By Tom Bosna – Managing Director
It all started with a big leadership question: How am I supporting the wellbeing of our people?
What led to this question was more interesting.
As a small business owner, a thick skin is required to deal with the magnitude of stress that is part of the deal when operating a growing business.
In 2015, our business Pinnacle Health Group doubled in staff, locations and launched interstate. The rhythm of business at this point in time can be best described as manic.
The cyclical nature of running on one cylinder, in start up mode for a number of years was starting to take its toll on my physical and mental health. Like most men, the way I would deal with it was to internalise the stress and put the head down and keep going.
It was clearly time for a breather and with my young family we booked in a one week holiday to Perth for some sun, relaxation and family time. With so much activity going on in the workplace, I really struggled to switch off mentally. When I stopped on holiday my body shut down and I was suffering from physical symptoms of exhaustion and burnout.
On this holiday, I spent an embarrassing four out of six days in and out of bed unwell with health issues relating to stress. The guilt of my family time being disrupted by work was real.
I realised at that point that I was really burning out and that I’d neglected my own health over the last two years.
I thought to myself, if I am feeling like this way, how do our people feel?
More confronting for me was the question I asked myself. What am I specifically doing to support the wellbeing of our people?
A few months later as we geared up for another year at Pinnacle Health Group, this leadership question led to our employee wellbeing program Pinnacle Life being revamped and re-positioned for our people.
Lead by our People and Operations Leader Emma Dwan, we took a methodical approach to influencing a positive change for our people.
We started by interviewing our people and collecting data. One of the most eye opening statistics was that 41% have felt stressed or overwhelmed at work in the previous 3 months. This statistic really bothered me.
So what is wellness leave?
Wellness leave is proactively encouraging our employees to take one day off per quarter to doing an activity that supports their wellbeing. We envisaged our team having a sleep in, reflecting, doing an exercise class, reading a book or socialising with friends. We trusted that our people choose there own adventure and would love the idea!
When I think about the reasons we introduced the leave, it can be best summarised in the following three categories.
By sharing my personal story internally and hosting company wide meetings – we were able to introduce and encourage prevention. My personal story opened up dialogue internally about self care and mental health. This policy change really gave preventative personal wellbeing a structure.
The F word
Life is about enjoyment and sometimes we get lost in the busyness trap until that one dedicated holiday a year.
By encouraging extra time away from work, we are really encouraging our team members to do something fun for themselves.
One of our team members said “Wellbeing leave was my favourite day of the year so far! It is so nice to have a day off when the rest of the world is working. I went to a morning gym class, met my bestie for coffee to celebrate her bday. We talked for hours! The best part was being able to spend a lifetime in the shower and over lunch with no pressure to rush or be anywhere. In the early afternoon I took a drive down the Penninsula and went to a superb winery to finish off the day in style. This day was amazing, giving me the opportunity to relax, refresh and really unwind”
Another team member said “For my wellbeing leave I was able to get a light gym session done in the morning. Caught up on some admin and did some reading which is usually rare but seems more consistent since that day. The day also gave me time to think and reflect and I spoke to my uprise coach at the end of the day.The introduction of these days i’m sure has been welcomed company wide”
Our core purpose at Pinnacle Health Group is to inspire health changes in people and the workplace. For health professionals sometimes we are listening and consulting over 60 people a week.
We love what we do 100%, but sometimes the sheer volume of clients can lead to empathy fatigue and burnout.
By creating wellness leave, we have created some time for our people to do something fun, inspiring and remembering their why. In short, to inspire others, it is important to be inspired.
In 12 months, we have successfully had 73% of our team members take wellness leave. Absenteeism figures have dropped by a whopping 51% compared to the prior year.
I’d highly encourage your workplace to review HR policies relating to employee wellbeing.
Ask yourself, can this be innovated to support your people?
Before you do that open up the dialogue with your people and assess and measure changes over a long range period.
Wellness leave has become part of our culture at Pinnacle Health Group and this is only one initiative of our integrated wellness program Pinnacle Life.
If you are interested in learning more about Pinnacle Life please get in touch with our HR team.