In the weeks leading up to last Christmas, 200 IBM employees in Australia were asked to trial an app called Smiling Mind, which leads users through short, guided meditation journeys. Smiling Mind is a not-for-profit company that has a publicly available app developed by psychologists for children and teenagers. It was when two IBM employees saw the benefits that their own children were gaining by using the free mindfulness app at school that they suggested a corporate version could work for their colleagues. Anna Phillips, organisational culture and change leader for IBM Australia and New Zealand, says the company had been looking for a way to offer mindfulness training on a larger scale to help employees cope with an “increasingly frenetic” world. The 200 employees were asked to use the guided meditation sessions, which had been adapted to suit a corporate audience, three to five times a week for five minutes at a time. Phillips says some employees reported being able to sleep better and being able to maintain focus at work. Others felt less overwhelmed by big issues or stressful situations, and were able to better transition between different tasks throughout the day. “The feedback from employees has been very positive. They were very impressed by the application and it’s relevance to a corporate environment,” says Phillips.
Wyndham Vacation Resorts Asia-Pacific
Social media is a horse that has already bolted so rather than battle it, one company is harnessing the power of sites such as Facebook, Twitter and Instagram to boost employee wellbeing, and in turn improve the business. Wyndham Vacation Resorts Asia-Pacific (WVRAP) has hired surf champ and company ambassador Layne Beachley to lead sessions on personal branding, where employees learn how to boost their own social media profiles. “One thing we believe very strongly in is the importance of authenticity and allowing people to be who they really are – and that’s all about their personal brand,” says Bruce Harkness, WVRAP’s vice-president of human resources. “When you’ve got that alignment between what it is that you’re good at and who you are, that is typically where you see a high level of performance from an employee.” Beachley was chosen as the program ambassador because although she was very successful in her sport, she has had to work harder than her male counterparts to boost her own personal brand. “We’ve had a national rollout and the uptake has been huge. Our employees are telling us how refreshing it is to see that the business understands that who they are as individuals is an important part of how they grow professionally.”
One in three Australians leave the workforce before they intend to due to a factors related to wellbeing. It could be their own health problems or issues affecting those close to them. The startling figure is a wakeup call and also an opportunity for companies to help workers prepare for – and potentially stave off – future problems, says Ross Miller, the general manager of human resources, Australian financial services at Westpac. “We’re moving away from the typical gym membership and blood pressure check to actually encouraging our employees to understand whole-of-life wellbeing and think about the different stages of life,” says Miller.
When Pizza Hut’s corporate office in Australia got the results of its 2013 Great Place to Work Survey, they were amazed at the results. While the workloads of their employees hadn’t varied markedly during the previous year, the proportion of employees who were satisfied with their work-life balance had soared by 15 points. Appreciation of good work was up by 19 points, and the perception of being paid fairly rose 15 points despite no change to salary structures. Pizza Hut head of HR Nichole Bowles says the main thing that did change in the 12-month period was the introduction of a health and wellbeing program that was warmly received by staff. “We’ve always had a strong culture but it just put a different spin on it,” says Bowles. The program offered health checks, flu shots and discounted gym memberships. It was introduced in 2011 after a restructure by parent company Yum! separated out many of the corporate functions of Pizza Hut from KFC. “We had to recruit 30 per cent of our team and we realised we needed to create a culture specific to the Pizza Hut brand but continue to align with the values that Yum! holds,” says Bowles.