Making wellness a priority at MBIE

PSA members and delegates try a collaborative approach to find new solutions to an age-old problem in the public service.

Workplace wellness is a really difficult topic to tackle. It can seem a bit vague, a bit too complex, a bit outside of our control.

But the design team at the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE) decided it was an issue they were ready to address, by running a Rapid Innovation Challenge.

Rapid Innovation Challenges bring together people from across an organisation, with different skills and perspectives, for eight full days over six weeks to research an issue, develop solutions, and put them to the test.

MBIE staff participate in the  innovation challenge

MBIE staff participate in the innovation challenge

The question they wanted to answer was simple: how do we improve staff wellness at MBIE?

“The Rapid Innovation Challenge was a great way to approach this sort of issue, because it gave staff members the opportunity to feed into high-level solutions. It wasn’t simply an initiative led from the top,” says Dr Stacey Broom, a proud PSA member and policy analyst at MBIE, who was part of the challenge team.

“The process was incredibly creative and collaborative. It can be quite jarring to move so swiftly from one aspect to the next, but by working together the group was able to very quickly research, define the problem and come up with solutions.”

MBIE also invited a PSA organiser to take part in the design process, and PSA national secretary Glenn Barclay and assistant secretary Basil Prestidge were members of the governance team which gave the final sign-off on the project’s recommendations.

“It was really positive that MBIE’s design team saw value in getting the union involved at every stage of the process,” says Glenn Barclay. “It allowed them to draw on our collective knowledge about what’s been tried and tested – successfully or otherwise – in other workplaces.

“The relationship between the union and the Ministry plays a critical role in the wellbeing of our members. We have a lot of insight into what impacts on people’s health, safety and wellness at work.”

Over 170 ideas were generated by the challenge team, which were then narrowed down to three recommendations:

  • A “wellness hub” on the MBIE intranet which will give all staff a central place to get information about leave, health, and the support they can expect from their employer;
  • A “people of MBIE” series of short videos, so staff all over the Ministry can feel more connected to what people in other teams and parts of the world do;
  • Peer supervision – similar to what happens in social work and probation services – to help people in difficult roles like visa processing manage stress and get guidance from their peers.

“My hope is that the solutions we developed will help to normalise conversations about wellness at MBIE,” says Stacey. She’s particularly excited about the intranet wellness “hub”.

“It’s important that wellness resources are easy for staff to find and engage with, because promoting and encouraging the wellness of MBIE’s employees will not only be fantastic for staff themselves, but also for MBIE as an organisation.”