At the Australian Network on Disability (AND), we priortise well-being in all that we do. With our offices across New South Wales and Victoria working from home, we have implemented a new way of working to support our staff in bringing their best selves to work.
From 12-2pm daily, we are supporting our employees to embrace and practice a “quiet zone.” We know that working from home can sometimes blur the lines between work life and homelife. We know this means more screen and ultimately, screen fatigue.
Australian Network on Disability is encouraging our employees to take these two hours a day to step away from the screen, focus on well-being, and proactively manage workloads.
During these two hours, our employees are encouraged to do what works best for them. This may be planning out priorities for their workload on pen and paper, exercising, spending time with family, reading or even cooking. Stepping away from the screen allows for additional time for thinking, innovation and well-being.
Half-way through our trial month of the Quiet Zone, our team has found relief and gratitude in those calm hours.
Emma Henningsen, Relationship Manager says
When I logged off at midday that first day – and went for a swim! – It felt like a weight was lifted. It’s so wonderful to have leadership support for our wellbeing.
Rosie Lane, Programs Coordinator has also noticed benefits,
Since the Quiet Zone was implemented, I have gone for lunchtime runs, walks with friends, read in the sun and enjoyed long lunches with my housemates. The opportunity to break up the day has not only meant I am spending less time on a screen, but I am more mindful of how I use my working hours and feeling more productive.
Corene Strauss, CEO
As leaders we are always trying to find a way to bring out the best in our people. The response to the quiet zone was a hit. Everyone has responded positively to the initiative with demonstrable gains in energy and productivity. I could not have imagined that this initiative would have such a significant impact.
Australian Network on Disability has thought out of the box and tried a new way of working with great results. Whilst less hours in front of the computer, output has been maintained and productivity on the hours at the desk increased.
“The most important lesson is that inclusion is a journey.” – Joann Lewis, IAG.
In 2016, Insurance Australia Group (IAG) started on their journey toward disability inclusion and confidence, by first participating in Australian Network on Disability’s High Growth Jobs, Talented Candidates project. The following year, IAG became AND’s 200th member. A silver member of AND, IAG participated in the Access and Inclusion Index for the first time that same year. The results were surprising.
“We were placed 22nd out of 28 participants,” says Joann Lewis, Executive General Manager at IAG, speaking at AND’s National PACE Closing event. While the results were not exactly what the organisation had hoped for, it encouraged a drive and motivation to work towards inclusion.
But while they were driven and motivated, IAG admits that there was a lack of knowledge and awareness around disability inclusion.
“Thankfully AND has been there to guide us through this,” says Joann. One early conversation IAG had with AND around accessibility was at a technology offsite. The organisation tracked what they had done to support inclusion and accessibility and identified areas of opportunity to continue to build that support for inclusion and accessibility.
Our first step when putting together a talk about accessibility was to make sure that our only senior leader in a wheelchair was there. This was important as it meant that we had a person with lived experience in the conversation. However, it was only what we could see at that time. We could see a person in a wheelchair.
What IAG could not see at that time were the diverse range of disability – some visible, some invisible – that could be present throughout their organisation.
Working closely alongside AND, the organisation slowly built up their disability understanding and awareness. IAG now has an accessibility employee network, dedicated solely on raising awareness throughout the organisation.
The organisation also created an “Accessibility Working Group”, which is focused on driving change throughout the organisation for both employees and customers.
Joann sits on the “Accessibility Advisory Board” that focuses on ensuring the strategic framework and senior leadership support exists to make certain that accessibility and inclusion is embedded in every corner of the organisation.
More than that, they have reviewed our major digital platforms and are in the process of implementing changes to make these more accessible for people with physical and neurological disability.
The organisation has also recently released values and behaviours – which highlight their belief in inclusion, their dedication towards removing barriers, their journey towards removing barriers, striving for equity and embracing diversity.
Doing the groundwork over the course of the four years has allowed IAG to make significant progress towards embedding accessibility as part of their business-as-usual.
We are working towards a position where we don’t think of accessibility as an afterthought. We don’t design a new product and think about how we make it accessible after we’ve built it.
Similarly, IAG’s we are uplifting our employment practices to ensure they are accessible and use inclusive language – right from recruitment, onboarding and beyond.
The organisation has now also participated in three rounds of PACE over the past three years. Participating in the program has provided ideas and new opportunities for IAG, but also reassured the organisation that disability awareness and confidence is growing throughout the organisation. Together with the AND Stepping Into program, IAG credits the PACE program as critical to the momentum they have built in relation to both accessibility and disability confidence at IAG.
On IAG’s accessibility journey, we have learnt a lot. The first critical lesson is if in doubt – ask the person. Almost everyone is trying their best – they might not get it right, as they are looking through the only lens they have known, however they are trying. Inclusion is important for all of us. And as a corporate, you need senior leaders to drive the change, it can’t all be driven by the people who are building the groundswell.
The most important lesson we learnt is inclusion is a journey. You can’t do everything at once, but we are starting to drive change step by step.
And though they have come a long way from where they were four years ago, IAG know they are still on their journey.
We will continue to be guided by AND’s advice which has helped us make the great progress to date.
AGL had a mission to be a leader in creating a positive employee experience. While the organisation had achieved notably in the areas of diversity and inclusion, family-friendly work practices and employee experiences, there was an appetite to do more in the space of health and wellbeing. Robert Hart, Health and Wellbeing business partner says
There was not a single catalyst. It was more of an integration of health and wellbeing as a component of ‘how’ we do business’ here.
By incorporating more support for health and wellbeing, the benefits for AGL spoke for themselves. Organisations that focus on health and wellbeing are more likely to retain talent, create a positive employee experience, and provide flexibility and freedom to speak up, creating a psychologically safe workplace.
For AGL, one way health and wellbeing is integrated into the business is through “Thrive”, a comprehensive suite of in-house programs with external partnerships to support employees in three key areas: physical vitality, mental fitness and emotional agility.
As the in-house subject matter expert and dedicated health and wellbeing resource, I work with AGL leaders, our communications team, and a variety of teams at operational sites and corporate locations to engage our employees on all aspects of health and wellbeing, from improving energy levels, to mental health, to preventative measures.
Thrive is a multi-channel approach using blended learning, including resource portals and apps.
Throughout the lockdown, AGL designed focus groups to find out how to best support employee’s mental health.
The consensus was that a more visible and tailored approach was required, so I we embarked on rebranding health and wellbeing and designing a range of workshops for teams, offering much-needed support on a range of mental and physical health initiatives.
In early 2021, the Health and Wellbeing team partnered with their communications and HR teams to curate and deliver an executive-sponsored campaign around prioritising wellbeing, resulting in 18,000 hits on AGL’s internal networking tool Yammer, 1000 attendees at three workshops and virtual ‘appearances’ at six operational sites.
The aim for AGL is to improve employee engagement by providing support for the health and wellbeing of employees and foster a positive culture where the safety and care of employees is always front of mind.
The benefits are numerous. Aside from the positive feedback, employees report they feel safe in raising issues around mental health, diversity and workplace flexibility.
The approach to health and wellbeing is supported by a coordinated program of events that tie in with national/international days on mental health, and awareness sessions on sleep, nutrition, emotional agility, mindfulness and building energy.
For organisations that are at the start of the journey of developing the health and wellbeing programs for their employees, Robert offers his advice.
I am a strong believer in enthusiasm being contagious. Get people excited, energised and engaged. Help them understand ‘what’s in it for them’ to care about their health and wellbeing. Once their attention is captured, you’ll need to sustain it. I would absolutely recommend having an in-house expert with proven track record in an evidence-based approach to health and wellbeing.
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