SUBMISSION OF THE STAGE 1 CRC BID –
ENGAGING WITH OUR KEY STAKEHOLDERS, LISTENING TO THEIR KEY UNMET NEEDS, DESIGNING EFFECTIVE RESEARCH PROGRAMS
Our commitment is to solve major challenges in workplace mental wellbeing. The Stage 1 CRC bid round, which saw the submission of a Well & Productive CRC bid featuring 69 partners, closed on 24th August 2021.
As we recap activities leading up to the submission, it is worth examining the CRC bid team’s consultation process – and how we met with our key industry stakeholders, listening to their unmet needs at every step, in order to design a proposal that is genuinely industry-led and needs-driven.
In preparation for the Stage 1 CRC bid, we organised an industry partner consultation session via Zoom which was attended by slightly over 100 people, including industry partners and business people from across a range of sectors and territories across Australia.
Guest speakers at the virtual consultation session included:
Jane O’Dwyer. CEO, CRC Association [Topic: Value of CRCs]
John Kilgour, CEO, Civil Contractors’ Federation Victoria [Topic: Industry perspective of mental health in the workplace]
John Merritt, Chair, WorkSafe Victoria [Topic: Closing Remarks, where he touched on the importance of committing to good mental health in workplaces]
Professors Jane Burns (Acting CEO) and Shantha Rajaratnam (Research Lead, Monash Node) outlined key aspects of the CRC proposal, and this segment was followed by break-out consultation sessions in which the following questions were put to industry participants:
Q1: What are the key problems in your sector that aren’t being met by currently available workplace wellbeing solutions?
Q2: When things do work, what do you think are the key barriers to implementation at scale and how might these be overcome?
Interestingly, below are the key findings from the moderated breakout room discussions
These findings have been factored into the design of the CRC’s research programs:
Mental health (MH) solutions and tools in the workplace need to switch from being reactive to proactive. MH solutions that are evidence-based on focused on proactively preventing problems is key to improving wellbeing in the workplace. Approaches to wellbeing should go a step further and focus not just on MH prevention, but also making people healthier and stronger while at work.
Identifying and explaining the “why” around addressing MH in the workplace (as it relates to the individual worker and the employer) will encourage all levels of an organisation to by-in to the solution. Having measurable outcomes that are defined by the organisation and visible to both employers (e.g., productivity, costs etc.) and employees (e.g., better sleep etc.) will help ensure ongoing support for MH solutions in the workplace that achieve sustainable improvements.
Leaders play a pivotal role in establishing a healthy work environment. MH solutions and tools directed at leaders in the workplace can drive positive change in MH throughout the workforce.
Improved MH education, knowledge, skills, and awareness is needed throughout organisations at all levels (e.g., senior managers to junior employees) to drive positive MH outcomes. This is critical in building MH capacity in the workplace, which will lead to positive and sustainable changes.
There is a need for solutions that are tailored to different sectors/industries and roles, but also scalable, and flexible enough to address culturally and linguistically diverse workforces.
Important to consider MH solutions which consider individual responses to work stressors and provide personalised recommendations/interventions. This approach may enhance employee engagement.
Trust between employees and organisations is an important factor that can influence uptake of MH solutions in the workplace (e.g., data privacy related to digital/tech interventions).
Improved monitoring and measurement of MH and wellbeing issues in the workplace is needed, especially considering the recent impact of the COVID-19 on MH in the workplace. Measurement must focus on what is causing the problem (e.g., work stressors, poor lighting etc.), as well as identifying individuals/groups that are at high risk so preventative approaches can be targeted and implemented effectively. A better understanding of the MH risks in the workplace will also help in identifying and/or designing solutions that best fit the problem.
These key findings from the industry consultation session were used by the CRC’s research leads to develop the research programs and project concepts – responding directly to identified industry needs. This has ensured that our research programs are geared to be more focused, targeted and respond to the demand for workplace mental wellbeing solutions.
This industry consultation session was subsequently followed by an industry virtual briefing in July 2021, also via Zoom. It was great to note the enthusiasm and support for the proposed areas of research activity in the CRC.