan your approach. Increase your mental health literacy and find out what options your workplace has available to provide help. Be prepared that the person may get angry or upset and try not to take it personally. And, approach them in a neutral environment, over coffee or lunch for instance, and allow the person to talk to give them the space and ability to open up.  Our mental health doesn’t exist in a vacuum – we aren’t only mentally unwell at home or outside the office. It is everyone’s responsibility, from the CEO and HR to managers and assistants, to make it easier to have conversations about mental health in the workplace.  My hope for 2021 is that all Australian employees feel healthy, happy and productive – so let’s start the conversation.

25-Feb-2019

why a mentally healthy workplace will make you an ‘employer of choice’ in 2021
Employee engagement, recruitment and retention will be key challenges for HR practitioners in 2021, and a mentally healthy workplace will be a deciding factor for many employees in the new year. Last month Oxford Dictionary declared ‘toxic’ as its ‘Word of 2018’. I feel confident that this year’s winner will resonate with a lot more people than last year’s somewhat bizarre choice – ‘youthquake’. We use ‘toxic’ to describe everything from chemicals and masculinity to relationships, and it says a lot about the past 12 months that this word has seen a 45 per cent surge on the Oxford Dictionary website. In 2018 many patients, friends and colleagues expressed to me a heightened feeling that ‘toxic’ encounters, cultures and relationships are everywhere, and I have witnessed the toll this is taking on their mental health and wellbeing. Unfortunately, in my experience, the place that people most often describe as ‘toxic’ is the workplace, and the results of this year’s Indicators of a Thriving Workplace Survey should be a wakeup call to businesses around the country. PRESENT BUT NOT PRODUCTIVE Over 5,000 Australian workers across a broad range of industries were surveyed for the Thriving Workplace study and bullying was declared the second reason (24 per cent) people experienced mental issues at work, only slightly behind job insecurity (29 per cent) in the top spot. Equally concerning is that only 18 per cent of respondents strongly agreed that “work feels like a community where people support each other beyond just getting work done”. Employees who experience mental health issues at work will have lower self-esteem, reduced productivity and increased absenteeism and presenteeism. In fact, the impact of employees’ mental health conditions on productivity, participation and compensation claims was estimated by PwC in 2014 to cost Australian businesses at least $10.9 billion a year.   In my work over the past eight years consulting with businesses on workplace performance, I know that presenteeism, the practice of being at work for longer hours than required though not being fully functioning or productive, can be the hardest issue to combat. The signs an employee is struggling are not immediately obvious as they continue to ‘present’ themselves at work, and a ‘toxic’ culture encourages employees to trudge along rather than seek help. And then, with what seems like no warning at all, that employee quits. An Employer of Choice Study by BeyondBlue revealed that almost half the employees surveyed had left a workplace because it had a poor environment in terms of mental health. AN EASY CHOICE So, what’s the good news in all of this? Well, the same BeyondBlue survey stated that a mentally healthy workplace that was both friendly and supportive and promoted and protected the mental health of its employees was the second most powerful inhibitor of a worker leaving their job. With employee retention becoming even harder as more millennials enter the workforce, having a proactive and accessible mental health support plan is a clear point of difference for any business. On-site workshops and trainings on shifting ‘toxic’ culture norms and implementing anti-bullying behaviours are important, as well as telehealth services that employees can access with ease when they need them. I have seen businesses thrive once they banish ‘toxic’ behaviours from the workplace and make mental health support a cornerstone of their employee engagement strategy – 2021 could be your business’ most productive year yet.

05-Dec-2018

awareness and access: why we need both to save men from dying too young
The health industry has made great strides in the past 15 years to raise awareness of men’s mental health issues in Australia. But awareness is only the first step – now we must focus on access. The streets are different in Australia in November. Once clean-shaven men start sporting ‘the trucker’, ‘the rock star’ or ‘the connoisseur’. The humble moustache takes on a life of its own, and, wonderfully, helps start conversations about men’s health. But, now that Movember has come to a close, we must ask the question - where do men turn during the other 11 months of the year? Since 2004 the Movember Foundation has been campaigning to raise awareness of the risks of prostate cancer and testicular cancer, and mental health and suicide prevention among men. In Australia, 75 per cent of suicides are men, and globally, every minute, a man dies of suicide. I fully support awareness campaigns like Movember that have helped destigmatize conversations about men’s mental health and have brought those conversations to the forefront of Australian workplaces and society. Governments, businesses and individuals have all rallied around the cause. But, as with all health campaigns, the gap between awareness and behaviour change is a mighty chasm. Being aware of the dangers of HIV/AIDS does not mean people always use condoms, and decades of school awareness programs have not stopped everyone from smoking. Awareness is an important and necessary first step, but what comes next? Lonely hearts die young A few weeks ago the Australian Loneliness Report made national headlines for revealing that one in four adult Australians are lonely. The report painted a bleak picture of our society, with nearly 55 per cent of the population reporting they feel a lack of companionship at least sometimes. While males reported better physical health, they did report less social interaction than females, and a 2015 study stated that there is evidence to suggest that loneliness is associated with a 26 per cent increased likelihood of mortality. Time and again in my work as a psychologist and lawyer I have witnessed men put up internal barriers to not seek help - their lack of social interaction and fear of judgement are obstacles that definitely need to be addressed. But, external barriers to accessing mental health support, such as cost, the location of services, and lack of knowledge of how to access services are just as important, and just as much a challenge, as internal barriers. Opening a door According to a 2008 Australian Bureau of Statistics report men are less likely to seek help than women, with only one in four men who experience anxiety or depression accessing treatment. Today, inevitably, men begin their journey to accessing help on the Internet. But, with so many services, websites and touch points, many quickly become overwhelmed and never follow through on getting treatment. It is incredibly important that all men in Australia have a trusted source they can easily access to receive mental health support. Telehealth has been around for some time - rural Australians and employee well-being programs for remote workers have long accessed the expertise of GPs and specialists via telephone, and more recently, the Internet. But, telehealth has rarely been used on a significant scale for mental health services or been applied to urban patients - the belief is that those in the city and suburban environments can readily access mental health professionals face-to-face. But, in my 12 years as a psychologist, rarely has the problem of access been as simple as proximity to services. Accessing a mental health professional should be about finding a trustworthy expert that is the best fit for the client and be as simple as a mouse click. Something you can do on a lunch break or on a weekend from the comfort of your own home. Many of the barriers men face in seeking mental health treatment can be overcome using an online service. Using the Internet as a platform for psychological consultations could be perceived as impersonal, but caring about patients and supporting them through their mental health journey can just as easily be done via a screen as in an office. Telehealth means whether in Mildura, Brisbane or Broken Hill, men can get the support they need in their own time, and on their terms. Men’s mental health is a tricky and complex problem, but with awareness and access, I believe we can make Australia a less lonely place.

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