Sunsuper's mental health initiatives emerged from its broader corporate wellbeing program through growing recognition of the importance of mental health in the workplace.
About the initiatives
Sunsuper is an industry superannuation fund that has been in operation since 1987. It employs approximately 600 people.
While Sunsuper recognises that engaging staff in mental health initiatives can be challenging, the Fund recognises their value and has been working hard to incorporate mental health initiatives into its overall corporate wellbeing program. Rather than a specific initiative, Sunsuper has been implementing a range of training programs and seminars that lay the foundation for future developments.
Some of these initiatives include:
- contact centre training - staff in the Fund's contact centre receive calls from members who are distressed because they are unable to access their superannuation, or have fallen on difficult times. Employees are provided with training through SuperFriend in managing these calls and minimising the emotional impact on both the caller and themselves. In addition, team leaders and HR managers to follow up with employees who have had emotionally distressing calls
- corporate wellness program - Sunsuper provides lunchtime seminars on work-life balance, nutrition, exercise and more, often with the support of organisations such as Beyond Blue and SuperFriend. The Fund also encourages staff to take part in a range of physical activities, including fun runs and bike rides, by contributing to any registration or participation fees. These initiatives focus primarily on physical health, but can also act as a starting point to talking about mental health
- participation in and support of organisations such as Superfriend. Sunsuper has executive level representation on the Superfriend board.
- generous working conditions - Sunsuper offers flexibility with leave days, opportunities to purchase annual leave, opportunities for training and development, and generous super contributions. When employees must take leave for mental health reasons, the company is generous in allowing time off and working out a plan for returning to work
- a comprehensive staff rewards and recognition program
- a pleasant office environment - renovations and ongoing maintenance of a state-of-the-art office environment has had a significant impact on employee morale
- measurement of employee satisfaction - Sunsuper regularly assesses the culture of the organisation to provide insights into employee engagement, workplace satisfaction, and area for improvement.
How the initiatives came about
Sunsuper's mental health initiatives emerged from its broader corporate wellbeing program through growing recognition of the importance of mental health in the workplace. The first initiative involved training for contact centre staff dealing with distressed callers. Since then, the organisation has added lunchtime seminars with a mental health focus and other initiatives. Efforts to improve mental health at Sunsuper will continue to evolve and grow.
Benefits and outcomes
Benefits and outcomes include:
- staff members feel engaged and included in the workplace; there is strong staff participation in competitions and other activities
- attendance levels at the annual reward and recognition event (83 per cent) demonstrate genuine staff engagement, regard for colleagues and a desire to celebrate the achievements of the organisation
- small changes have had a large impact on staff wellbeing. For example, an annual survey assessing workplace culture showed that employees wanted more fun at the workplace, so the company organised competitions, trivia afternoons, and dress-up days. These initiatives are inexpensive, but employees appreciated and enjoyed them.
Recommendations, considerations and lessons learned
Challenge: Building on the bank of corporate knowledge around mental health and wellness
- Position the initiatives as a means of developing leadership capability and towards better self-management, as well as involvement in organisations such as Superfriend.
Challenge: Gaining traction from staff members
- Engage staff with programs by showing what they will get out of them
- Communicate commitment to staff wellbeing
Challenge: Uncertainty about where/how to start
- Start small
- Make mental health initiatives part of a broader corporate wellness program.