Three years ago Melbourne Water conducted a gap analysis and identified that while there were good policies and procedures around safety in the workplace, there was an opportunity to do more about mental health.
About the initiatives
Melbourne Water is a Victorian government owned statutory authority that controls much of the water system in Melbourne. Melbourne Water has more than 800 employees working in a range of locations throughout its catchment area.
Melbourne Water has run a variety of health-related activities and initiatives for some time on an ad hoc basis, including blood donation drives, boot camps, yoga and meditation classes, and health checks. The organisations decided there should be a framework around these activities to enable a more strategic approach and measurement of the effectiveness of each campaign. The framework centres around three core beliefs:
1. All harm is preventable.
2. Everyone is a safety leader.
3. Melbourne Water values personal wellbeing.
As part of this strategic approach, activities are run as campaigns. The success of the program relies on the support of key people in senior positions, carefully planned initiatives and the perseverance and commitment of management and participants.
The safety and wellbeing team has set a target that within five years, 80 per cent of staff will believe and recognise that the organisation cares about its employees’ wellbeing.
How the initiatives came about
Three years ago, the safety and wellbeing manager conducted a gap analysis and identified that while there were good policies and procedures around safety in the workplace, there was an opportunity to do more about mental health.
For some time Melbourne Water had had a ‘Zero Harm’ policy, whereby no harm of any kind is tolerated. It was decided to shift the focus to be more positive and proactive.
A wellbeing coordinator was appointed. At the time of the interview, a new framework was being developed involving six safety and wellbeing pillars of what makes up someone’s wellbeing. The company is excited with what this new framework would bring and offer staff and the business.
Benefits and outcomes
Benefits and outcomes include:
- EAP calls have doubled following promotion and increased awareness of the program
- a wellbeing coordinator was appointed
- a mental health and wellbeing strategy and policy have been created
- there is a general sense in the organisation that it is 'in a better place'
- positive employee feedback includes comments such as 'It's fantastic that you're listening'
- safety is now being discussed in a positive and proactive light.
Recommendations, considerations and lessons learned
Challenge: Preparation and readiness
- Address all physical concerns and potential safety issues before addressing mental health challenges
- Ensure the culture is right - people have to want to look out for each other
Challenge: Preparation and readiness
- Use a business case approach to determine investment and outputs
- Define what constitutes success and how it will be measured
Challenge: Targeting initiatives
- Given that males are under-represented in total EAP calls but make up the majority of employees and Melbourne Water, campaigns must target men's health
- Consult with a wide range of employees to identify what activities would be suitable for the organisation
- Implement SANE Australia's Mindful Employer mentally health workplace training program
- Realise that not all problems can be solved at once
Challenge: Finding the right people
- Identify individuals who can listen, support and encourage to drive the initiatives
- Find the right people at the individual sites
- Seek and obtain support throughout the organisation, right up to senior management
- Appoint a wellbeing coordinator (a dedicated role)