No Worries, a programme managed by Peerzone, is getting down to business in Whanganui.
The programme aims to reduce discrimination against people who experience mental distress in medium-to-large businesses across New Zealand, by helping employers and colleagues feel more confident hiring, and positively responding to, people with these experiences.
Last year, the No Worries team began working with Mars Petcare, an arm of the 80,000-strong Mars conglomerate, who hold offices in 78 countries around the world.
Mars bought the Tenderkist factory site in Castlecliff, Whanganui in 1993, expanded it over the years and now employs 174 people. It has an annual staff turnover of just 4% and an average tenure of 13 years – great statistics backed by its strong focus on staff wellbeing and a pet-friendly workplace.
In 2017, Mars New Zealand was named the best medium-large workplace in New Zealand in IBM’s Best Workplaces Survey.
The first step to Mars Petcare and No Worries’ relationship was to meet in person.
Suzy Stevens from Peerzone met Rose the Personnel Officer and Kirsty the Health and Wellbeing Coordinator to find out how No Worries could complement Mars Petcare’s existing mental health offerings.
The timing was excellent – Mars Petcare had just launched a programme called Be Well Mind, which aimed to raise awareness of mental health and provide information, resources and tools to associates and line managers. They were in the right frame of mind to consider how they could boost their workplace's activities around social inclusion.
Mars Petcare was also organizing an annual Staff Expo and invited the No Worries team to set up a Be Well stall to provide mental health resources and activities for staff and their families on the day.
On the day
The Staff Expo was a day of family fun. The Mars Petcare associates brought their families and friends, and closed their factory for the day so all staff could join in. Many other organisations also attended the Expo, with staff from the Police, Fire, mental health, internet safety and road safety industries also in attendance.
The day was packed with activities and speakers – the Police demonstrated their dog-handling skills and the Fire Brigade even had their hoses going!
No Worries joined in by running a stall where people could stop and discuss their mental health and wellbeing, and take away handouts around Mental Health Awareness Week.
Introducing the elephant in the room
After the Expo last year, Mars Petcare invited No Worries to present to their management team.
The presentation provided opportunities for lots of questions from the audience and information sharing. A hot presentation topic was on the reality of living with mental distress – and how these experiences can impact on the workplace and wellbeing of those who might be experiencing something similar.
During the presentation a great question was raised: what are the legal requirements around responding to people who experience mental distress in the workplace? This was an opportunity to discuss the discrimination around these experiences, and how we can reduce these attitudes to improve our workplace wellbeing.
A second question was also asked around medical diagnoses. No Worries assured line managers that they didn’t need to know the specific diagnoses or medical conditions their employees or colleagues experienced. Instead, the solution was to be more open to talking about experiences of mental distress with them, and finding out what their colleagues or employees needed from them or their workplace to do their best work.
Looking to the future
After the presentation to their management team, Mars Petcare shared positive thoughts with the No Worries team:
“A huge thank you for coming up and presenting to our management team!! You are great!!! We all thought it was informative, useful and well delivered (not too teachy went down well :)).
We are looking forward to the next stage in our journey towards understanding mental distress.”
Mars Petcare agreed to undertake more education work for their associates and shared the following message with the No Worries team:
No Worries will run this education work in alignment with the different shifts at Mars Petcare’s factory, and offer a space for all staff to openly discuss mental health. Personal experiences of mental distress by No Worries’ educators and what has worked for them in the workplace will also be shared to inspire discussion and debate.
No Worries will look to co-design future workplace activities and events with Mars Petcare towards 2020.
To find out more about No Worries, join its Facebook page or contact Suzy Stevens by emailing: firstname.lastname@example.org.