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Why we’re Mindful in May

Esha Oberoi shares her secrets to success
Afea CEO & Founder Esha Oberoi

By Afea Founder and CEO Esha Oberoi

Have you heard of the Mindful in May movement? It’s a global event that encourages us all to get started with daily mindfulness. Started by a doctor trained in psychiatry, Dr Elise Bialylew, it combines mindfulness training with an optional charity component to raise money for clean water projects. 

How’s your mental health?

Mental health problems are common. During our lives, over half of us will face some sort of mental health problem. Approximately 20% of Australians between 16-85 experience mental illness in any one year.

I’m sure you’ll agree the last year hasn’t helped. The impact of COVID-19 has meant a quarter of us have thought more about our mental health. 18% of Australians have used a mental health support service since the beginning of March 2020.

Mental illness has a huge economic cost too. A report last year found mental illness and suicide in Australia costs us $220 billion a year in lost economic participation and productivity. It’s an astounding number.

How mindfulness can help with our mental health

Even if you haven’t accessed a mental health service in the last year, many of us could probably do with some help. With the social isolation of lockdown, health anxiety, unemployment or underemployment, financial strains and home schooling, it’s been a difficult year.

While no one is saying mindfulness is a miracle solution, it is a useful and powerful tool that can help all of us manage this stress. So how does it work? It helps us train our minds so we don’t ruminate about the past or fear the future. It allows us to remain in the present to achieve clarity and perspective.

How do you do it?

Here are the tips we share in our Mindfulness sessions at Afea Care Services.

1. Stop and sit

The first step is to get yourself into a comfortable position. You don’t have to lie down or sit crossed legged if that doesn’t work for you. Just make sure you have a comfortable space and some time. Start with 5 minutes and build it from there.      

2. Still yourself

Focus your attention on the present. People often think you need to empty your mind, but that’s not the way it works. Simply pay attention to the present moment without judgement. Focus on a sound such as your breath or some background noise.

3. Other thoughts are ok

If you notice your mind wandering, that is normal and absolutely ok. Just notice them and let them pass. Then try to focus on the present again.

 4. Practice makes perfect

The more you practice, the better you’ll become, and the longer you’ll be in mindful meditation without distractions. In time, you’ll notice how it improves your perceptions and reactions in your day-to-day life.

Highlights from our recent Mindfulness and Self-Care Workshop with Carers.

Why we should practice mindfulness at work

At Afea Care Services, practicing mindfulness is something we encourage. We often hold mindfulness sessions throughout the month to give everyone a chance to reset and refocus.

We also encourage our carers to have mental health conversations with their clients and introduce mindfulness if they can.

Mental health still has a stigma, particularly in workplaces. It’s time we open up the conversation and be honest about the way we’re feeling. Introducing guided meditations during Mindful in May at work is one way we can all start this important conversation.

Afea ranked one of Australia’s Best Places to Work

We’re thrilled to announce that we’ve been recognised as one of Australia and New Zealand’s Best Places to Work! We’re ranked 3rd in the annual list, published in the Australian Financial Review BOSS Magazine.

This is an enormous achievement for Afea. There were over 700 organisations considered and they chose us after doing an assessment, including a staff survey and a written submission.

In a year when many workplaces cut staff and saw reduced morale, we soared. Not only did we increase our staff, we added a new office in Parramatta and we found alternative ways to connect and grow.

Why is Afea a great place to work?

Officially, we received an AFR Boss Best Places to Work award because of our Anniversary Bonus scheme. In this scheme, we award our employees a bonus on each work anniversary so that they feel increasingly valued for their time.

We love that we received the award for this scheme, as it’s a wonderful way to give back to our employees. However, there are lots of other reasons Afea is the best place to work.

AFR Best Places to Work
Afea is one of Australian Financial Review BOSS Best Places to Work

1. We make a difference

Our number one goal is to be the most trusted care provider. Every day, we come to work with this in mind. Whether we care for one of our amazing clients or provide support from the office, we are always trying to make a difference.

There is nothing better than speaking to a client and finding out what goals they’ve achieved, thanks in part to the support of our carers and staff.

