Learning to stress less

Article image - Learning to stress less Council staff at final celebrations for the Global Corporate Challenge.

The Town of Port Hedland, in the Pilbara region of Western Australia, is helping employees reduce their stress levels.

Managing stress and mental health in the workplace has come under the spotlight recently, especially in the Pilbara region; an increasing number of workers in the mining and resources industry are revealing they have been battling with mental health due to work-related stress.

However, this is not unique to the mining and resources industry – many people across all industries are working longer hours, dealing with ever-increasing workload and burning themselves out in an effort to meet deadlines and Key Performance Indicators.

At the Town of Port Hedland, statistics showed a rapid increase in the number of staff accessing the Employee Assistance Program (EAP) between 2012 and 2014 (1.67 percent in 2012 versus 7.14 percent in 2014).

This statistic was backed up by the consistent number of stress-related workers compensation claims from 1998 to 2013.

Town of Port Hedland Acting Chief Executive Officer Chris Linnell said when they uncovered this statistic they were understandably shocked as these numbers were incredibly unusual, and rare to see in local government.

“A brief look into the wellness services offered by the Town showed there was no cohesive approach towards improving and maintaining staff health and wellbeing,” he said.

“In 2014, the Human Resources team launched the Town of Port Hedland Wellness Program, an array of workshops, activities and benefits targeted at ensuring all staff had the opportunity to access the services they needed to be happy, healthy and safe in the workplace.

“In 2015, we were recognised as a Gold Healthy Workplace, a significant achievement considering we had just launched our program in 2014.”

Since launching, the program has grown to include: discounted memberships to leisure facilities; mental health awareness workshops delivered by Beyond Blue; smoking cessation program; free flu shots and skin cancer screenings. Employees were also given the opportunity to participate in the Global Corporate Challenge (GCC), where teams around the world compete to have the most steps over a period of a few months.

“The program has been taken up by a large percentage of employees and we’re happy to report it has been an enormous success,” said Mr Linnell.

“Recent statistics show there was a 4.87 percent decrease in the number of employees accessing our EAP as of 2015; 53 percent reported decreased stressed levels as a result of the GCC; and 96 employees participated in the mental health awareness workshop.
“The mental health awareness workshops were so well received that we’ll be continuing the program in 2016 and 2017.

“We hope that by demonstrating the effectiveness of having workshops like this, we can inspire other local governments in the Pilbara and other regional centres to address this issue with their employees, too.

“The Employee Wellness Program was designed in collaboration with the entire organisation through the Staff Consultative Committee.
“Each employee had the chance to contribute what they wanted out of the organisation in terms of taking care of their physical and mental health, as well as suggestions on events, activities and workshops they thought would add value to being an employee of the Town of Port Hedland.”