WHAT’S NEW

Working from Home Shortcut Method Extended by the ATO.

Working from Home Shortcut Method Extended by the ATO.

The ATO introduced the shortcut method in April to help taxpayers track their working from home expenses as COVID-19 forced many to adopt remote working practices. The new temporary 80 cents per hour method will now be extended.

This scheme was originally intended to run from 1 March to 30 June 2020, but due to current work patterns not yet returning to normal and as Melbourne reimpose lockdown restrictions, the ATO has decided to extend this shortcut method to 30 September 2020.

The ATO has noted that it may extend the new method beyond 30 September 2020, depending on when work patterns begin to return to normal. Note records of the hours worked at home in the form of a timesheet or diary are needed to claim the shortcut method.

The temporary shortcut method will continue to be supplementary to the 52 cents fixed-rate method and the actual cost method of calculating running expenses.

For more download our working from home guide.

Further, if you need assistance deciding how best to claim your working from home tax expenses this year please get in touch with our team by phone 02 9415 1511 or email reception@primeadvisory.com.au.

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Why do men feel so alone?

Why do men feel so alone?

I was reading an article yesterday written by Professor Sarah Niblock, CEO of the United Kingdom (UK) Council for Psychotherapy. According to Niblock, a survey was conducted during the month of ‘Movember’ in 2019, in which men were asked whether they had people outside their homes they could confide in about their worries. Half said they had two or fewer friends and one in eight had none. In the context of the UK, this meant that 2.5 million men had no close friends. Even worse is that men’s friendlessness trebles between their 20s and late middle age, said Niblock.

This got me wondering about the stats in Australia, not to mention how they have been impacted by Covid-19 landing on our shores a few months ago. Given isolation has been shown to have both physical and mental health implications, this is vital information to be aware of. In fact, research shows that loneliness is as detrimental to our health as smoking 15 cigarettes a day, and there is a correlation between loneliness and coronary heart disease, strokes and depression.

In 2014, Beyond Blue published that almost 25% of Australian men aged 30-65 (~1 million) were at risk of isolation. Around 25% had no one outside of their immediate family to rely on; 61% had lost contact with more friends than they would have liked to and 50% of men rarely talked about deeply personal issues even if they did have friends. Relationships Australia (2018), showed that men tend to report higher levels of loneliness than women and the stats are on the incline.

According to a June 2020 article published by Human Resources Director, ‘on average, one in eight men experiences depression and one in five faces anxieties at some stage in their life. This can lead to devastating results, with men accounting for six out of eight suicides on average each day in Australia.

Moreover, the economic impact of COVID-19 has heightened many men’s anxiety around securing income and the weight of responsibility for protecting family members with 62.1% of men expressing anxiety during the pandemic.  Some men may be unable to work from home, and therefore may feel at risk of contracting the virus at work, while others may be feeling isolated and miss the social connection offices provide’.

But why do so many men find it difficult to put up their hand if they are struggling or feeling lonely?  A common theme I see in the work I do is that many men feel they have to be self-reliant. Statements like ‘Suck it up’ and’ Don’t cry like a girl’ frequently litter their childhood memories. Admitting they have a problem, expressing their deepest feelings or discussing a serious personal topic can be viewed as a sign of weakness for men, and so many men don’t venture there. Instead, they bottle it up and put on a brave face for as long as they can. When it comes to stress levels, bottled up emotions are a sure way to switch on their fight, flight or freeze response resulting in detrimental short and long term effects on their health, physically, mentally and emotionally.

The way we were raised can have a significant impact on how we view loneliness. For some men, it is often challenging to recognise feelings of loneliness in the first place. The differences in how boys and girls behave are not hardwired at birth, rather embedded through how we are socialised. Boys ‘don’t cry’ is a social construct, not a behavioural one. Typically, girls were allowed to express their feelings and cry if they were upset or frustrated. This was seen as acceptable by parents and teachers and part of being a girl. This meant girls learnt to talk about their feelings, express themselves, and these verbal skills were valued by adults in their lives. Boys, in contrast, were more likely to be shut down, which for many, resulted in an inability to express and talk about their emotions. Particularly if they are struggling, feeling vulnerable or lonely.