2. We promote positive mental health

We know we can’t take care of others until we are taking care of ourselves. At Afea, we have a huge emphasis on working on our mental health. We have free meditation sessions for both staff and carers, an open culture and regular catch ups so we can bring up any issues we’re having.

We’ve even done a mental health first aid course to give us the skills to help our family, friends, colleagues and clients.

3. We celebrate our differences

We think it’s important to learn more about each other and celebrate what makes us all special. Afea is an incredibly diverse workplace, and we like to celebrate that. Whether it’s through Harmony Week or various cultural celebrations, we love finding out how our differences can help us learn more about each other.

Everyone who works at Afea already thinks it’s the best place to work.

But it’s wonderful that it’s now official 😊

Would you like to learn more about working at Afea? Join us!  

Why Afea loves Harmony Week

How we can help make sure everyone belongs

You’ve probably heard of Harmony Day, but did you know it’s now celebrated over a full week in Australia? Harmony Week runs from 15th to 21st March 2021 and includes United Nations International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, which is 21st March.

Harmony Week is so important to us at Afea. 45% of Australians were born overseas or have a parent who was. At Afea, many of us come from different cultural backgrounds and we’re so proud of this diversity. We love any reason to celebrate it and break down cultural barriers. Here’s why we love Harmony Week.

Happy diverse team harmony

What Harmony Week means to us

When it comes to diversity, we talk the talk – literally. We speak 40+ languages at Afea and support clients from a wide range of cultures. If a client wants a carer who speaks their language or comes from a similar cultural background to them, we do our best to accommodate that request.

We think the melting pot of diversity makes our company unique. No matter what cultural background you’re from, Afea will always be home. We encourage each other to share more about our backgrounds and try to learn from our differences.

How we’re celebrating Harmony Week

At Afea, we always take time out for Harmony Week. Each year we host a potluck in our office where we share a meal from our backgrounds. Food is such a powerful way to get people together – it’s a way for us to share what the meal means to us and why it’s special. This year will be no different. We will host a COVID-safe potluck and look forward to coming together as a team.

What we’re hoping to achieve this Harmony Week

Sharing a delicious meal is a symbol of what we hope we can achieve from Harmony Week. We come together as equals in Afea but unfortunately, it’s not that way in all communities in Australia. There are many racial inequalities we see every day, including discrimination and unequal access to health and education.

So what can we do? Many of these problems are huge systemic issues that require government support. As individuals, it’s understandable if you feel powerless. But by educating ourselves on each other’s cultures, not discriminating based on difference and teaching our children to do the same, we can create a society that belongs to all.

Here are some things you can do this Harmony Week:

Ask questions

The first step is to learn more about the other cultures around us. When we understand where people come from, it will help us build better relationships.

Start with a friend, neighbour, or colleague who comes from a different culture. Strike up a conversation about their background, ask where they come from and how their family came to Australia.

Learning about different cultures helps grow connections and can help us all learn about the unique perspectives that make up our great country.

Share your story

If you haven’t shared where you come from with many people, this is the perfect time to do it. You could share on a social media platform like Facebook or Instagram and download one of the social media banners on the Harmony Day website. You never know, the story of your family could be the catalyst for changing someone’s opinion about difference.

Or you could invite some friends around for a COVID-safe meal where you share your food and some of your favourite aspects of your culture.

Learn more about your culture

If you’ve grown up in Australia but have family from overseas, this could be a great time to learn more about where you’re from. Have a chat to your family or even see if you can get in touch with relatives overseas. Being proud of where we’ve come from and sharing that with others is an important part of Harmony Week.

Learn more about the cultures that make up Australia

A great way to learn about other cultures is to watch films and TV shows in other languages. There’s never been more access to foreign language films, from SBS and NITV with their huge range, to Netflix and even your local library.

Take the time to learn about Australia’s first people. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people have been here for tens of thousands of years and have a rich culture and great ability to tell stories. Listen to their stories and learn about their culture both past and present

Talk about Harmony Week with your kids

If you have children, they’re probably learning about Harmony Week at school or childcare. However, you could spark further debate at home by discussing why it’s important for everyone to belong and why racism is wrong.

