"What we’ve observed [as a result of our peer support initiative] is a significant reduction in sick leave and lost time injuries. Given these were predominantly around stress-related injuries, that’s a really big tick for this program."

About the initiatives 

ISS is one of the largest private companies in the world with a workforce of 15,000 across Australia and New Zealand. It provides a range of specialised facility services, including facility management, cleaning, security services, and management of open spaces.

The organisation introduced SuperFit Mates, a pilot program developed and funded by SuperFriend. The program was designed to minimise the effects of mental health issues in the workplace by creating awareness through training and development. People on the ground were identified and trained to spot mental health issues in the workplace, and to ask the right kinds of questions to help their colleagues seek support. Two workplaces in Victoria were selected for the pilot because of their diverse personnel profiles, including Melbourne International Airport.

For the initiative, a number of designated supervisors undertook a half-day training session. For the following month they went about their usual tasks but with greater confidence to ask staff who seemed out of sorts if they were OK. During that time they had phone contact with a coach. A month later the supervisors were involved in a one-hour follow-up meeting to examine and discuss their experiences.

Benefits and outcomes

Benefits and outcomes of the initiative include:

  • potential reduction in Workcover claims
  • addresses the company’s agenda of health and safety as the number one priority
  • sends a positive message to clients that ISS is proactive in injury prevention
  • the positive message filters throughout the organisation that the management team cares and has an interest in training and development
  • supervisors gain tangible coaching and communication skills; they enjoyed the training and learned something new
  • the individuals who participated felt more confident in their ability as supervisors
  • there was an increase in employee engagement
  • there was a reduction in lost time injuries (LTIs) and stress claims at both sites after the initiative
  • a cultural shift with a greater understanding and acceptance of mental health
  • the initiative received positive feedback
  • some incredible success stories were reported. One woman was in a state of self-harm when a supervisor asked if she was “OK”. The subsequent discussions, actions and support networks provided helped her to make it through that difficult stage in her life.

 

Recommendations, considerations and lessons learned

Challenge: Engaging staff

Action:

  • Conduct detailed scoping, planning and communications to engage a decentralised and diverse workforce

Challenge: Costs

Action:

  • Work closely with the sites, make a business case that demonstrates financial gains through reduction in LTIs and stress claims and increases in staff retention and employee engagement

Challenge: Gaining operational buy-in

Action:

  • Carefully select timing – around the time of contract renewal so that the initiative would build on the value proposition around keeping the workplace safe 
  • Make a business case – there has to be clear return on investment
  • Start with a pilot, measure results and create interest

Challenge: Addressing a real need

Action:

  • Tailor the initiative to where it is needed in the organisation (for example, an operating area with increased psychological claims)
  • Let people know that mental health is just as important a risk as slips, trips and falls

Challenge: Select providers carefully

Action:

  • Shop around – the facilitator can make or break the program

Challenge: Communicate

Action:

  • Get the story out, let it filter through the organisation and to clients
  • ISS posts news on its intranet, via CEO bulletins and the CEO newsletter

Challenge: Sustainability

Action: 

  • Look at the potential to extend the pilot and, if possible, how it will work in terms of location, funding etc
  • Look at ways of integrating mental health into normal health and safety strategy
Sharie Harrold
ISS Facility Services

Sharie Harrold
National People Manager
ISS Facility Services