Having a partner and a family can help ward off the negative effects of loneliness, but what if a man’s personal circumstances change? After a relationship break up, a bereavement or the need to isolate due to Covid-19, some men find their friends may drift away, and they have no one to talk to. Social media can play some part in reconnecting; however, it does not replace face to face connection. Social activities such as playing a team sport are also not for everyone, and if a man is already feeling lonely and isolated, their confidence may be too low to enter these environments and connect over a shared interest. And then there is the danger of self-medicating to overcome their loneliness. In some male-dominated social environments drinking alcohol is encouraged, which in the short term may provide some solace; however, in the long run, may exacerbate the mental health effects of isolation.  So, what are some of the things men can do to help avoid loneliness in the first place?

Start with small talk.
Yes, I know. I sometimes feel like I would rather donate a kidney than have to engage in small talk; however, it can play a big part in breaking the ice. Try making small talk with someone who is in the same takeaway coffee queue or when zapping your lunch in the work lunchroom if you are back in the office. Yes, it will probably feel awkward at first, but these small conversations can help you feel less alone and isolated. A short chat with a fellow co-worker may become a beer after work on a Friday.

Mix with like-minded people
Think about what you are into – music, sport, books, video games. Maybe there is a club near you where you can meet up with like-minded people. Another option is Meetup, which is free and designed to bring people together who enjoy similar things or activities. Fitness, sport, photography, dancing…pretty much anything.

Get moving
Not only does exercise help us stay fit and is an excellent short-term stress management strategy, but it is also a way to meet new people. The good thing about sport and exercise is that it occurs regularly, so there is less pressure to make a good impression at a one-time meeting. Perhaps you have a friend that enjoys walking or a game of golf. Give them a call and meet up with them for a quick 9 or 18 holes.

Online connection
Although research shows that face to face relationships are better, connecting online may be the first step. Whether you are chatting with someone, playing your favourite game or directly contributing to a group chat with like-minded people, connecting online is a great way to battle loneliness. It may also build your confidence to take the step into joining face to face. You have already built up a rapport online and learnt something about them as a person.

Make plans
When we are feeling very lonely and feel there is no light at the end of the tunnel, we might become antisocial without even realising it. Before we know it, we are turning down opportunities to hang out. Challenge yourself to get out and be sociable at least once a week. Plan it in your schedule, so you don’t forget, and you can work your time around it. Maybe SMS that friend that you haven’t spoken to in a long time or have lost touch with. They will probably be happy to hear from you.

Fly solo
If asking someone to have a beer with you is just not your thing, why not head to a local spot and hang out with a good book or magazine. Find a place where you feel comfortable to relax, such as at your local café, a shopping centre or your local library. The first couple of times may feel a tad awkward, and you may think that people are eyeballing you, but they probably aren’t. A regular chill spot also creates an excellent opportunity to meet new people. Turning up on a regular basis will allow you to meet other regulars, and you might spark up a conversation.

Start journaling
Not all of us are into journaling; however, research shows that processing your emotions by writing them down is a great way to battle loneliness. It will also help you to become clearer on where your head is at. You can scribble your thoughts in a notebook, jot down some lyrics, or collect your thoughts in a word document on your laptop. Try the journaling app called Day One if this is something you think may be useful to you.

Care for a pet
Talk about unconditional love! Animals are a great way to make us feel connected and cared for. Pets, especially cats and dogs, can reduce stress, anxiety, depression and ease loneliness. You don’t have to own a pet, try pet minding if you don’t want the long term responsibility. Walking your neighbour’s dog occasionally could be an option, and you may even meet a fellow animal lover.

