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World Mental Health Day: Roche and Edwards Lifesciences boost the conversation

Health Industry Hub | October 6, 2021 |
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Human resources: In the lead up to World Mental Health Day on Sunday 10 October, Mental Health Australia is asking all Australians to make a promise to look after their mental health.

The COVID-19 pandemic continues to have a major impact on people’s mental health. Approximately one in five Australians experienced an increase in depression levels during the pandemic, according to Australian scientists. Yet there is cause for optimism. Governments and workplaces around the world have recognised the significant need to scale up quality mental health support and services in enhancing community wellbeing.

Roche Pharmaceuticals and Edwards Lifesciences shared with Health Industry Hub the importance of championing mental health and wellbeing in their respective organisations.

As the dedicated resource for employee wellness, Nicola MacKay welcomes her newly created role as Wellbeing Partner at Roche Pharmaceuticals.

“When we moved to the COVID environment, mental health and wellbeing became even more critical as an area of focus. It is almost like it accelerated exponentially and has become the pinnacle of focus in ensuring the most healthy and engaged workforce.

“Having the dedicated resource allows Roche to have a dynamic wellness program and delve deeper into the more subtle areas of wellness by incorporating the neuroscience of how people actually work during the day. An example could be the impact of digital wellbeing and how we apply deep work in our working week. The other benefit of having a dedicated resource is working with the leadership team on role modelling and promoting personal responsibility around wellness so that collectively we are cultivating a culture of wellness,” added Nicola.

Pat Williams, Managing Director of Edwards Lifesciences ANZ and Korea, said “Over the past 18 months since the global pandemic hit our shores, like so many, we had to pivot to protect our employees and culture due to lockdown. We had to innovate ways to enhance our roles with an even greater focus on our patients.

“Our HR team was on the frontline ensuring our employees had the necessary support, whether it be encouraging those who needed access to the EAP program or calling employee individually to check in on them and their family. HR ensured our employees knew they were supported. The team strongly encouraged employees to disconnect and to take annual leave reminding staff that we expected them to maintain and have regular breaks throughout their work day,” he added.

There have been some challenges in coordinating an internal approach to mental health and wellbeing and several key learnings in the last 18 months.

Nicola commented “We already had a blended work environment so we were set up quite nicely to meet the remote working needs during COVID. However, working remotely in prolonged lockdown is a very different ballgame. Wellness is very individual and very personal so the challenge is how to reach and support a diverse group of people in the organisation and how to make wellness as inclusive as possible.

“To assist in the process, our wellness network includes our mental health wardens, our leaders for storytelling and other cross functional team members. It is very much a collective approach to wellness.”

Pat added “At Edwards Lifesciences, we instituted a weekly all employee check in call focusing on employee welfare, humanly connecting by dressing up at times in our favourite characters for charity, sharing good news and spotlighting patient stories.

“The ANZ leadership team promoted the internal Heart Recognition Awards program, which provides an internal recognition and financial reward depending on the size of the achievement. During lockdown we have seen a significant increase in employees recognising other employees. HR also organised lockdown packs for both employees and family members at different times during the pandemic, all of which were well received and appreciated.”

Roche has been providing employees with a vast array of local and global mental health and wellness resources. “When we went into our first lockdown, one of our employees at the time initiated a Wednesday wellness community so it was bringing groups of employees together for a chat and a guided meditation as she is trained in this area,” said Nicola.

Other successful initiatives include guest speakers presenting on mental health and wellness, and Roche leaders sharing personal stories around their approach to wellness which is an incredibly powerful way to build trust and boost the mental health conversation.

Pat reflected on the organisation’s social responsibility during the pandemic. “We are fortunate to work for a company where the Edwards Lifesciences Foundation was able to provide emergency support to charities that we partner with including the Smith Family. At Edwards Lifesciences, we believe that through our actions we will become trusted partners with customers, colleagues, and patients – creating a community unified in its mission to improve the quality of life around the world.”

In recognition of World Mental Health Day, Roche will be hosting a session with R U OK? for all staff. Additionally, Roche leaders will be participating in the Black Dog Institute mental health training, with a further rollout planned for all employees in November.

Importantly, Medicines Australia’s special interest group Pharma Australia Inclusion Group (PAIG) coordinated a Mental Health & Wellbeing survey with its member companies, including Roche, to understand the strengths and progress from 2020 to 2021. Some of the key insights included:

  • Over 75% of member companies confirmed they were embedding or had fully embedded support initiatives and policies. This shows an increase from 2020 where 25% of member companies reported this.  
  • The survey also revealed an upward trend in the implementation of targeted policies, measurement and a more strategic approach to mental health and wellbeing.
  • Most member companies reported feeling they understood the value of their health and wellbeing offerings and felt that their policies and processes are effectively implemented to protect employee wellbeing day-to-day.                                                                                        
  • There was also a notable change in the extent to which senior leaders were undertaking training in mental health and wellbeing challenges.

Some clear opportunities for the industry also emerged including, greater implementation of formal mental health leave policies, understanding the different risks across their workforce and leveraging digital technology more strongly to support mental health and wellbeing.

To share your own tips on how to look after your wellbeing and mental health in the lead up to World Mental Health Day, follow #LookAfterYourMentalHealthAustralia and #WMHD2021 on social media.


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