Chloe, why did Beca need a wellbeing program?
As a professional services consultancy, our people are our biggest asset. We have a value-driven, high-performance culture. We wanted a wellbeing program that would support our ultimate goal, to actively encourage, support and educate our people to become healthier and happier versions of themselves, resulting in a more engaged and productive workforce, where employees can thrive.
We’re in the digital age, people are always ‘available’ whether it’s answering emails on the phone late at night or taking a call on the train on the way to work. We also work for a lot of clients overseas in different time zones and that sometimes requires our staff to be in meetings well after 5pm NZ time.
We had an overarching wellbeing program at Beca which was fairly fragmented with a lot of one-off initiatives. We wanted a holistic program so we refreshed our wellbeing strategy, basing it on the ‘5 ways to wellbeing’ from the UK. We already had many tools in place, but we needed to structure and market them so that they made sense to the business and had the right focus and common language to engage our people.
What was the process in developing the strategy?
Armed with the ‘5 ways to wellbeing’ information, in 2016, we used a risk-based approach and ran workshops across the business to involve them and to pinpoint key health, safety and wellbeing risks, which informed our strategic priorities.
Stress and fatigue were the highest risks in most regions due to workload, high travel demands, and large client projects. We grouped this as ‘Psychological health’ when we named our critical risks because we wanted to include positive not just negative messaging around stress and mental health. As part of our wellbeing strategy, we were confident in our health and social aspect initiatives, but we lacked anything that would help with psychological wellbeing. We researched what psychological health programs were available in the market, identifying the Canadian National Standards for Mental Health and Safety in the Workplace. This model gave us a framework to start identifying gaps and working towards building better strategies and overarching workplace systems to support a psychological healthy organisation, preventing psychological ill-health. We knew psychological health needed to be embedded in the way we do business rather than a ‘one off’ initiative so we reviewed our policies, programs, employee benefits, training, and measurements as part of the integrated framework.
For training, we partnered with an organisational psychologist. We piloted and subsequently delivered a Workplace Psychological Health program, starting with our executive leadership team, Boards and people leaders, then cascading to all employees. The training program aligned with our values and addressed our strategic objectives as identified in our framework, to provide a healthy and safe workplace, supporting our employees and our business.
How did you get the ‘buy-in’ and how’d you execute the plan?
We engaged with the business to form a wellbeing committee and ran a competition to brand our wellbeing strategy.
‘Be Well Aware’ was formed with three key pillars;
- Be Healthy (physical health)
- Be Connected (social/work health)
- Be Mindful (psychological health) to cover the full wellbeing spectrum.
Our Wellbeing Strategy was launched to the business and a Psychologically Safe Workplace Policy was implemented which recognises the benefit of positive work and forms the overarching framework and statement of commitment around psychological health.
Under our ‘Be Mindful’ pillar, we have a uniquely branded range of initiatives, resources and communications, including webinars and a bi-annual health survey covering all our Be Well Aware pillars, which provides individuals with their own health report, and Beca with a company-wide report helping us to identify key areas to target and improve.
The psychological health training program is now well embedded, with a mandatory full day ‘Workplace Psychological Health’ workshop aimed at all people-leaders and ‘Helping Others’, ‘Helping Yourself – Mentally Healthy Thinking’ and ‘Helping Yourself – Mentally Healthy Actions’ workshops for all employees. The people leader workshops provide critical knowledge and skills on mental health, stress and how to effectively manage and support employee wellbeing. The ‘Helping Others’ workshops are a condensed version of the managers workshops, run internally to teach everyone how to look out for one another which is crucial to ensure everyone is talking the same language. The ‘Helping Yourself – Mentally Healthy Thinking’ workshops provide strategies for supporting your own wellbeing and managing stress with the aim of helping individuals build resilience. The ‘Helping Yourself – Mentally Healthy Actions’ workshops teach individuals to support their own wellbeing, both at work and outside of work. The focus is on proactive actions that can be taken to support wellbeing and manage stress.