You could even encourage them to enter this Harmony Day Poster competition which is open to all school students in NSW and ACT.

From everyone at Afea, we wish you a Happy Harmony Week! If you’d like to learn more about what languages and cultures our carers represent, please get in touch with us.

Group of people with hearts on their faces

Afea has opened an office in Parramatta!

Afea has opened an office in Parramatta!

Why we’ve chosen Parramatta for the next stage of our journey

We have some big news. This week we opened a new Afea office in Parramatta. This is our second office in Sydney and our third overall (we are also in Chatswood and Melbourne).

We are so excited to be expanding our Afea and Inebura teams into Western Sydney so we can be closer to many of our clients and carers.

Parramatta – where it all began

Did you know our very first office was in Parramatta? Esha started Afea 13-years-ago. She was a sole trader who used to contract to hospitals around Sydney. Her next step was hiring other carers and driving them to and from services.

In her first year, she took out a space in a GP’s practice in Parramatta. It didn’t take long before the doctor became frustrated as his waiting room was full of our carers and clients rather than his own patients!

So. we opened up our own Afea office, and since then we’ve grown from strength to strength.

Our growth journey

We have experienced remarkable growth in the past 13 years. We’ve survived industry reforms that resulted in immediate losses in business. During this time many providers did not survive the reforms. Even in the past year, when roughly 2,000 providers had to close their doors, we have experienced 40% growth and are impacting more people than ever.

We now have over 70 staff in the office and over 800 carers across Sydney and Melbourne.

This week, we opened our Parramatta Hub so our West Team can be more connected to our Western Sydney community.

Why Parramatta?

We have opened a Parramatta hub because many of our carers and clients live around the area. We’re so excited for our Carers to regularly visit our office so we can further strengthen our relationship. They will be able to participate in training sessions and team building days without travelling across Sydney.

We also love the area of Parramatta. It is in a multicultural and loving community which is something we care deeply about. Many of our clients are also based Western Sydney, so we’re looking forward to connecting with them more regularly.

A meaningful milestone

Our Vision is to be the most trusted care provider. As we grow and we see the positive changes in the lives of our clients and their families, and our Carers who look after them, we can see this happen before our eyes.

Our Parramatta Hub has an accessible entertainment space, and we would love for you to drop in for a coffee and chat with us any time!

Ground Floor 17-21 Macquarie Street Parramatta

What is support work and how do you get into it?

Would you make a good disability support worker?

Have you ever thought about getting into disability support work? Here we answer your questions about what disability support work is and how you get into it.

What is a disability support worker?

A support worker or carer helps people with physical or intellectual disabilities in their day-to-day tasks. They have a wide range of tasks and responsibilities and their work can be very varied.

Support workers can help people with personal care such a showering, getting dressed, feeding and taking medication. They can provide practical help with transport, daily chores and making food. They can also provide vital social interaction and take clients out into the community to increase social enrichment and enjoyment.

Carers also provide much-needed emotional support to people with disabilities. They spend a lot of time with their clients, so often become like a close friend or trusted support. Support workers form strong bonds with their clients and become a crucial component in their lives.

What kind of person makes a good support worker?

The most important thing about working in care work is making sure you’ve got the right attitude. Are you passionate about helping others? If you answered yes, then you’re likely to be a great support worker.

As you’re going to be spending a lot of time with your clients, it’s important that you’re a people person and be good at building relationships. You need to be a good communicator as you may be helping your client communicate if they find it difficult themselves.

As you’re going to be working with vulnerable people and be welcomed into their homes, you must be very trustworthy. You always need to look after their health and safety and take responsibility for them.

What qualifications do you need for disability care work?

Although it’s not compulsory to have formal qualifications, some providers do need you to have a certificate III in Support Work, such as this TAFE NSW Course. It’s also a helpful way to learn more about the industry and get clear expectations about what it’s going to be like.

You also need to make sure you a police check, a first-aid certificate and a working with children check if you want to work with children. If you want to help clients by providing transport, you’ll need a reliable car and comprehensive insurance.

