Lessons from lockdown: how GHD has evolved its employee wellbeing programme

Written by
Sarah Helsdon, EMEA People Leader, GHD

18 Jan 2021

18 Jan 2021 • by Sarah Helsdon, EMEA People Leader, GHD

GHD has utilised innovative measures to bolster their employee wellbeing scheme, namely "Ollie" the chatbot, writes Sarah Helsdon EMEA People Leader. 

The Covid-19 pandemic has turned the way we work upside down, with many businesses, GHD included, shifting to a remote working model. This has brought its own challenges, with companies needing to ensure that employees have the right systems and equipment in place at home to carry out their jobs effectively. However, at GHD, we don’t believe that our responsibility as an employer stops there, and much of our People team’s focus in 2020 has been on working to better safeguard the physical and mental health of our 10,000-strong global workforce.

The concept of wellbeing is extremely important to GHD and was the topic of various forums for more than 12 months prior to the pandemic. Covid-19 served as a catalyst for us to crystallise these discussions and introduce innovative solutions to provide employees with the tools and techniques needed to manage their mental health and wellbeing during an unusual and stressful time.

Chatting about Covid-19

We worked with Melbourne-based insights company The Evolved Group to train GHD’s engagement chatbot “Ollie” to understand the impact that Covid was having on employees. While chatting with our colleagues each month about their experience, Ollie has learned to understand Covid-related answers, seek further information and report back to GHD’s executive team on how well the company is managing the impact of Covid-19, as well as highlight the key opportunities to improve GHD’s response.

For example, Ollie recognised early on in the pandemic that workload and work-life balance were key themes impacting many employees. GHD responded by asking teams at all levels to hold conversations about how the company could better support employee needs in these areas, which helped the business to improve our global operating approach on flexible working, while also informing the design and development of our wellbeing programme.

Wellbeing programme targeting employee equilibrium

Safety is one of our core values, but we wanted to apply a much more humanistic lens to this in the face of the pandemic. Central to this was the notion of equilibrium, as we wanted to help our people build and manage their energy reserves so that they could tackle the personal and workplace challenges associated with Covid. We repeatedly referenced the analogy of fitting our own oxygen mask first before assisting others; in this case, educating ourselves and nurturing our personal wellbeing to ensure we’re ready to assist others in achieving equilibrium.

Other key components included the rollout of a 12-week education programme, establishing a wellbeing champions' network, introducing wellbeing moments at the start of meetings, and sharing simple weekly activities as a framework for leaders to work through with their teams. All the core content for the programme was housed in a new, interactive wellbeing portal on our employee intranet, [which has been extremely popular.]

Looking to the future

We are really pleased with the results we have been seeing so far. What’s evident already is an increase in healthy dialogue amongst our people and a much more open and respectful attitude towards individual wellbeing. We’re seeing colleagues sharing wellbeing tips, and a broader curiosity about what the future of work looks like - a future where wellbeing is given greater consideration.

We have come a long way in a short period of time, but there is still much more we can do. We have been given a unique opportunity to re-assess the way our people work and we are committed to further embedding wellbeing as a core part of the way we do business.

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