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BLOG: Employee wellbeing during crises and collective hardship
I had the privilege of attending a Committee for Economic Development of Australia (CEDA) roundtable event last week with fellow CEO CEDA members to discuss key issues and outcomes following the Federal Jobs and Skills Summit, and it got me thinking about just how much of an uphill battle the last few years have been for all of us. In the wake of uncertainty and isolation, it seemed we were suddenly unified by this unexpected universal hardship.
The disruptions of the pandemic, now combined with the cost-of-living crisis, have taken their toll on us all in one way or another. It has been during this time, as CEO of a business employing more than 16,000 people, that I have felt the true weight of these collective hardships as well as their unique impacts on individuals.
It is clear that people are hurting. Some of us have lost loved ones, and some of us have lost homes – first to the bushfires, then to the floods and now, with the increased cost of living, some are losing their homes all over again. While there has also been much joy for many, for some the pressures have been relentless.
Since borders have opened, I have relished the opportunity to travel to as many contracts as possible to thank my teams personally for their resilience and commitment during this especially trying time. I’ll continue to do this because I recognise we could not do what we do at Serco Asia Pacific without our people. Our dedicated, hard-working, and diverse teams are our biggest asset and greatest strength. It is because of them – because of you – that we continue to deliver excellence every day and make a positive difference for the customers we serve and the communities we operate in.
I am blown away by our teams across Australia, New Zealand and Hong Kong as they continue to show immense resilience in the face of new challenges, but with such extended periods of stress, we must ensure we are looking after ourselves and each other. The importance of mental health and wellbeing has never been greater and, as leaders, we have a responsibility and duty to the health and safety of our teams.
So, I am proud to say that since the beginning of the pandemic, Serco Asia Pacific has launched a range of initiatives to ensure our greatest asset – our people – are heard, supported, and have access to appropriate support services and tools. Some of these include:
- Providing mental health training for all people leaders to ensure they are equipped with the tools to promote and support the wellbeing of their teams as well as their own. This is in addition to our usual Employee Assistance Program (EAP).
- Partnering with an external organisation, Otivo, to provide free and confidential financial support services for our people – an extremely important piece of the wellbeing puzzle, as doing it tough financially often means doing it tough mentally.
- Enhancing our parental leave entitlements to provide 8 weeks of paid leave regardless of the parent’s gender or caregiving responsibilities. This will increase to 10 weeks in 2023 and 12 weeks in 2024.
- Gifting all non-executive employees a one-off $250 Thank You payment or Prezzee voucher, further supplementing existing cost-savings benefits through our benefits provider, Flare.
The Thank You payments and vouchers were provided to show our appreciation for the tremendous efforts of our people and, hopefully help relieve some of the pressure due to the increased cost of living. I have enjoyed hearing some of the stories from our people about how it helped them. Family was a recurring theme – whether it was petrol to visit an unwell family member, or groceries for a Father’s Day meal – the stories really highlighted the importance of connection with family and friends, especially when times are tough.
New research by Beyond Blue and the Australian Securities and Investments Commission (ASIC), shows just how closely connected financial health and mental health are. The Money and Mental Health Social Research Report found people experiencing financial challenges are at least twice as likely to encounter mental health issues than those who aren’t – which is a significant finding and an important statistic for us all to work on as businesses and leaders. There truly has never been a more important time to understand the links between financial hardship and impacts to mental health and wellbeing, given the steep rise in the cost of living in Australia and beyond. It’s also a timely reminder that there is always support available, whether it is reaching out to our loved ones or contacting an organisation like Beyond Blue, there is never any shame in asking for help. In fact, admitting you need help is one of the most courageous things you can do.
I am so proud of the work being done every day in our contracts and teams, and I know that without the commitment and contribution of our people we would not be where we are today. So, Team Serco, you have my gratitude, respect and most importantly, my support – today and every day.
Read The Money and Mental Health Social Research Report here.