How to look after your workers

The need for workplaces that put health and wellness first has never been more paramount than during the Covid-19 pandemic. EILEEN HANNAN, Occupational Health Advisor at TELUS International Ireland, shares her insights into how companies can look after their teams
How to look after your workers

Eileen Hannan, Occupational Health Advisor at TELUS International Ireland.

THE restrictions of the past year have been disruptive for everyone. Being isolated from your colleagues while working from home, and losing your normal routine, has posed a serious challenge for workplace health and wellbeing.

As society reopens and a new normal emerges, it has never been more important for companies to foster a positive workplace environment where their team members feel safe and supported.

That’s always our goal at TELUS International Ireland, and we are eager to share what has worked for us so every workplace can become a place where wellness thrives.

The first step to workplace wellbeing is building a good foundation, with a focus on preparation and prevention.

We have five pillars of wellness — nutrition, exercise, mental health, sleep and having fun. To promote those pillars, we started a Wellness Team in 2016 made up of volunteering team members, which has steadily grown over time. Having a team that understands, through first-hand experience, the particular issues that arise with regards to our own workplace wellbeing has been really beneficial as we create initiatives and events to address areas of concern.

Once you have your foundation, ideas need to be put into action. As part of our wellness offering on-site, we have a visiting doctor, an alternative therapist who provides one-to-one sessions, a gardener/horticulturist and a visiting physiotherapist. Throughout the year, we also organise regular events and initiatives to support our team on each of our wellness pillars. Once a quarter, we hold bigger Wellfest events with dedicated activities such as yoga, nutritional talks, mindfulness sessions, and workshops on often-forgotten aspects of wellness like financial health.

The pandemic meant we couldn’t do our normal events over the last year, so we pivoted and took our wellness pillars home with us as we worked remotely.

Over the past year, we have worked to give online access to healthcare services like GPs and occupational health. We took our regular events and quarterly Wellfests online too, and our weekly wellness newsletter has been crucial, offering our team advice around a different pillar of wellness every Tuesday.

Those weekly newsletters have provided a crucial link for our team and allowed us to share relevant and timely information during a difficult period for everyone. Over the past year, some of those newsletters focused on mental health, ergonomics, and financial wellbeing. Keeping the content engaging is key too, and that is why we use a mix of articles, videos, and even quizzes.

Every company needs to mind their team’s mental health, and we have had huge success by introducing a Mental Health First Aid team. I trained in this myself in 2018, and it has given me an opportunity to help colleagues directly and an insight into what can challenge their mental wellbeing so we can support everyone better.

Last year, we brought this service online so our team members can find support, no matter where they are. Coupled with our virtual wellness events, we were able to create a supportive environment for all of our team members, and are really proud our efforts were recognised by mental health charity Pieta House, who awarded both our Dublin and Cork offices with Amber Flags. This initiative recognises the individual efforts of groups to create healthy, inclusive environments that support mental well-being.

Our team also wanted to extend that help outside of our own workplace too, and so selected Aware as one of our charity partners for the next three years.

Sometimes companies need to think outside the box when it comes to wellness too, and that is where our Horticultural Therapist comes in. Our garden and on-site allotments have been hugely valuable to our team, where they can work, learn and grow together. The garden provides a tranquil place where our team can connect with nature, and it is a great place for team-building exercises too.

There’s no doubt that having a CSR strategy in place has a positive impact on the wellbeing of team members. There have even been studies linking giving back to improved health!

To put it simply, when we act for the greater good, we feel good about ourselves, and our self-esteem rises. Having CSR initiatives running company-wide creates a sense of purpose among team members and allows them to feel proud of themselves, as well as the organisation that they work for. Our employee-driven Corporate Social Responsibility committee, also known as the Giving Back Committee, works to the motto of ‘We Give Where We Live’. Aligning our pillars of health and nutrition to our CSR activities, the garden provides the perfect opportunity to give back to our local community, as we donate produce to charities.

When the lockdown began and many employees began working from home, we decided to grow food for Cork Penny Dinners. Using both the indoor raised beds in the geodome and the employees’ outdoor allotment beds, we produced an abundance of fruit and vegetables. We are delighted to be running this again in 2021, providing produce to our neighbours The Rainbow Club, who are based in Mahon Community Centre.

We are acutely aware, through all our activities, that wellness cannot come from the top down. A company’s goal should be to empower their team and let them take the lead, because they are the experts on what they need for themselves. For that reason, we incorporate insights gained from our annual engagement survey to continue to evolve our wellness programme each year.

At TELUS International Ireland, the wellbeing of our team is never an afterthought – it is a crucial element of our success and something we hope other companies will put at the core of their business model too.

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