What extra talents could you bring to the job?

Every carer is different and brings unique perspectives to the lives of their clients. Think about what your interests are, what kind of client you want and what you’d like to share. Do you love movies? The outdoors? Could you play video games or talk sports all afternoon? Do you have any skills or hobbies that you can use to enrich the lives of your clients?

You may be spending a lot of time with your clients, so you want to be matched with people who you’re likely to get along with. You can use your skills to help your clients achieve their goals, whether it’s being more creative or learning something new.

How would being a support worker fit in with your life?

Being a support worker is a great, flexible job that is ideal for people who don’t necessarily want to work 9-5. People with disabilities need support at all hours of the day (and night!). People who are studying (especially nursing, psychology or social work) often find support work is an ideal part-time job to fit in with their course work. It is also a great, flexible role for those with a family or for people who want varied hours.

At Afea, we make sure we find you clients who are close to where you live so you won’t have to travel too far. We also do our best to find clients who you will fit with. It’s better for the clients and the support workers if everyone gets along.

Want to know more about becoming an Afea carer?

Esha’s interview on ABC Radio

Founder and CEO of Afea, Esha Oberoi spoke with Nas Campanella on ABC Radio Sydney about the workforce challenges in the support work industry.

After a string of unrewarding jobs that lasted no more than 6 months, Esha Oberoi fell into support work in her early 20s. As Esha puts it, she walked in and had a pulse, therefore was hired. Only on-the-job training, and not much in the way of background checks.

Esha felt a deep connection with her clients, noticing they were feeling the same isolation she had felt through her teenage years due to her depression and anxiety. That’s when she decided to do something about it.

Nas Campanella, Esha Oberoi, Kaitlin Mountain and Jo Berry at ABC studios

Founding a business at 24

Noticing that many of her clients didn’t need full-time care, Esha decided that she would attempt to redefine what care meant, and how it was delivered.

This started not in residential care, but in the home. By educating families to the benefits of home care, Esha was able to keep people in their homes, with their families for longer. All they need is a skilled support worker with whom they have a connection.

Shifting industry standards for support work

The pattern of the industry has always been to hire a support worker, and send them to clients. Esha knew that this wasn’t going to be helpful for anyone, so she decided early on that she would invest heavily in training, and upskilling.

Today our support workers (Afea Carers) have an induction, on-the-job training with their clients, and regular on-site check-ins from our Care Managers.

Challenges with finding support workers

The industry has seen many changes since the role out of the NDIS, which has seen many providers pop up, and a shortage of support workers. Esha wants the community to know about how rewarding this industry is, and how many opportunities can come from it.

She spoke with ABC’s disability affairs reporter Nas Campanella about these challenges, and how we fix it – by telling our stories!


Click here to listen now!

Selfie of Esha, Kaitlin and Jo with headphones on in ABC radio studio

It’s never been more important to ask R U OK?

What we’re doing at Afea this R U OK Day

It’s no secret that many of us are struggling this year more than usual. Many have reduced income, increased health anxiety and our friends in Victoria are coping with a lockdown that must feel never-ending.

At Afea, mental health has always been a focus but we’re placing even more emphasis R U OK Day this year. This year the theme is “There’s more to say after R U OK?”. Here’s what we’re we’re doing:

We’re wearing yellow

Thursday 10th September 2020 is R U OK Day. Everyone in the office and even some of our carers are wearing yellow. It’s the colour of the charity R U OK Day and is a visual reminder to start a conversation.

We started our day with mindfulness

There’s evidence that mindfulness-based programs can improve stress resilience, relationships and help anxiety and depression. We have long been advocates of mindfulness at Afea and often include it in our team training sessions. Today, for  R U OK Day, we began our day with a mindfulness session so we can get in touch with our emotions and start our day with a clear state of mind.

We’re keeping an eye out

At Afea, we’re committed to providing a safe workplace where everyone can be comfortable showing their true selves. We encourage all our staff to think about their colleagues and clients and to keep an eye out if things don’t look quite right. If we don’t think we’re the right person to offer support, we do our best to find help through our Employee Assistance Programme or the person’s family member.

