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A Q&A with Robin Shepherd and Nina Mapson Bone

From juggling workshops to resilience training, Robin Shepherd, Head of Operations & Member Services at RCSA and Nina Mapson Bone, Managing Director at Beaumont People, discuss their mental health support strategies for staff.

Starting with Robin, during lockdowns what actions have you implemented to support your staff working remotely to ensure their mental health is a priority?

Robin: We are a diverse bunch at RCSA located in Melbourne, Sydney, Auckland and Christchurch, we have all experienced lockdowns and been through the thick of it as a team. This is why we are dedicated to prioritising mental health; we all know how difficult it is. Considering the majority of our team is located in Melbourne and with the recent restrictions tightening, there has been an increased focus on supporting staff and providing valuable resources for their wellbeing. It is also important to consider how busy it has been with increased member engagement and activity with the constant COVID changes and challenges.

With all of this in mind, we have strived to provide support to our staff with increased levels of communication. We actively encourage the team to share openly and authentically when they are struggling or require additional support. As we know and understand not everyone is comfortable with asking for help, we also make an effort to check in regularly with all staff individually. One of the more significant resources we have introduced to the team are “COVID Relief” days. These are additional leave days for staff to take once a month when needed. To keep morale high among the team we have implemented regular team quizzes on Friday afternoons that are run by a randomly selected pair of staff, and we encourage people to try new activities like a juggling workshop. To show our appreciation for the hard work our staff have committed through such difficult times, we have also included paid lunch, knocking off early occasionally on a Friday, and schedule “social chat” in team meetings in our mental health priority plan.

Are there any actions that will remain post-lockdown?

Robin: I believe moving forward, some of the resources we have delivered to our teams will remain. In a post-lockdown, COVID anxiety-free world, encouraging fun and social interaction between our staff will remain. We have already seen positive results from such activities being implemented within our teams so it is definitely something we could consider implementing permanently. We have always placed emphasis on mental health and wellbeing, but the COVID experience has really given us a broader scope and more practical strategies to embed the importance of mental health and wellbeing throughout our culture and organisation.

The experience has also helped us better understand how to work as a collaborative team including all our remote employees across different jurisdictions. By understanding the experience of remote employees in more depth, we can ensure that they continue to be supported and feel included equally in the team, when our offices are open again.

Now to you Nina, during lockdowns what actions have you implemented to support your staff working remotely to ensure their mental health is a priority?

Nina: In response to the lockdown and prioritising the mental health of our employees, we have implemented a three-pronged approach at Beaumont People. The three key pillars of the approach are care, support, and fun.

Starting with the first pillar of care, we brought in resilience expert, Heidi Dening, to run a five-week program to teach team strategies to assist with our mental wellbeing. We also actively reminded the team of our employee assistance program and shared links from some mental health charities we work with. We focused our communication efforts encouraging the team to take a break if they needed and our expectation through lockdown was to just get through it together.

With the support pillar, we reinvigorated our buddy program and brains of Beaumont program. If people were seeking support, the buddy and brains of Beaumont programs allow employees to talk to someone about personal issues as a “buddy” or talk to our “brains” about more specific, work-related areas of discussion. We have also established a fortnightly crisis and communication meeting to discuss real-life issues we are all facing and brainstorming solutions together.

With the final pillar, we have taken action to create more fun spaces in our workplaces to create elements of joy throughout lockdown. A standout activity were our online juggling sessions! Other virtual social events we host and have grown to thoroughly enjoy are quizzes and games of bingo. We challenge teams with various exercise activities and make sure to finish the work week by sharing good news and fun stories among teams. We have also created a “Beaumont Uplift” playlist of everyone’s most uplifting songs.

Are there any actions that will remain post-lockdown?

Nina: I believe the continual focus on mental health will stay moving into the future. Our three-pillar approach to working-life in lockdown could absolutely translate to post-lockdown working environments.

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