Give back
Volunteering is an excellent way to give back to your local community and do something meaningful. Countless charities need volunteers, and Govolunteer.com.au is a great place to start looking for opportunities near you.

Seek Support
For those of you who despite trying different strategies to connect still feel lonely, get some professional support. A doctor, a psychologist, a counsellor or a psychotherapist. If you need it, your doctor can help you complete a mental health plan that will enable you to access counselling services or visit a psychologist. It’s okay to get the support you need.

There are also several support programs specifically designed to support men’s loneliness.

  1. Australian Men’s Shed Association– mensshed.org. It’s all in the name – the Men’s Shed Association is all about building, whether it’s furniture or friendships. With over 985 locations around Australia, chances are there’s a shed near you.
  2. Men’s Line – https://www.mensline.org.au/. Men’s Line is a phone and online support service that offers ‘male-friendly’ counselling that can ensure your privacy and anonymity. It also features an active forum where men come together to give each other advice, guidance and support.
  3. Man Therapy – https://www.mantherapy.org.au. Man Therapy is an initiative by Beyond Blue to help men understand and respond to their depression. Described as a toolkit, it gives men strategies and guidance on how to approach and cope with depression, anxiety, and substance abuse.

Don’t forget that everyone has times when they feel lonely. Taking even just a few of the steps above can help reduce your isolation and should help you start to feel better.

Author: Dr Leanne Wall (BSc. MBBCh. Grad. Dip Counselling)
email: leanne@drleannewall.com
website: www.drleannewall.com

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The ATO are watching.

The ATO are watching.

As written about in December 2019, the progression of technology is now assisting the ATO to ensure compliance among business and personal tax and superannuation obligations and to assist in detecting fraud. For the full article, please click here.

This month the ATO will begin to supply Services Australia with a list of all employees nominated for JobKeeper by an eligible employer to cross-check with Services Australia’s list of social security customers and claimants. The cross-reference of these two databases will allow identification of the population of people who may be registered for the JobKeeper program and social security payments.

Individuals receiving JobKeeper ($1,500 per fortnight) from their employers may be earning above the income cut-off and unable to also be entitled to a social security payment. Once these individuals are identified as not correctly declaring their JobKeeper income, they will be contacted and reminded of their reporting obligations.

Example correspondence from Services Australia will read, “The Australian Taxation Office has given us information that you may be receiving JobKeeper payment. The JobKeeper payment may change the amount of Centrelink support you are receiving. It is important that you report any income you and or your partner get from your employer(s); this includes the JobKeeper payment. If you don’t report all your income, we may pay you too much and you may have a debt to pay back.”

If the customer does not provide the required information within a reasonable timeframe the agency may suspend or cancel the customer’s social security payment.

This data-matching program is expected to run until October at a minimum however may be extended with the rollout of JobKeeper 2.0.

If you have any questions, please reach out to our team by phone 02 9415 1511 or by email reception@primeadvisory.com.au.

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The $2.5bn JobTrainer Package.

The $2.5bn JobTrainer Package.

This month the Government announced the $2.5bn JobTrainer package to retrain, upskill and open new job opportunities.

JobTrainer for job seekers and school leavers

An additional 340,700 training places will be created to provide no or low cost courses into sectors with job opportunities. The Government is working with the States and Territories to develop a list of qualifications and skill sets to be covered by the program.

JobTrainer for employers

The JobTrainer package has expanded the number of businesses that can access the 50% apprentice wage subsidy and extends the subsidy until 31 March 2021 (from 30 September 2020).

Originally, only businesses with less than 20 employees or larger employers employing apprentices/trainees let go by a small business were able to access the subsidy (for wages paid to apprentices employed by them as at 1 March 2020).

Now, businesses with under 200 employees can access the subsidy for apprentices employed from 1 July 2020. Employers will be reimbursed 50% of an eligible apprentice’s wage up to a maximum of $7,000 per quarter per apprentice.