We’re encouraging everyone to continue the conversation

If anyone has a concern about a colleague, family member or friend, we encourage them to start a conversation and follow up with them after today.

Here are some things to keep in mind:

  1. Ask – When you ask the question, make sure you’re somewhere private and quiet. You want the person to feel comfortable enough to say ‘No’ if that’s what they’re feeling.
  2. Listen – Instead of trying to solve the problem, the best thing to do is listen. Don’t judge them or make any assumptions. Acknowledge that the problem sounds tough and show the person you’ve been listening by repeating the key points back to them.
  3. Encourage action – Ask them how they might have solved the problem in the past or what they think might help. They may need some expert help from a GP or a psychologist so encourage them to seek professional help.
  4. Check in – the theme for this year is ‘There’s more to say after R U OK?’ and we’re encouraging everyone to follow up. Put a reminder in your diary to check in with your friend in a few weeks. Remind them that you’re there for them and want to help if they need it.

We’re encouraging everyone to think of others in their lives who may not be ok

In these isolated times, many people simply haven’t seen their friends or family so may not know how they’re doing. We’re encouraging everyone to check in with people they haven’t seen in a while. Send them a letter or even bake them something and leave it on their doorstep. Ask that important question – R U OK and follow up in a few weeks. You never know if it’s the conversation that might change a life.

Visit the R U OK website for more conversation tips.

Our Finance Manager is celebrating 8 years with Afea!

Sam reflects on his time with Afea  

Finance Manager, Sam, Celebrates 8 years with Afea

Finance Manager, Sam, is a CPA (Certified Practising Accountant) and has been with Afea Care Services since 2012. He is always smiling and joking with his colleagues, and nothing is ever too hard to accomplish for him and his team.

He is very supportive to everyone he comes in contact with. Around the office, he is the go-to man for anything to do with numbers or the NDIS.

After eight years, Sam is still passionate about working with Afea.

He says: “Since the beginning, I was given a lot of support both in my professional and personal life.

While I was working full time and giving my all to the company, I also wanted to learn. With support from Esha and Gaurav, I completed my CPA while still working full time.

I remember at that time I didn’t have enough space at home to study. Afea gave me the trust and freedom to use the office space to study over the weekends.”

Sam’s biggest passion when he comes into work each day is providing the best service possible to all Carers, office staff and, of course, our valued Afea and Inebura Clients. In his spare time, he is a family man and loves being with his wife and two daughters.

We thank Sam for all of his contributions and continued positivity he has brought to work for the past eight years. Congratulations on completing another year with Afea, we can’t wait to see what you do next!

Why it’s more important than ever to keep Australia beautiful

Did you know that this week is Keep Australia Beautiful week? The Keep Australia Beautiful movement was founded in 1968 and has been working towards a sustainable and litter free Australia ever since.

Never before has it been so challenging yet so important to look after our country. There aren’t any community litter cleaning events this year due to COVID-19 so the approach is a bit different. We need to focus on how to ensure litter doesn’t reach our bushland and waterways in the first place.

For us at Afea, having a beautiful country isn’t just about cleaning up. We believe our country is also beautiful because of our actions and the way we treat each other. Here are some things we can do as individuals and families to keep Australia beautiful.

Don’t throw litter on the ground

This is an obvious one. When you’re out and about, always find a bin for your rubbish and if there isn’t a bin, take it home with you. It’s particularly important to make sure we throw out litter away as it can help stop the spread of disease. Also, make sure don’t leave your cigarette butts on the floor. Aussie smokers dispose of billions of butts each year which could end up in nature.

Try not to use single-use plastics

Before this year, we were doing well at reducing single-use items – using a Keep Cup was becoming habitual and some restaurants would even allow take-away in reusable containers. That’s all changed due to COVID-19, as these reusable containers could be too much of a hygiene risk for restaurant staff.

However, we should still be mindful of the number of single-use plastics we are using. Try to make more food from scratch and when you do get takeaway, ask for eco cutlery that is made of wood or bamboo. Or ask for no plastic cutlery at all if you’re eating your meal at home.

