Wellness programme's working well among South Canterbury employers
South Canterbury businesses are increasingly taking a more "holistic" approach to the mental health and wellness of their workforce.
Companies from across the industry spectrum have opened up about the projects and initiatives they have put in place to enhance the mental health of their employees, as New Zealand marks Mental Health Awareness Week.
Sanford Timaru site manager Grant Day said the company had introduced strategies around wellness arising from ideas from staff, and thanks to programmes run by the South Canterbury District Health Board.
"People are more engaged with what is going on around the site and community ... 20 staff were involved with local schools in the KiwiCan programme, planting 3000 plants on the Caroline Bay sand dunes."
Day said Sanford was also part of the national Workwell programme, a public health initiative which aimed to increase staff productivity by improving the wellbeing of workers.
The Timaru site had gained silver accreditation in achieving some of the scheme's goals, he said.
"Mental wellbeing was identified, through a survey of site employees, as one of the priority areas for us to focus on."
Through the Steptember promotion, 26 staff members from the site endeavoured to do more than 10,000 steps per day, raising nearly $2000 for charity in the process, he said.
"It is about advising and giving people strategies to deal with issues and that can be both at work or out of work."
Fonterra human resources director, global operations, Rachael Regan-Patterson said health and safety, in all its senses, was something the company took "very seriously".
"Mental health is fundamental to physical health and wellbeing, and we put a lot of focus into creating an environment that supports our people with the resources to be resilient and cope with daily stresses."
Regan-Patterson said Fonterra recently launched an award-winning mental wellbeing programme called a A Good Yarn.
"We invested in building the capability in our nursing staff to facilitate the workshops, which have now reached about 2000 staff."
Fonterra had used tools to assist employees who had experienced mental trauma at Clandeboye, including timely support from trained psychologists who were better equipped to deal with traumatic experiences.
South Canterbury Chamber of Commerce chief executive Wendy Smith said employers were now recognising the need to look after an employee "holistically rather than just managing work performance".
"Employers do appear to have a better understanding of this, and the benefits that flow both to the individuals and to the businesses with enhanced performance, and commitment to the workplace."
Employers providing more flexible working conditions, health care programmes and health insurance, ensuring staff took breaks and met with their team leaders both formally and informally, were examples of a more holistic approach, Smith said.
Aoraki Development chief executive Nigel Davenport applauded the fact that businesses were giving "more prominence" to mental health in recent years.
"The biggest asset by far of any business is their staff, whose mental health and wellbeing should be given absolute top priority without question."
Davenport said wellbeing initiatives covered the work life balance, staff activities and encouraging fun within the work place.
"We are hearing of many businesses improving the access for their staff to the appropriate channels either within their business and to external specialists.
"It is hugely important all staff have visibility and ready access to the support they may need."