Employers will be able to access the subsidy after an assessment by the Australian Apprenticeship Support Network.

Eligibility

Small business – claims open now
· Employ fewer than 20 people, or
· A small business with fewer than 20 people, using a Group Training Organisation, and
· the apprentice or trainee was undertaking an Australian Apprenticeship with you on 1 July 2020 for claims after this date. Claims prior to 1 July 2020, will continue to be based on the 1 March 2020 eligibility date.

Medium Business – claims open on 1 October 2020
· Employ 199 people or fewer, or
· A medium sized business with 199 people or fewer, using a Group Training Organisation, and
· the apprentice or trainee was undertaking an Australian Apprenticeship with you on 1 July 2020.

You will need to provide evidence of wages paid to the apprentice. If the business subsequently is unable to retain the apprentice, another business can access the incentive if they then employ and pay wages to the apprentice.

Final claims for payment must be lodged by 30 June 2021.

How does the apprenticeship subsidy and JobKeeper work together?

They don’t. It is one or the other.

An employer will not be eligible to claim the apprentice wage subsidy for any period where they choose to claim the JobKeeper payment for the same apprentice.

An employer or Group Training Organisation will not be eligible for the JobKeeper payment where the employer is in receipt of an Australian Government wage subsidy for the same Australian Apprentice (for example Supporting Apprentices and Trainees and the Australian Apprentice Wage Subsidy).

Finally, if you need assistance regarding any of the Governments stimulus packages please get in touch with our team by phone 02 9415 1511 or email reception@primeadvisory.com.au.

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How do you manage other people’s bad moods without getting cranky yourself?

How do you manage other people’s bad moods without getting cranky yourself?

In my line of work, I get to hear a lot about people’s problems and related emotions. Be these at work or at home, with family, friends or that demanding boss.  Many of us are dealing with challenges that if we let them, can make us cranky. And what we focus on we tend to get. The crankier we feel, the more likely we are to notice the negative things happening around us, which in turn makes us even more irritable. You might imagine that all the anger, frustration, anxiety and shame felt by my clients would surely impact my mental, emotional and physical wellbeing. Without effective skills to manage their emotions, I have no doubt this could and would occur. Emotional overload, vicarious trauma and eventual burnout. So what can we do to help manage the impact other people’s emotions can have on us?

The first step is having awareness of both our own emotions and the emotions of others. The second is practising skills to effectively manage the impact that other people’s moods and difficult emotions can have on us. And in reality, anyone can do this.  So if you find yourself being negatively impacted by other people’s emotions, here are five specific skills I have learned that help me effectively and respectfully handle other people’s difficult emotions. The upside is with practice, you will create new neural pathways in your brain that will enable you to tap into these skills whenever you need to. This in turn will help you keep your cool in all relationships, especially the important ones – your significant other, your boss, kids, parents, friends and work colleagues.

1. Replace judgement with curiosity
I’m not sure about you, but when I grew up, strong emotions weren’t tolerated. If someone was in a bad mood, they were told to get over it ‘quick smart’, particularly if you were a child in the family. Strong emotions such as anger, frustration and sadness were often seen as negative emotions and needed to be fixed. Emotions such as happiness and joy were labelled positive and acceptable; however, negative emotions were judged unacceptable and a sign of immaturity or loss of control. Not surprisingly as a young adult, I found it challenging to deal with other people’s strong emotions and I would often judge them for their inability to get their ‘s%^&t’ together.

It took a post-graduate degree in counselling for me to realise that this judgemental mindset was neither helpful nor set in stone. I recall a lecturer saying that to serve those in emotional turmoil, we need to replace judgement with curiosity. With this lens of curiosity, it’s much easier to acknowledge and validate their emotions, showing understanding and empathy, which is what most people experiencing strong, painful emotions really need.

I learnt that it was essential to be aware of our own self-talk when someone we care about is very emotional. How do we think about emotions? Are they good or bad? Are they triggering something in us that we learnt growing up?