Additionally, we have a great EAP Program which is well utilised. Throughout the year we have run communications campaigns focusing on psychological health and have enhanced our flexible working guidelines to ensure employees are able to work in a way that best suits their needs and the business. This really came to the fore during the global pandemic because of the foundations that we had already implemented, our people leaders were able to support our employees amazingly well, resulting in our highest engagement score we have as seen in our culture survey.
Tell us more…
Our goal has been to embed our psychological health program, and we are really proud that we have created a true culture change not seen in other professional service organisations. We have been successful in raising the profile of psychological health through all aspects of our program creating the same message regardless of business area. Our training workshops (both people leader and all employees) have provided the foundation to get everyone talking the same language and knowing how important it is to know our colleagues, know the signs, know how to have a conversation and the support tools and resources that are in place to support that person to get back to a flourishing state of wellbeing. Over 600 managers and 1,200 employees have been through the training so far.
In last year’s communication awareness campaign, we had eight employees volunteer to share their stories. We created podcasts that were recorded where those employees talked through their experiences, ranging from suicide and depression, to living with a mental health disorder, to stress and burnout. These employees showed courage to share their personal feelings from darker times in their lives but also provided constructive methods for managing those feelings and situations. These podcasts have been viewed over 300 times.
Our initiatives are well attended, which demonstrates engagement in the program, our most recent webinar saw over 500 people dialing in.
Wellbeing is for everyone. How did you consider inclusion in your approach?
At Beca, we have 30+ different cultures and we needed to be mindful that our program respected this diversity. Creating the right organisational culture where people can feel they belong is imperative, so everyone needs to benefit from all the programs and initiatives that we roll out. We knew that our psychological health program would be accepted across NZ and Australia however our leaders were unsure how it would be received across our Asia and Pacific countries as culturally it can be offensive to talk about mental health. Knowing the success we had had from the program however, we did not want to exclude these countries, so we brought together leaders from each main region to discuss the content of the program. It was agreed we could roll out amended versions of our leader and employee training programs, being mindful of topics such as suicide. We already had EAP available however it was not utilised at across our Asian offices, but this has changed since running the program.
In late 2019 we developed a program of sharing stories about what it means to Belong at Beca for different people which compliments the work we have been doing to create a psychologically safe and healthy workplace where people can bring their whole selves to work and feel supported.
Flexible working has also been enhanced through robust consultation and feedback. The key driver was to enable our people to work in a way that meets their needs as well as the business, building greater inclusion and enabling greater representation of women in our workforce. Providing our people with the awareness of how to switch off and use the third space enabled a seamless transition to work from home with the COVID-19 lockdowns.
What changes can you see in your staff since the program launch?
Our Be Well Aware program is kept alive through a whole suite of initiatives and activities that have been packaged to form our internal wellbeing program. We run different training, webinar, health and social wellbeing initiatives throughout the year. For psychological health, new people leaders are automatically assigned the training and those that have previously completed the training are invited to participate in a shorter refresher session to share learnings and cement their knowledge. Employees can opt into the sessions that they feel they need.
The impact is noticeable. Our people understand that psychological health is a #1 priority because we have slowly worked on shifting our culture, ensuring what we have implemented sticks and is not replaced by the next topical program. We have worked hard to embed everything we do into our existing processes so that the program is weaved into all aspects of the way we work. Our people tell us our approach has had a positive impact on their lives:
- People are talking: The topic of mental health is being kept alive through the power of conversation.
- Increased incident reports: This indicates increased awareness. Our people feel it’s ok to ask for help resulting in early intervention.
- Improved organisational culture: Our people at all levels feel empowered to speak up and share stories, reinforcing the message and encouraging others.
- Increased retention: Employees are coming and talking to us rather than leaving.
- Engaged leadership: Now trained, our people leaders, Board and ELT are engaged and talk about it frequently in management meetings.
- Positive work environment: We have new guidelines and tools to help mitigate risks.
- Supported workforce: Employees feel valued which positively affects their wellbeing at work and at home, impacting family and friends. Our clients are now supportive and learn from our culture.
- Positive feedback: Feedback tells us that it’s Beca’s most successful and engaging program ever!