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Chaplains on the job support workers under stress

By Marie Sherry

With New Zealanders facing increasing pressures both at work and in their personal lives, the need for on-site assistance from Workplace Support appears to be growing.

The Inter-Church Trade and Industry Mission, which trades as Workplace Support, is New Zealand’s longest established provider of employee support programmes.

Founded in 1970, it brings a depth of knowledge and experience that delivers proven benefits to clients.

Workplace Support Waikato chief executive Lindsay Cumberpatch, who is also a Methodist minister, said the Waikato branch works with about 100 client organisations, including both large and small businesses and a range of government departments.

“Our core business still remains the on-site support. What was the old industrial chaplaincy and was then called workplace chaplaincy is now called staff support,” he said.

“That’s a person who is a designated staff support person and goes in weekly or fortnightly and circulates around the staff or has an office. People can make an appointment to see them or just talk to them as they go around.

“That person becomes a first port of call for personal and work-related issues. They can discuss anything and everything and know that it’s completely confidential.”

Lindsay suggests that management in many organisations believe they can take care of many of the work-related issues but do not have the time or expertise to look after personal issues, which can and do impact on the workplace.

Workplace Support offers a variety of different employee support programme options, including both on-site and off-site support and counseling, critical incident response in the event of a workplace accident or incident, training workshops aimed at developing people’s abilities to resolve personal and work-related issues, and a range of consultancy services.

The staff support person can also refer people to more specialised support and counseling if necessary.

Lindsay believes people are under more pressure today, with staff often expected to work harder, while dealing with relationship and family problems.

However, while the demand for support and counseling is still high, Workplace Support is facing considerable competition from other employee assistance programmes.

“There’s probably no one else who does the on-site support the way we do but there’s a lots of counseling and training providers, although with most counseling it’s only referred when you need it,” Lindsay said.

“In terms of people saying it’s a bit expensive, I think a lot of our existing clients see the value of building relationships because it then becomes a very accessible service. If you’ve built up a relationship with a staff support person, you’re much more likely to use it when you really need it”.

Workplace Support is an ecumenical organisation, with a range of people committed to offering quality care, support and resourcing in the workplace.