Approximately 850,000 New Zealand small business owners, their employees, and families have access to free and confidential wellbeing support, thanks to an initiative from Xero.
Earlier this year the company announced the Xero Assistance Programme (XAP) 12-month pilot programme, which aimed to help business owners with their mental health and wellbeing.
In October 2019, Xero revealed that it is extending the XAP programme for an additional 12 months, making the programme available to all Xero subscribers on Starter, Standard or Premium plans. XAP is available to the business owners, their employees and family members, and is estimated to reach 850,000 New Zealanders.
“New Zealand has critical mental health statistics to address as a country and for many people their workplace can play a central role in building their resilience and positive mental wellbeing,” explains Xero New Zealand and Pacific Islands managing director Craig Hudson.
A recent 2019 Small Business Wellbeing Report, jointly commissioned by Xero and the Mental Health Foundation of New Zealand, found that even though nearly a quarter of Kiwis experience poor mental wellbeing, most small business owners are failing to realise their team would benefit from improved wellbeing.
“I was shocked to see that two out of every five small business leaders don't feel responsible for their team's wellbeing. Looking after wellbeing is not only the right thing to do for our people and ourselves, but also the right thing to do for our businesses,” says Hudson.
“We started trialling the Xero Assistance Programme (XAP) earlier this year. Based on the results of the initial pilot programme and our research results, it's clear there is a real need for a service like this. We're proud to create this opportunity to make XAP available to one in six New Zealanders,” says Hudson.
“I believe that the time is now for Kiwi business leaders to take steps to learn how to better support their employees, so we can collectively address this crisis,” says Hudson.
The XAP service is available through Xero's own provider, Benestar. Users will have access to face-to-face, telephone, live chat and online counselling, as well as the Benehub and Benestar app, all paid for by Xero.
Mental Health Foundation CE Shaun Robinson says research has shown that workplaces that effectively prioritise the mental health of their people have better engagement, reduced absenteeism and higher productivity.
“Building mentally well workplaces is about adapting the tools businesses already have and integrating a mental wellbeing focus to work already underway.
“There is no one-size-fits-all approach to creating a positive work environment and you don't need to reinvent the wheel. Allowing flexible hours, open door policies and facilitating opportunities for team members to build connections with one another are very powerful and simple ways to build positive work environments and boost employee wellbeing.
Hudson adds, “I know for many business owners, part of the problem is that they don't know where to start. I hope employees will start by using XAP and other employee assistance programmes as a preventative measure for support, rather than just directing people to these services when they are in crisis. This is one of the ways business owners can make a heartfelt impact on mental wellness in the country.