Supporting Mental Health Awareness Week 2020

Taking place from Monday 21 - Sunday 27 September. Join us as we Reimagine Wellbeing Together!

It’s safe to say 2020 hasn’t been easy. Many of us have experienced knock backs both personally and professionally, but as part of 2020’s Mental Health Awareness Week, it’s time for us to reimagine mental health together!

The University knows how important it is to reach out to each other, and have put together a week worth of events that aim to bring people together and normalise these interactions. Take a look at the events schedule and resources available throughout the week.

We also caught up with some of our friends from Xero, Downer and New Zealand Trade and Enterprise (NZTE) to have a chat about how their companies have approached employee health and wellbeing during a turbulent year, managing job search anxiety and how to pick yourself back up after experiencing a knockback.

Pagen Plazier, People Experience Business Partner at Xero

How does your mahi support employees with their mental health?

At Xero, we have a really strong focus on looking after our people and particularly their mental health.

We have doubled the number of Wellbeing days above the statutory amount given, and rebranded our 'sick leave' to Wellbeing leave, encouraging people to think about their health holistically, making sure they look after their minds as well as their bodies.

Our Employee Assistance Program (EAP) is available for all employees plus their families, and more broadly Xero offer an EAP programme to our small business customers, along with their families and employees.

Have you seen a change in approach to employee health and wellbeing through the impact of COVID-19 at your organisation?

I think Xero already had a very strong focus on mental wellbeing pre-Covid, however with the additional stresses of a global pandemic, extended periods of working from home and social isolation, we've been mindful to keep reminding our Xeros to look after themselves and their mental health.

We have been encouraging people to take the time off that they need to reset and recharge, working with both employees and people leaders to acknowledge that productivity might be impacted by the stress of the current environment.

One thing our CEO announced this week is an additional Wellbeing day for everyone in the organisation.

With everyone having to take this mental health day in a given time period, it means that people are given permission to slow down and actually take the day off. This initiative is being led from the top down - even the CEO himself is taking this mental health day!

How do you keep your mental health and wellbeing in check?

I'm a big believer in doing what you need in that moment to look after yourself! Sometimes for me that means getting out of the house and moving my body, or curling up on the couch for an entire day reading a book and other times taking on more work because, often, being busy helps to pull me out of the mood that I'm in.

The one thing that I absolutely have to do on a regular basis is catch up with my friends and whānau - whether it is in person, on the phone or online. I find that if I miss these catch-ups my mental health really suffers.

What advice would you give to students who are currently worried about what’s next after University, or may have experienced a knockback?

I promise things will be ok! Don't get caught up with landing your dream job, or the one that all your friends and family say is the job you should get - especially straight out of university.

Whatever job you are able to get, even if that is pouring pints or photocopying, it will give you valuable skills and perspective – which you can take forward into your future career. You still have plenty of time to get that dream job, at that dream place - sometimes weird and wonderful opportunities come about that you didn't expect and you don't expect to take you anywhere, and often they can be the best ones.

Annabel Coxon, Diversity and Inclusion Programme Manager at NZTE

How does your mahi/work support employees with their mental health?

Supporting our people’s mental health is critical to us at New Zealand Trade and Enterprise (NZTE). Now more than ever. Covid-19 has touched so many areas of our lives, from day-to-day mental health, to coping at home juggling work and caring for our whānau.

This year we have increased our wrap-around care, offering sessions (run remotely by an external provider) on managing working from home, returning to the office, and resilience through change. Our Employee Assistance Programme (EAP) is another way we support our people. Some have been brave enough to share their EAP experience on our intranet, taking away some of the fear that goes with reaching out, making others feel more comfortable to do so.

In New Zealand, our people are also able to use their sick leave for their mental wellbeing. Working in more than 30 countries, means each has their own unique culture and stage of readiness to talk openly about mental health. It’s ongoing mahi – but the more we talk about it, the more we’ll make it a normal part of work life.

Have you seen a change in approach to employee health and wellbeing through the impact of COVID-19 at your organisation?

At NZTE, like this year’s Mental Health Awareness Week, we use the Te Whare Tapa Whā model of wellbeing. A Māori approach, this considers spiritual, mental and physical health, alongside whānau, as the four cornerstones of wellbeing.

