Personal Travel Managers Benefit from Funded Wellness Initiative
One of the key moments at TravelManagers’ annual national conference in 2018 was the announcement of a new health and wellbeing initiative called the Network Assistance Program (NAP). NAP is made available through PeopleSense, which is a program run by Altius Group that provides personal travel managers (PTMs) and National Partnership Office (NPO) staff with professional services that cover a range of needs, from anxiety and anger management to mediation and conflict resolution.
The implementation of the NAP program now seems somewhat clairvoyant given the challenges presented to the travel industry during 2020. TravelManagers’ Executive General Manager, Michael Gazal, says there has been a nine percent increase in uptake during the first six months of 2020, compared with the same period the previous year.
“Anyone who needs or wants assistance is able to access up to six free support sessions per year,” Michael explains. “The NAP program is designed to complement all the other support mechanisms we have in place, such as business development, marketing, and mentoring.”
The NAP program has been in place for two years, and works on a confidential, self-referral system. Gazal says that although anyone who accesses the NAP program is assured of complete confidentiality, some PTMs prefer to share their experience with their colleagues as a way of encouraging them to also reach out for help.
One such advocate for the program is Jenene Hartnett, who is TravelManagers’ representative for Young, NSW. Jenene says she decided to contact PeopleSense in early May when she realised the effect COVID-19 would have on her business and personal wellbeing.
“I have utilised a similar program when it was offered by a former employer and found it helpful,” she explains, “and so I decided to make use of the service relatively quickly so that I could face the impact of COVID-19 in the best frame of mind possible.”
“It has been so helpful to have the assistance of a professional to guide me through such a difficult and uncertain time,” she adds. “Although it’s helpful to be able to speak to friends and family about what you are experiencing, I feel it is very important to have a trained and impartial person to speak to and provide guidance and assistance.”
Jenene points out that the NAP program made it simple for her to access assistance much more quickly than if she had needed to go through the public healthcare system. During a period in which most travel professionals’ income is seriously depleted, it also meant she did not have to privately fund her counselling sessions.
“Mental health took the life of a dear friend of mine this year, so that also reinforced the importance of looking after your mental and emotional health, and that it is ok to ask for help.”
Victoria-based PTM Kate Bevan has also used the NAP program, explaining that it was her Business Partnership Manager (BPM) who suggested she give PeopleSense a call.
“And I’m so glad I did,” she reports. “I found them friendly, approachable and easy to talk to – even when I’ve had a session scheduled and have thought I had nothing to discuss, I have come away having learned something about myself, some new coping strategies or generally felt less weighed down with stress.”
Both Kate and Jenene have been happy to share their positive experiences with their fellow PTMs, encouraging them to take the same step if they are feeling overwhelmed.
“It was important for me to be reminded that our lives have been turned upside down by COVID, and that it’s completely reasonable to be feeling overwhelmed or depressed,” Kate explains. “I’ve learned that it’s ok if all I do is breath and focus on making it through the hour, the day, the week. It’s ok to grieve for the loss of my business, my plans for the future, my sense of certainty. It’s ok to not focus on where I might be in six months’ time, but to aim for small goals instead, like finding time each day for ten minutes of fresh air or having one meal each day that is good for my body.”
Michael says TravelManagers appears to be unique among Australia’s home-based travel brands in offering this level of support to its members.
“NAP was created two years ago because we recognised the need to provide support that would improve the mental health, resilience and wellbeing of our PTMs and NPO support team. We have a strong and supportive family environment at TravelManagers, but sometimes a little extra, external assistance is helpful.”