Recycle where you can

You can recycle your single-use coffee cups at any 7-Eleven store. They take any cup brand (plus the lids) and upcycle them into meaningful new products. According to their website, used cups have been turned into outdoor furniture, garden beds and even a road.

Your plastic take-away containers can also be recycled but make sure you rinse them before putting them in the recycling bin. Food can contaminate other clean recycling and the whole lot could end up in landfill. Not what anyone wants!

Don’t put rubbish into already full bins

Don’t you hate it when you see birds or other wildlife picking out rubbish from an overfull bin and spreading it across the grass or road? It makes a huge mess and is a leading cause of litter ending up in our environment. If your bin is full, check with your neighbours and see if you can put a bag in theirs. It’s a bit inconvenient looking for another bin but it’s better than all our waste ending up in our waterways or bushland.

Rethink the plastic you use every day

Think about the number of single-serve items you buy and whether you could buy bigger serves. For example, could you buy bigger yoghurt containers rather than single-serve pots? Could you put your child’s lunch into a sealed lunch box instead of wrapping in cling wrap? Every time we use less plastic, the environment thanks us.  

Share the beauty of Australians

Sometimes, we get caught up in ourselves and don’t notice the beauty both in nature and the people around us. Next time you’re out and about, try to share the beauty of human connection. Say hello to the people you walk past and share a smile. You could even point out the lovely sunrise or comment on the weather. You could share your own beautiful nature by doing a good deed – pay it forward by buying a coffee for the person behind you or some groceries for a neighbour.

Australia is a stunning country with amazing people. It’s never been more important to keep Australia beautiful and be thankful we live in such a lovely corner of the world.

What’s your tip for keeping Australia beautiful?

Why company culture is so important at Afea

Have you ever worked in one of those jobs where you’re counting down the hours until it’s time to leave? Or where you feel stifled and unsupported by your manager? Of course you have, we all have!

Not at Afea though. We have worked hard on growing a positive and nurturing company culture. We believe having a good company culture is beneficial not just to our own happiness but to the happiness of our Clients.

What is company culture?

According to Frances Frei and Anne Morriss at Harvard Business Review:

“Culture guides discretionary behavior and it picks up where the employee handbook leaves off.”

Having a good company culture has always been important to us. After all, our jobs occupy most of our waking hours. We know our values and we try to make sure everyone who joins us matches up with them. We’ve even recently created a culture book which defines exactly what it’s like at Afea and what we believe in.

For us, there are three elements to having a good company culture.

1. We have a culture of empowerment

One of our core missions at Afea is empowerment. This culture of empowerment starts at the very top. It means our managers empower us to make decisions and use any mistakes as opportunities for growth. We have a culture of development, support and mentorship. We don’t feel afraid to speak our opinions and are trusted to manage our work in the best way possible.

As a result, we extend this empowering culture to our community. We help our Clients learn and grow to the best of their ability. We help rebuild confidence and improving lives day-by-day. Empowering people leads to amazing results, which inspires us to continue caring and helping.

2. We have a culture of good mental health

The mental health of our people is something we place a huge emphasis on. Recently, our CEO, Esha Oberoi ran a series of introductory meditation sessions for our Carers, explaining its benefits and how to start doing it.

We often run meditation sessions in the office and remotely for Carers. We believe we can’t truly take care of others without first taking care of ourselves. It’s this culture of prioritising our mental health that ensures our staff, Carers and Clients feel safe and nurtured.

3. We have a culture of fun!

At Afea we believe the office is a space for fun, not just for work. We jump at the chance to celebrate anything and everything we can, especially when it’s for a good cause.

In the last few months, we have celebrated:

  • Stress Down Day – we wore pyjamas to work to recognise the good work that Lifeline does in the community.
  • We were decked out in denim for Jeans for Genes Day, to raise awareness for children born with genetic diseases.
  • We love celebrating diversity by learning about each other’s cultures and often mark the occasions with home-cooked traditional meals.

What do you think makes a good company culture?