A brief guide to workplace wellbeing

Benefolk’s Wellbeing specialist, explains what workplace wellbeing is, why it matters and some actions that organisations can take to enhance wellbeing.

Research over the last few years confirms that there is a significant wellbeing deficit in the social sector in Australia. As Julia Keady, Founder and CEO of Benefolk, has previously explained, it was that deficit that prompted the creation of Benefolk and the Benefolk Foundation – Australia’s only charity focused on the wellbeing of those who work and volunteer in the social sector.

In this article Benefolk’s wellbeing specialist, Leanne Hart, explains what workplace wellbeing is, why it matters and some actions that organisations can take to enhance wellbeing.

I like to visualise workplace wellbeing as the overarching roof of an organisation’s house, keeping everything and everyone inside safe and protected. But without good supporting pillars and foundations in place, it doesn’t take much for the roof to fall in.

When there’s a good foundation for workplace wellbeing, it can contribute to a state of positive mental health for staff and volunteers. It creates an environment where people feel safe, valued, included, have a sense of belonging and are able to cope with the normal stresses of life, work productively and contribute to their community.

And that’s extremely important in the social sector.
Why does it matter?
Ultimately, the ability of the sector to do what it does is at stake. The implications of a wellbeing deficit include burnout, mental health injury and claims, and hampered service delivery, affecting beneficiaries, communities and ultimately social impact.

Most good leaders want to protect the mental health of their people but sometimes just knowing where to start can feel like a hurdle.

With state-based work health and safety regulations around psychosocial risks and hazards in place, there’s a board-level obligation for organisations to understand their risks and put control measures in place to prevent or minimise harm.


The good news is that you can make a difference by taking even one step towards preventing or minimising harm and helping people to flourish at work.

Where should you start?
In developing The Community Well, a free online hub with more than 100 resources tailored to the wellbeing and resilience of those in the social sector, we identified six pillars of wellbeing and resilience. Here’s a brief run-down of each, together with some quick actions. For more detail, head to The Community Well.

PREVENT - Design and manage work to minimise harm – focus is on policies and practices
Check you have the legally required policies in place to prevent physical and psychological injuries, including Work Health and Safety, Anti-Discrimination & Harassment. Importantly, ensure that people know you have them and what to do if there is an issue.
Conduct a risk assessment of the psychosocial hazards in your workplace. That includes hazards like high job demands, exposure to traumatic events, workplace violence, bullying or sexual harassment.
Consult with your staff and volunteers to understand their experience of any hazards.
Consider whether you can change the design of work to make it safer.

PROMOTE - Protective factors, behaviours, actions – evidenced in governance and Board reporting; leadership practices and support mechanisms.
Set up regular check-ins with team members so you can identify any support needs
Have regular conversations about work expectations, workloads, deadlines and instructions to ensure job demands are understood and manageable.
Address issues such as miscommunication or conflict early
Introduce Wellbeing Governance with your Board so that wellbeing becomes part of every meeting.
Look at the organisational supports you have or could have. This might include things like an Employee Assistance Program, clinical supervision, peer support program or team debriefing.

EDUCATE - Increase mental health literacy and support – i.e. enhance awareness, education and understanding.
Build awareness of the continuum of mental health and illness to reduce stigma in the workplace.
Debrief after a challenging day or interaction.
Ensure staff and volunteers know where and who to ask for support.
Encourage open conversations about mental health so you can direct people to the support they need.
Provide training or resources on what to do if worried about others.

ENHANCE - Personal resilience and wellbeing – Physical, Mental, Relational, Financial
Encourage walking meetings to get fresh air and movement.
Ensure team members take breaks for their own self-care and recovery.
Offer financial wellbeing training.
Guide team members to resources that they can use to set personal wellbeing goals.

CRISIS - Find support for issues or if in crisis
Know how to support or where to direct team members who are struggling - in person, over the phone or online.
Develop a plan for what you would do if someone experienced a mental health crisis at work.

RECOVERY - Support recovery from crisis or trauma
Understand what self-care looks like for team members who are recovering from trauma and how you can support them to remain at work.
Consider a return-to-work process that provides a positive and inclusive experience for people returning to work after a mental health-related absence.

Even taking one step under each pillar can help support workplace wellbeing.

If you are a small organisation with limited resources, start by asking your staff or volunteers what they need right now to make a positive difference to their wellbeing at work. Rather than making assumptions, you can then take steps to address what matters most.

If you need support, start by taking our free Organisational Health Check on The Community Well, which will then point you to which actions you need to prioritise and provide resources for you to get started.

And if you need more help, book in for a chat with our concierge, so we can connect you to the right expert to support you.

Leann Hart
18 April 2024

Contact our team now to find the right specialist for your organisation.

Call 1300 BENEFOLK (1300 236336)

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