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On Monday, August 3 Lifeline received 3,345 calls from Australians across the country struggling with the impact of COVID-19 and rolling lockdowns.

It was the highest daily number in the organisation's history. A bellwether for the state of the nation’s mental health, the number of those calling in asking for help is an incredibly worrying statistic. At Randstad, we also see the toll that it’s taking on employees and temporary workers. Our team of HR and recruitment leaders have come together to tackle the issue head-on with a series of programs that aim to foster better mental health at work. 

During this time, it is right that organisations take a lead in supporting their workers through an understandably stressful time. Here are three initiatives we’ve run that I hope others might take ideas from. If you’ve seen success with other initiatives in your workplace, I would love to hear about them too. 

Started by our HR Director, Felicity Empson, Be Kind To Your Mind is a cohesive workplace health & wellness program that aims to support our people by covering the five key pillars of mental wellbeing; connect, rest, nourish, move and security. 

Over the last year, all our people have been given the opportunity to be involved in various activities that inspire them to care for themselves. All of the activities are voluntary, so our people can participate as much or as little as they like. The team has put on exercise components like September, run clubs, and yoga sessions that allow people to take a break, but also with the knowledge that moving your body can help your mind too. They’ve also put in 30-minute strategic stops in the day so that people can accept the diary invite and schedule a time to step away from their desks. That might sound a bit heavy-handed, but we’ve found that when working from home our staff actually find it harder to take a break, without the usual catching up and friendly chatter with mates that happens in the office or worksite.

Be Kind To Your Mind 

For our temporary workforce, it can be an incredibly stressful time with rolling lockdowns leaving their usual schedule of work in tatters. Randstad Recruitment Consultants are there to offer daily support in looking for new opportunities or transitioning them into different sectors. Keeping up to date with what’s happening is key, so we regularly communicate with them on the latest news and offer them access to wellbeing resources including an employee assistance program that they can call for free and anonymously when they most need help.

“Our EAP is a critical part of our overall wellbeing strategy. While our BKTYM program is designed to help and proactively promote good mental health, we recognise that our people also need counselling support at times. We actively promote our EAP and encourage early access which we hope leads to better outcomes for our people.”

Fostering a positive culture whether our staff are in the office or working from home is a must for us. For many of our consultants, helping people and companies is part of the job that gives them purpose and meaning. Our internal communication platforms are filled with such stories.

From a grateful candidate sending chocolates to a consultant for supporting them through the job hunting process; countless stories of celebration internally for promotions, volunteer work, kindness and success; to a client sending feedback, delighted with a consultant finding them the best talent through exceptional service. These are our meaningful moments and they shape who we are at Randstad, so we celebrate and reward these via our Meaningful Moments or MeMo program. 

The program is supported by a native app that allows our people to give feedback to each other by rewarding and recognising meaningful moments. The gamification within the app has prize tiers aimed at motivating our people to create more meaningful moments. Once a month in each location our people come together either virtually or physically to discuss and celebrate the meaningful moments of the month. I believe that by giving our people the power to share wins and reward each other we’ve created a workplace that has a culture of positivity and comradery - two things key to building good mental health. 

There are many ways in which organisations can work to improve the mental health and resilience of their people. We are still learning, but one that I see as a key priority for our business and to the businesses of our clients. Issues relating to poor mental health cost our economy $220 million according to a recent Productivity Commission report. To help others we recently launched our Talent Transformation Team who focus on mental health best practice at work. Led by Adrianna Loveday, this team is a passionate group of mental health experts and workplace psychologists who help develop and implement strategies to create a safe and healthy workplace.

In her work, Adrianna has observed workplace mental health challenges exacerbated during the COVID-19 pandemic, and the conversation has never been more relevant or necessary.  She has also seen a sector shift towards early intervention and creating mentally healthy workplaces. Among them, the most progressive and ambitious organisations are leading the way in terms of rigorously measuring psychological safety, and thus creating meaningful and systemic transformation.