Maybe your go-to position is:

  • Can’t they see that these emotions are no good for them?
  • Can’t they see that they are having an impact on the people around them?
  • How can they be so selfish and self-indulgent?
  • I wish they would just get on with it like I do when I am feeling like this – just move on!

Instead, substitute more curiosity-driven questions:

  • What is happening in their world at the moment that is making them feel this way? 
  • What kinds of circumstance might have happened to make them feel this way?
  • What is the benefit to them of feeling this way? Are they getting something out of it?

Shifting from a lens of judgement to curiosity changes our mindset enabling us to support others in an emotionally-intense situation. When someone close to you is in a bad mood, try to understand how and why they are feeling the way they are rather than judging them for being emotional.

2. Stop problem-solving and start listening
When someone you care about is upset and emotional, what is your first go-to strategy? Without a doubt, the most common mistake people make in how they communicate with each other is that they get stuck in “Advice giving or fix-it mode.” Especially couples!

When someone close to us is cranky, anxious, frustrated or seems to be down in the dumps, we often think we need to fix them. But as I have learnt the hard way, offering advice to someone who is in the midst of a bad mood is typically unhelpful at best and often counterproductive.

Can you think of a time when you were in a bad mood and started describing how you were feeling to your significant other, a family member or a friend? Before you were three sentences in, they were already coming up with ideas as to how you could fix ‘your’ problem. Offering advice about what you should or shouldn’t do and telling you that being upset about it is a waste of time and energy. How frustrated did you feel? No doubt the person that you were talking to could probably see your pain and struggling, and therefore their natural reaction was to try and alleviate your pain and make you feel better. Not to mention, make themselves feel better.

But here’s the thing, most people struggling with emotions don’t want someone to fix their pain or to find a solution to their problem, they just want to feel heard and understood.  This is one of the most counterintuitive but universally true laws of human psychology in my opinion. And once you start believing this and acting on it, everybody around you starts feeling better.

So how can we shift our mindset from problem-solver to helping people feel understood? Reflective listening is the answer. What this means is that when someone tells you something, all you need to do is reflect back to them what they just said, either using their exact words or putting it in your own words. It’s like being their mirror. This tells the person two things, firstly that you are listening and secondly that you understand how they are feeling. If what you say back to them is not accurate, it also allows them to explain it again.

Here are examples to get you thinking of what reflective listening could look like in your relationships:

Your significant other: “You never really listen to me!  You’re always just trying to solve my problems and get back to watching TV.”
The usual response: “The last thing I want to hear is all your issues when I get back from work. All I want to do is relax and watch TV. Can’t you talk to me later?”
Reflective listening: “What I hear you say is that you don’t feel heard by me and that all I’m focusing on is trying to solve your problems.”

Your friend: “My boss was so rude to me today and made me feel like a banana in front of my team when he reprimanded me about a report I hadn’t completed properly.”
The usual response: “But why didn’t you finish the report, of course, he’s gonna be upset with you.”
Reflective listening: “It sounds like you were really embarrassed by your boss and what he said to you in front of your team.” 

Now, I know you might be sitting there saying “Really!” but it works and is a tool frequently used by counsellors and coaches. The reason is, it’s not about what you are saying, it’s about how they feel and the fact that they are feeling heard. The value of being their mirror is that it helps them feel like you are with them, you’re connected and understand where they are coming from, not to mention that you have their back.  By being the mirror to another person’s experience, you’re giving them a genuine connection versus trying to fix them.

3. Putting on your own shoes
Empathy is our ability to put ourselves in the other person’s shoes and ‘feel’ the way they must be feeling. Having empathy is a critical skill for relationship building. Another way that you could do this is through reverse empathy – by putting yourself in your own shoes and trying to remember a time where you perhaps felt the strong emotion the other person is feeling. Maybe it was anger or frustration or a deep sense of sadness. Try and recall a time where you struggled with these emotions, how they felt and what mood you were in.

