Sarah’s Wellbeing Program – One Year On

One of Sarah’s four overarching values relates to People; the way we look after our clients and our contractors, and importantly, how we look after each other. While the pressures placed on the industry due to the COVID-19 pandemic have started to ease somewhat, we understand that the cost-of-living crisis and the general busyness of life can impact the well-being of our staff and their families.

Twelve months ago, Sarah officially launched its Wellbeing Program, based on Six Dimensions of Wellness. Led by the Human Resources team, the program has delivered a series of initiatives and everyone is encouraged to step-back, put tools down, and participate in initiatives during workhours.

The Wellbeing Program is now an integral part of Sarah’s on-boarding process for new staff, and we consider it an important component of attracting people to work with us. This blog looks at the initiatives delivered across the business over the past twelve months, which have all contributed to making Sarah a great place to work!

It’s Okay to not be Okay

We understand that emotional unwellness is not as easy to spot as physical unwellness and believe that we have a responsibility to provide emotional well-being systems to our staff. The following initiatives recognise that everyone manages their emotional wellness differently:

  • Support Personnel – 12 volunteers are now trained as Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (or DEI) Champions, located both on project sites and in head office. Champions are equipped with educational materials and external support information, including Sarah’s Employee Assistance Provider, which can be accessed confidentially and free of charge for all personnel and their families.
  • Wellbeing Leave – Sarah offers each staff member three days of wellbeing leave each year, in addition to annual leave. This is not common in the fast-paced construction industry, and our leaders actively encourage their teams to take this time to reconnect with their families, get on top of jobs at home, or just have a rest! Last financial year more than 140 staff accessed this unique initiative.

“Connecting with people is something I enjoy about my role and being a support person presents an opportunity to meet people across the business and ensure everyone feels comfortable, supported and safe in their roles.”
– Terry Kildea, Senior Project Manager 

Planning for Financial Wellness

With the current pressures of interest rate increases and inflation, we know that financial wellbeing and balancing priorities can be a struggle, and the following initiatives helped our staff to manage their financial wellness and meet some of the costs of staying well:

  • Wellbeing Reimbursement – Sarah offers all personnel an annual $200 reimbursement towards wellness expenses which could include gym membership, new sneakers, remedial massage, meditation apps, sporting memberships or even fishing equipment! This unique initiative was taken up more than 70 staff who are now enjoying a healthier lifestyle.
  • Financial Education Sessions – Sarah partnered with Westpac to develop and deliver a series of information sessions on topics including budgeting, investing for the first time, first-home ownership, refinancing, and scam awareness, and legal professionals provided information about retirement, estate planning, economic updates and forecasting, with free personalised advice available.

“Attending a financial planning session helped me to understand our financial capabilities and set some realistic goals. I would highly recommend these information sessions especially to younger employees who are keen to establish their own financial pathway or simply have a catch up and get valuable advice.”
– Vanessa Lamarre, Construction Coordinator

Family Time is Important

Working hard to deliver projects on time can mean longer hours spent away from families and loved ones, and it was important to Sarah to find a way for our personnel to reconnect at home. Family wellness initiatives include:

  • Paid Parental Leave – We offer 16 weeks (at full pay) paid parental leave for primary carers, and one week for the secondary caregiver, in addition to the 20 weeks paid government leave program – providing a total of up to 9 months leave within this first important year! This commitment is quite unique in the industry, and one of the initiatives we are most proud of offering.
  • Time for Salary Arrangements – In lieu of an annual remuneration increase, our staff may request to receive additional annual leave provisions, to spend more time with family or on other interests which fill up their cup! Again, this is a unique initiative, and one that many of our personnel have shown an interest in.

“It was comforting to know that the business supported my journey into motherhood, allowing me to fully embrace the new adventure without stressing about finances.”
– Sarah Robinson, QHSE Advisor

Time to Get Moving!

When Sarah launched the Wellbeing Program all personnel were gifted a Garmin smart sports watch, which monitors and encourages physical activity by counting steps, monitoring heart rates, and recording distances run, walked or ridden.

  • Sarah Strava Club – More than 80 personnel signed up to the online Sarah Strava Club, posting achievements, recording personal bests, and competing in global challenges and with the help of their Garmin watch! While progress could also be logged privately, it was great to see most personnel sharing and liking their colleague’s fitness journeys.
  • Friendly Competition! – As well as improving physical wellbeing, this initiative has provided a sense of community as our staff have competed and encouraged each other to keep moving! Challenges were carefully designed to be inclusive, with monthly prizes keeping the momentum going. Since the launch of the Wellbeing Program we are thrilled that the number of challenge participants has doubled and remained steady.

Giving Back and Feeling Good

Sarah is always proactively seeking ways to build communities and support South Australians. We have a range of initiatives that make time for our personnel to feel proud about supporting others:

  • Paid Volunteer Leave – All personnel are encouraged to take a total of one paid volunteer leave day each year, to engage in volunteer work or community service. They may choose to spend time within their own communities or participate in organised initiatives with their workmates. Last year more than 65% of our personnel used their additional leave to give back to others through organisations including Foodbank, the Hutt Street Centre, Backpacks 4 Kids, John Hartley School, and Red Gum Gully Bushcare.
  • Fundraising Initiatives – Through the Sarah Foundation, we support charities that are important to our staff and often match the personal fundraising efforts of our teams. This year, along with Sarah’s contribution, a dedicated ‘Movember’ team raised more than $2800 to support prostate cancer research.

“It’s important to support volunteer-based organisations so they can continue to provide much needed community services. I enjoyed the invitation to volunteer at Foodbank and look forward to future involvement.”
– Steve Sturm, Group Executive IT, Sarah Group Holdings

Building a Career to be Proud Of

It’s important to Sarah that all staff are offered regular opportunities to increase their career wellness, seek promotions, and learn new skills:

  • Continued Professional Development – Last year Sarah delivered 34 professional development workshops with 65% of personnel taking part in one or more sessions. Topics included negotiating, industrial relations, cultural awareness, Microsoft applications, and safe working.
  • Career Development Programs – Sarah offers a large suite of career development programs and continue to focus on expanding and tailoring opportunities to suit all individuals and roles.

As we reflect on the past year, we have been overwhelmed at the level of participation in the Wellbeing Program and have used feedback to make initiatives more inclusive and even easier to participate in. The Human Resources team are working hard on a range of initiatives to kick start 2024, ensuring that our teams stay well, and that Sarah remains an industry employer of choice.

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