Online workplace wellbeing tool Good4Work has been a "catalyst for change" at Age Concern in Hamilton. The wellbeing measures that it put in place earlier this year also meant that the organisation was well-prepared to work flexibly during the COVID-19 lockdown.
Age Concern Hamilton is on the frontline of helping the over-65s in the Waikato. As a not-for-profit charity, its employees and volunteers are motivated by the desire to improve the lives of others. But for this to happen, says its executive officer Brent Nielsen, it's crucial to have "a good wellbeing culture" in the workplace.
"We're not able to be the top payer in our industry so we need to make this the best place for wellbeing. We need to make this place the best it can be."
In August 2019, Brent wanted to find out how his organisation was faring in terms of workplace culture, its leadership and people. His aim was to move Age Concern Hamilton away from traditional health and safety thinking to a wellness mindset.
A Google search for "workplace culture and wellbeing" led Brent to Good4Work, the free online tool that helps businesses get to grips with workplace wellbeing.
Workplace leaders can use Good4Work's simple step-by-step process to assess workplace wellbeing. Your people can also rate their organisation via an anonymous quiz. The final steps involve working with your team to decide where to take action, and creating a to-do list to implement your workplace wellbeing goals.
Brent says the Good4Work tool was "absolutely brilliant" for his organisation's needs. "It has proved ideal for us to gather views on where we are at, and the areas we most need to concentrate on."
Because the staff quiz is totally confidential, it was easier to get staff buy-in. It also meant that the responses were "totally honest – which is exactly what you want".
The quiz results showed that, overall, staff rated the organisation's wellbeing better than Brent himself did. But when Age Concern Hamilton was compared to other similar organisations in the not for profit sector, "there was a bit of work to do". For instance, staff rated leadership at 71% and the industry average is 100%.
This didn't faze Brent. "When we are doing things well it's nice to know about it, but when we can improve, then we must know about it."
Good4Work made that clear in a "non-threatening, anonymous way", he says. "Leadership is about what I do. I'm not threatened by that as I genuinely want this to be the best workplace that we all participate in."
Together, he and his team started working through the results. They focused on the survey's biggest takeaway finding: that engagement – "the way we lead and the way we connect" – was the main area of need. Age Concern Hamilton used other resources as well to receive feedback and this reinforced the initial Good4Work results.
The quiz highlighted the work that needed doing. Putting it in place was a priority for the start of 2020, says Brent.
Age Concern's paid staff (currently 13 people) were set up into three teams, headed by team leaders. "We work on different floors here, so it just makes much more sense that we’ve got smaller, close-knit teams."
It's still important for everyone to come together. Age Concern has started running events such as team walks and team lunches, and birthdays are now celebrated.
They also introduced wellness as a recurring topic for discussion at regular staff meetings – held three times a month, to keep it at the forefront of people's minds. "It’s part of our vocabulary. We take notice of every suggestion that's made and implement them wherever we can. Our philosophy is 'say yes if you possibly can'."
The Good4Work results also led to the introduction of flexible working arrangements and increased paid sick leave, from the statutory minimum five days per year to a "much more appropriate" 10 days. This was "well-received" yet it has not led to a rush on sick days, says Brent.
The COVID-19 Level 4 lockdown meant some of Age Concern Hamilton's plans to improve its workplace wellbeing have had to go on hold. It is yet to repeat the survey and some aspects, such as healthy eating, have been set aside for now.
But the changes that came out of Good4work did mean that Age Concern Hamilton was well-prepared for the way staff needed to work in lockdown, in particular with flexibile working.
"We had started on that journey and the COVID-19 lockdowns required us to do even more. Since then we've sustained flexible working arrangements, and we now offer a mix of flexible working arrangements."
The next steps for Age Concern Hamilton's wellbeing journey is to repeat the survey, and to see what can be applied to its large and diverse volunteer workforce of around 250. The last 18 months has seen a lot of work put into engaging with volunteers to show they are valued, but with mixed results.
Free life-coaching sessions, for example, have been offered among volunteer staff, and lately paid staff too, says Brent. "We want to improve attendance, for more people to benefit from these excellent sessions delivered by talented experts. It could be time or day, or perhaps we need to promote it more. We are currently canvassing the volunteers to find out more about what they actually want.”
In doing the survey, Brent discovered that being a wellbeing leader is where he'd like to head professionally. He would also like Age Concern Hamilton to be seen as a leader among the 34 Age Concern agencies nationwide. "That's where we would like to be, so wellbeing is really important to us."
His advice for others is to: "Go to the Good4Work website and engage in the survey. The survey is easy, it's accessible, it's on point and I can't sing the praises high enough as a tool for getting us underway with adding wellness into our regular vocabulary and actions."