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Framing up wellbeing at The Warehouse

With its mantra of helping its team members to be 'the best they can', The Warehouse takes workplace wellbeing seriously.

In early 2014 TWL created a new position of Wellbeing Support Manager, with Phillipa Bennetts given the job to explore how to integrate wellbeing into the stores’ way of working. She started with a 12-month pilot in four The Warehouse stores: Whangarei, Manukau, Gisborne and Whakatane.

The Warehouse stores around the country can now opt into the wellbeing programme, with the potential to promote a healthier way of life to up to 9000 people.

“By making it voluntary we want to create a culture of them wanting to do it rather than having to participate.” says Phillipa. “People are often being told by health professionals to change their current choices. We want to approach wellbeing with a positive tone, a fun approach that focuses on the benefits of having good wellbeing both at work and at home. That way people can see the wins in it for them and their families.”

Workplace wellbeing framework

Phillipa has created a framework to guide stores wanting to focus on creating workplace wellbeing by running their own programme. (Phillipa's framework is available for download below.)

“When I started developing the pilot I resisted the idea of having a set framework. I wanted it to be a creative process, allowing people in the stores to develop what they wanted, how they wanted.

"But as the programme evolved I saw the value in providing the team with a structured way to get them to the activities they wanted to focus on. That’s what the framework is for – it keeps each group grounded and focused and helps them back on track if they go off on a tangent,” she says.

“Having a framework provides a sense of credibility for us, too, when we approach outside health and wellbeing organisations to invite them to work collaboratively with us."

Phillipa started developing her framework by doing a literary review. She wanted to see what was out there that could be adapted to fit The Warehouse. “I liked the World Health Organisation’s framework, so I took that and adapted it to suit.

“The WHO process already underpinned work being done by Toi Te Ora’s WorkWell and Auckland Regional Public Health. These two organisations were valuable mentors for me as I found what fitted the language and culture of our own organisation.”

Her next step was to take the Mental Health Foundation’s '5 Ways to Wellbeing' and align it with this framework to ensure even more benefits.

The Warehouse Wellbeing Programme Framework’s eight steps

Like the WHO’s, Phillipa’s process has eight steps, each with sections for Action (what needs to be done), Responsibility (who’s going to do it) and Review (to note what was done and how it can be improved).

  1. Mobilise: Engage and ensure the support of both managers and store staff. Phillipa says it’s vital to have the programme 100% supported by top management then led by store staff. “Otherwise it can become another thing the managers have to do, part of their KPIs, rather than something they want to do and part of the whole store plan.
  2. Assemble: Establish a wellbeing champion (“someone with mana and a great rapport with staff”, says Phillipa) to drive the programme, along with a team that has passion and skills. “It’s important to play to everyone’s strengths so they’re sharing their talents. This helps keep the programme focused on learning – for example, rather than something being about ‘healthy eating’, it’s ‘learning about food’.” Also, use this step to establish the programme’s terms of reference in that store. Communicate to all staff that a wellbeing programme is beginning.
  3. Assess: Led by champions and the wellbeing team, the teams in the stores consult to decide what areas of wellbeing they would like to focus on (nutrition, physical activity, smokefree, emotional wellbeing, social connection, safe drinking and drug free). “What they focus on is totally up to them,” says Phillipa. “And all stores choose differently.”
  4. Prioritise: The wellbeing team decides what it's going to do first. “When you start you can have 101 ideas and it’s very easy to get bogged down. Having a framework helps avoid this,” she says. Phillipa then helps them connect with local providers and organisations, for example, such as ASH and Diabetes NZ. “The really exciting thing for me is the opportunity to connect the team, their families and the community."
  5. Plan: Where a local workplace wellbeing provider is available, develop a strategic plan for the year and opportunities for the next two to three years. Where there’s no local provider, Phillipa helps to facilitate this process.
  6. Do: Name the programme (each participating The Warehouse store has chosen its own name for its wellbeing programme) and launch it, perhaps aligning actions with national campaigns, creating events to raise awareness and invite participation.
  7. Evaluate: Quarterly reports from participating stores help to assess their programme’s progress and any measurable effects (reduced absenteeism and presenteeism, increased team energy, drive and focus). “Writing their progress down as part of the framework helps the groups know exactly what they’ve done and how they’ve done it. This can then be tabled at CEO-level meetings to support further programme development,” says Phillipa.
  8. Improve: Survey team for feedback and document future options. What’s next?!


Evaluating success

Phillipa is adamant there’s no such thing as failure when it comes to workplace wellbeing programmes.

“I’ve learned never to assume anything. Sometimes you think something will work really well in a store because of a set of factors but it might not turn out that way. That doesn’t mean it failed, but rather maybe the timing wasn’t right, it wasn’t the right topic, or the right people weren’t involved. Sometimes you just need to stop for a while and revisit it later.”

From the initial four stores involved in the pilot, Phillipa now has 18 The Warehouse stores signed up.

“The take-out message from The Warehouse’s experience is that with senior management support and a team of willing team members led by a passionate champion, wellbeing can grow to enhance a positive workplace culture,” Phillipa says.

Other ways The Warehouse supports workplace wellbeing

The Warehouse also supports the wellbeing of their teams by:

  • distributing posters and other printed resources to all stores via the company post bags to coincide with national health promotion campaigns, such as Men’s Health Week, Stoptober
  • ensuring there’s a team member in store who will display these resources – Phillipa first sends out a 'whole-of-stores' communication to let them know to look out for the resources in the post bag
  • using the company intranet to share health promotion information
  • celebrating activities on The Warehouse Facebook page.

For more information about how The Warehouse approaches workplace wellbeing, or to find out more about the framework, please contact Phillipa Bennetts, phone: +6494898900 ext 96156 or email Phillipa.

Hear The Warehouse’s General Manager Environment and Community Paul Walsh talk about the organisation’s commitment to wellbeing

"By making it voluntary we want to create a culture of them wanting to do it rather than having to participate ... We want to approach wellbeing with a positive tone, a fun approach that focuses on the benefits of having good wellbeing both at work and at home. That way people can see the wins in it for them and their families.”

Phillipa Bennetts, The Warehouse
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