Empowering Employee Wellness Through Non-Traditional Methods

With labour and skills shortages hitting many West Australian businesses, retaining top talent has never been more important. With projects moving from construction to operations, new projects receiving funding, limited migration over the past two years and the strong WA economy, a Resources Sector Workforce Report (RSWR) predicts the resource sector’s skills shortage to peak in 2023.

With this in mind, one of Australia’s leading producers of sustainable distributed energy, Pacific Energy, engaged Magnetic People to develop a strategy and subsequent initiatives that facilitate and support a healthy, happy workforce. Pacific Energy is a well-known and established employer in the WA industry, with low staff turnover and a strong workforce culture. However, they could feel the shift in the labour market and wanted to be steps ahead for the continued success of their team.

Focus on what means the most to your people

People are looking for more ways to be intrinsically connected to their work. While there are clear trends relating to flexible work and prioritising employee wellbeing, each organisation has unique circumstances that require careful consideration to ensure value-adding activities have lasting impact.

Rather than making assumptions, the Magnetic team facilitated an anonymous survey with all Pacific Energy employees. The survey asked for their direct feedback on:

  • What benefits would mean the most to them,
  • What benefits would have the biggest impact, and
  • What flexibility they value the most.

“It’s nice to see employer taking the time to create surveys and ask about things like this. Making employees aware of the choices available and having a say is great for morale.”

– Anonymous respondent

With a participation rate of over 75%, the feedback was invaluable in assessing discretionary benefits and the overall work environment. The survey data was analysed and subsequent group discussion sessions were held to identify key focus areas for strategy development.  The resulting focus areas were:

  • Recognition of and reward for performance,
  • Workplace flexibility, and
  • Fostering an engaged, healthy, and happy team.

But what does an engaged, healthy and happy team mean specifically to Pacific Energy’s people? As discussing emotive topics in an open forum can be daunting, we sought more feedback via a second anonymous survey asking targeted questions on mental health. The survey uncovered that the majority of the workforce was seeking more education and awareness on mental health related topics, and leaders wanted more development on fostering a safe and supportive work environment.

Acting on employee feedback

Pacific Energy’s Health and Wellness Strategy was developed with employee feedback in mind, centred around five pillars:

  1. Leadership understanding and support,
  2. Mental Health First Aid,
  3. Community engagement,
  4. Mental health awareness and education, and
  5. Workplace happiness.

An all-encompassing strategy, it was important to leaders that key areas of concern were addressed, consideration was given to recurring themes and action was taken quickly. As such, new initiatives were trialled and implemented, including Mental Health First Aid training, additional quarterly leave days, more flexibility in relation to personal leave, alternative leave arrangements for FIFO workers and discretionary bonus structures.

When considering mental health awareness and education, we explored innovative ways for employees to access mental health education and how best to elevate health and wellness in Pacific Energy’s workplace culture. The solution needed to be visible, improve overall happiness and resilience, be easily accessible to all, and have a preventative focus while supporting those struggling in the present.

Introducing the Wellness Station initiative

Wellness Stations are vibrant vending machines filled with mental health activities, resources and healthy consumables to improve general mental health and happiness. They increase the availability of wellbeing tools in the workplace, while reducing the stigma attached to mental health.

Magnetic People launched six Wellness Stations across Pacific Energy sites in early 2022. Each launch was fun, interactive and inspirational, featuring mental health advocate guest speakers from the HappinessCo and an overview of how to use the machines to help manage stress and anxiety. Following the rollout, each employee has a monthly budget to spend on machine consumables, as well as access to free resources that can be vended at any time. The FIFO team was not forgotten, with FIFO workers gifted care packages with access to the machine’s resources and a selection of the products available.

The Stations have been a huge hit. Employees are regularly vending healthy consumables and downloading the mental and physical health support programs available. The machines themselves look great within the workshops and continue to create a healthy dialogue amongst workmates in relation to mental health and wellness, contributing to the team’s overall happiness.

“The wellbeing of our staff is a priority and focus for us at Pacific Energy. As an innovative and progressive group, we want to find new ways to continuously support our employees on a day-to-day basis. Acting on employee feedback and working with Magnetic People to create a Health and Wellness strategy is just one of the ways in which we are committed to the wellbeing of our team and in creating a positive and engaging workplace environment.”

– Jamie Cullen, CEO, Pacific Energy Group

The innovative use of the Wellness Stations has shifted the focus from traditional support methods, which still play a vital role in employee wellbeing programs, to empowering people with the tools and resources to build resilience, connect with their peers, and prioritise their own health and wellness.