For example, if they’re really frustrated and angry, think back to when you were so frustrated or angry, you couldn’t even think straight:

  • What happened to get you so angry?
  • What thoughts and emotions were going through your mind?
  • What did the people around you do or not do?
  • And importantly, what do you remember wanting, needing, or wishing for when you felt that way?

Often, reverse empathy can help you appreciate someone else’s emotions and struggle because it’s based on your own experiences in the moment, rather than what you think they must be feeling. And the more you can connect with your emotional responses, the better the chance of being genuinely helpful and supportive to the other person, not to mention being less reactive and emotional yourself.

4. Respond versus react
Have you ever found that other people’s bad moods have stirred up emotions in you? Your significant other is miserable, and you find yourself getting frustrated. Perhaps your boss is anxious and micromanaging, which tends to make you feel anxious too. Maybe a parent is irritable, and you respond with annoyance and a sarcastic dig.

Allowing our emotions to overtake how we’re feeling about a situation, means that we have limited emotional and mental bandwidth to deal with the mood of the other person.  This is the reason why we often react to other people’s bad moods in a way that ultimately isn’t helpful to them, to us or our relationship.

The best way to manage this is by simply acknowledging and validating our own emotions and telling ourselves that it’s okay to feel this way and that how we are feeling is reasonable.  As an example, suppose your significant other has been in a bad mood the whole evening because of something that happened at work. They are impatient, frustrated, and generally painful to be around. There are also no signs of them shifting their mood, and they are totally self-absorbed in their own misery. While you’ve managed to be supportive for the first couple of hours and showed interest in their story, you can feel yourself starting to get annoyed with them.

Rather than 1) allowing your annoyance to get the better of you and saying something unhelpful, or 2) judging them and their inability to get over it or 3) becoming judgemental of yourself for feeling annoyed, you could validate your own annoyance.  This could take the form of a few seconds of pause, during which you acknowledge how you’re feeling, remind yourself that it’s okay and natural to feel this way and then ask yourself ‘what is the most helpful way’ you could move forward. These few seconds of pause allow you to calm the emotional centre of your brain and get your rationale brain back in the driver’s seat.

5. Control what is in your circle of influence
If someone you care about is in a bad mood, there is nothing you can do to make them feel better. Now, this may sound counterintuitive because many of us think that if someone’s miserable, we can make them feel happy by doing something, or saying something. In reality, however, the only thing we can control is how we show up. We cannot control how another person feels or doesn’t feel, that is entirely their choice.

A common error I see many people make when trying to deal with other people’s bad moods is to think it is their responsibility to make that person feel better. The reality is we can only be responsible for the things that we can control and influence. Emotions by their nature are not directly under our control, and therefore we are not responsible for our emotions. We are however responsible for our behaviour and how we think as a result of these emotions.

When we feel responsible for things outside of our control, we set ourselves up for unnecessary frustration, disappointment and resentment. However, when we are clear on what we can control, i.e. our behaviour and thinking, then we are less likely to get frustrated. In summary, because you can’t directly control how someone feels you’re not responsible for it. When you stop taking on the responsibility of making someone feel better, you can start focusing your time and energy on what you can do to connect with them in a heartfelt way and become genuinely supportive.

A final word
Humans are DNA wired to connect. We crave belonging, finding our tribe and forging strong relationships. Emotions are part of what makes us human. Being able to understand and regulate our own emotions and having the skills to support others who are experiencing strong emotions is key to healthy relationships. The more we practise these skills, the better we become at managing the highs and lows of human connection. It is like building a muscle. The healthier our relationships and the stronger our sense of belonging and connection, the better our mental, physical and emotional health. So the next time someone close to you comes home in a grumpy mood, question with curiosity, mirror their emotions, put on your own emotional shoes and focus on what you can control!

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