Our leadership team has been authentic in opening up about their own obstacles, and steps they are taking to look after the wellbeing of themselves and those around them. We now have regular (virtual) ‘Cuppa Tea’ sessions, which all of our people can come along to. We ask questions and have a laugh – while we cannot be together physically, this has been a great way to bring our ONE Global Team together.

How do you keep your mental health and wellbeing in check?

My brain is prone to anxiety and depression, so I have a number of tools in my wellbeing kit.

Firstly, I ensure I get a balance of time with whānau and time alone (as an introvert I need this to recharge my batteries). Exercise is a non-negotiable for me; if I don’t get those endorphins my mind is not happy! I also steer my brain away from negativity using exercises I’ve learned in cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT). Finally, I take an antidepressant daily; I thank my lucky stars I live in an era where this medication is available.

It has taken many years for me to find the wellbeing formula that works for me. If I know anything it’s that there are 7 billion different brains out there, and they all work a little differently. What works for me won’t necessarily work for you, so it’s important to find your own formula.

What advice would you give to students who are currently worried about what’s next after University, or may have experienced a knockback?

I graduated in the GFC and had no idea what I wanted to do after university, so I can empathise with students in a similar position.

My career has been a zig-zag, not a straight line, taking me from accountancy, via charity fundraising, to marketing and communications, and now into diversity and wellbeing. So, my first point is not to worry if you don’t know where you want to end up. Start somewhere, and you’ll find out what you enjoy and where your strengths lie. (For me, this was not accountancy).

There’s no denying it can be hard to get repeated rejections. It’s easier said than done, but don’t take it personally. The hard truth is that rejection is likely right now, with so many people applying for each job. All you can do is maximise your chances.

A couple of ways you can do this are to stand out and to have a good support crew, including a sponsor or mentor.

  • Think of creative ways you can leave an impression when you’re the 100th CV the hiring manager has looked at that day.
  • Most people are happy to help others, so if you want to find out more about what a job is like, or are looking for a mentor, reach out to people (in real life or on social media) with a specific request.

Remember that you’re not alone and it’s perfectly normal to feel worried about the unknown, or upset by knock-backs. Don’t be afraid to talk about it and get professional help, especially if negative thoughts and feelings are affecting your day-to-day life.

How is your workplace supporting MHAW?

For Mental Health Awareness Week this year we are promoting all the tools and resources we have available to our people at NZTE.

This includes an at-a-glance guide to help those in crisis themselves, or those supporting others in an emergency. We also have guides for leaders, support through trauma, and a section on wellbeing during the COVID-19 pandemic. Our wellbeing hub also includes information on taking domestic violence leave and using our Employee Assistance Programme (EAP).

We are also sharing advice from our leaders around the world, who have opened up and talked honestly about the challenges they are facing, and how they are dealing with them.

Ryan Jacobs, Programme Manager Talent & Wellbeing at Downer

How does Downer support employees with their mental health?

Downer has rolled out Mental Health First aid training throughout the business, training nearly 200 employees across the business as certified Mental Health First Aider’s. These Mental Health First Aider’s come from all areas of the business serve as conduits of conversation which ultimately have the tools and resources to hand over employees in need to the professionals at EAP.

Have you seen a change in approach to employee health and wellbeing through the impact of Covid-19 at your organisation?

Yes, it has become increasingly important to bring the conversation of mental health into the forefront through these times. If there is a silver lining to any of this – it’s that people are listening and want change to occur in this space, from all levels of the organisation.

How do you keep your mental health and wellbeing in check?

Conversations of Mental Health are the key to monitoring and checking in with the overall health and wellbeing of our employees. Here is a video that I recently did about my personal journey.

What advice would you give to students who are currently worried about what’s next for them after University, or who may have experienced a knock back after being turned down for a role?

This is a time of change for everyone, while there are absolutely uncertainties about what the future of work will look like, this is a time to be resourceful, develop resilience and reshape the future by working smarter, not harder.

How is your workplace supporting MHAW?

  • We’ve turned the whole month into Self Care September – this includes Suicide Prevention Day, R U Okay Day, Maori Language Week, MHAW
  • Running Lunch and Learns around the science of health and breaking down the stigma 
  • Providing resources to all of our employees on various topics of mental health throughout the entire week