How agencies are improving staff wellbeing

Mariam Cheik-Hussein
By Mariam Cheik-Hussein | 30 April 2019
Margie Reid

This is part four of a four-part series which appeared in the AdNews April 2019 magazine and is part of a new feature AdNews introduced last year called Spotlight. Support AdNews by subscribing here. See here for part three.

Mental health has been a hot topic for some time now and while there is still more work to be done, there’s been real changes across the industry. We caught up with some adland companies to see what policies they’ve implemented to take care of their workforce. 

The Monkeys head of HR Haanim Montgomery
All Monkeys have access to a wellness information portal and free counselling. We launched a mental wellness app, which proactively builds tools to combat anxiety and stress. Exercise has a positive effect on mental wellbeing so our exercise roster includes subsidised yoga and group training to help kickstart endorphins and serotonin. Staff also get a paid day off to volunteer.

Initiative Australia national director of people and culture Scott Laird
Our wellbeing program looks to normalise the conversation and remove stigma around mental health, provide a nurturing environment that supports wellbeing and ensure our people can navigate further support. The agency sponsored more than 10% of staff to receive mental health first-aid training and accreditation, helping us achieve a rare Gold Certification as a mental health skilled workplace, from Mental Health First Aid Australia.

M&C Saatchi general manager Nat Brady
We partnered with the Black Dog Institute to run training workshops for managers; launched a BestSelf portal to all staff, with the intention of demystifying mental health issues and providing tools and strategies to support staff; introduced a Reach Out program, giving confidential access to counselling; formalised our approach to flexibility within the business and next is a training series for all on building resilience to cope with the stress.

Mindshare group strategy director Caitlin Lloyd
Flexible working agreements are tailored to individuals, but examples include reduced working hours allowing staff to pursue passion projects as well as for those with caring responsibilities. We also accommodate adjusted start/end times to avoid peak commuting hours/school pick up or a working day with commuting hours built in as this is a simple step that can remove some of the friction points of the day for our people.

Thinkerbell managing partner Margie Reid
We strive to create a workplace where people grow and challenge themselves. We’ve looked at programs to improve our emotional intelligence, we’ve worked with psychologists, and we’ve created a walking club. However, these initiatives, individually sound somewhat trite in the world of mental health. Ultimately, we aim to create an overall environment and culture that allows people to be the best versions of themselves.

Margie Reid

Margie Reid

Nova Entertainment head of people experience Alana Howe
We recently announced a change to our personal leave policy which grants automatic approval of two mental wellbeing days each year. Our philosophy is to encourage people to proactively manage their health and not wait until they are ‘unwell’. This year we are launching a comprehensive mental wellbeing awareness and training program.

Salesforce VP of employee success Edweena Stratton
We actively foster an atmosphere of psychological safety where everyone feels trusted, respected and empowered to take risks and speak up without fear of repercussions. Our Wellness Reimbursement Program provides AU employees $450 each quarter to look after their health, ‘Camp Pono’ provides practical resources for putting wellbeing into action, mindfulness zones, 56 hours of volunteer time off and a generous donation matching policy.

J.Walter Thompson head of talent Melanie Gillam
We have an Employee Assistance Program which offers anonymous, free counselling sessions. We also offer workshops in the area of wellbeing, mediation, positive mindset and managing through change. We also implemented a grass-roots program called The Culture Club. Run by staff, it ensures a diversity and wellbeing filter is applied to all activity such as celebrating Chinese New Year and Mardi Gras, through to panel discussions on mental health.

PHD marketing director Chloe Hooper
We have our meditation room and our ‘be smart, look after yourself’ program which sees PHDers enjoy perks such as yoga and personal goal-setting workshops. Managers have training, and HR director Manon Pietra and I are part of an industry taskforce focusing on changing the way mental wellbeing is viewed and addressed. We also support and champion the ‘Heart On My Sleeve’ movement.

Chloe Hooper

Chloe Hooper

Spark Foundry CEO Sue Squillace
Social initiatives we’ve implemented include closing the office on World Mental Health Day to give our people the day off to focus on their own mental health, a yoga ‘Zen Den’, bootcamps, half-day Fridays each month, Red Cross Blood Drives, volunteering to FareShare, and flexible hours opportunities. We support not-for-profits such as batyr, RUOK and UnLtd, run regular wellbeing sessions with organisations such as The Gidget Foundation - raising awareness of this issue with new mums.

Spark Foundry Sue Squillace

Sue Squillace

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