Corporate Wellbeing Asia 2023
How Lendlease's leadership leads by example by putting mental health and wellbeing first
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How Lendlease's leadership leads by example by putting mental health and wellbeing first

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Driving mental wellbeing isn't just HR's responsibility at Lendlease. The entire leadership team drives it, for instance, by getting certified as mental health first aiders. Vicki Ng, Head of People & Culture, Asia, Lendlease (pictured above), shares more on this and:

  • How employees themselves get certified in mental health first aid.
  • Shaping the way employees interact through upskilling in EI and empathetic listening.
  • How she as a leader starts with prioritising her own mental health and wellbeing each day.

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Q Tell us about Lendlease’s workplace wellbeing policies. What are some interesting programmes in place to ensure the safety and health of employees?

Looking after the physical and mental health of our employees is a significant part of Lendlease’s culture. Putting our people’s wellbeing first has been deeply ingrained into our four-pillared Health and Wellbeing Framework, which entails supporting healthier minds, developing healthier bodies, building healthier places, and creating healthier cultures.

As a result of the ongoing pandemic, the last 18 months or so have taken a toll on everyone - both physically and mentally. It has never been more important to remind our employees that they are not alone. As an employer, it is our responsibility to not only ensure the physical, but also the mental wellbeing of our employees. We want to show them that we are here for them through their ups and downs and believe in helping them reach their potential.

One such example of putting our employees first is through the introduction of our industry-leading “wellbeing leave”, first rolled out in 2015.

Offered to all employees one day every four months to attend to their health and wellbeing-related needs, wellbeing leave provides employees the opportunity to take the time out to focus on their wellbeing rather than use sick leave or annual leave.

We are also proud to share that we are one of the first in the industry to provide mental wellness coverage for employees and their dependents in Singapore and Malaysia.

In addition, we collaborate with various organisations like the Workplace Safety & Health (WSH) Council, Befrienders Malaysia, Changi General Hospital (TRACS), Mental Health First Aid, and R U OK? to deliver effective mental health programmes to our employees. We also strongly encourage all to participate in initiatives like World Mental Health Day to gain a better appreciation of why mental health is important to leading happy, fulfilling lives in and out of work.

To help our employees and managers recognise stressors and address them, we stepped up the series of talks and Masterclasses in collaboration with WSH Council, covering topics like Self-Care@Work, Stress Management, and Low Battery Alert, which are very relevant at this point in time.

Our collaboration with providers like Headspace, Sleepfit and Uprise helps us empower employees to take care of their wellbeing. We provide all employees with subscriptions to these app-based programmes where they can use it at their own time, personalised to their needs.

While some programmes take a top-down approach, we have lateral support programmes where more than 1,150 of our employees globally received training in mental health first aid, with over 800 trained under the Friend in Need (FiN) programme. Getting our employees to pick up mental health first aid skills allows them to care not only for themselves and colleagues, but also be a pillar of support for their family and friends. The FiN programme goes a long way in helping us embed the culture of care at Lendlease.

Q Did you face any challenges in implementation? How did you overcome them?

With any new initiative, there are bound to be certain challenges. In the planning stage and in communicating initiatives, we take into account perspectives of all our stakeholders. This puts into context and ensures relevance of our initiatives. The widespread impact of the pandemic has led to a growing number of conversations in the media about the importance of mental wellbeing. This has made it easier for Lendlease to broach these topics with stakeholders.

When developing our wellbeing programmes for employees, we took the time to understand what our employees were going through and holistically sought out the best methods to improve their wellbeing, be it with their deliverables or by providing an environment for our employees to thrive.

It is important to caveat that employee wellbeing needs are fluid, and as such, we as an organisation need to actively listen and adapt our programmes to meet these needs.

To do that, we intentionally create opportunities for employees to voice their needs and we talk openly about wellbeing at our employee town halls and leadership meetings.

Getting our own leadership team certified as mental health first aiders also enable our leaders to be more sensitive towards the mental wellness of the team and to look out for signs when someone needs help.

This helped us give employees the assurance that we are serious about their wellbeing.

Q What has the employee response been like, and overall, how have these initiatives boosted both employee engagement and productivity?

Since the launch of the wellbeing programmes and initiatives, reception has been encouraging. We see strong attendance at events and subscriptions to programmes across the Asia workforce, employees and leaders alike. Our leaders’ attendance and sharing of their own wellbeing challenges helped employees realise that they are not alone in their challenges with working from home or home-based learning with their kids.

What struck me the most was feedback from an employee who said, "It's very inspiring and motivating to know that we are not alone when we are working from home". This gives us the comfort that we are hitting the right notes in caring for our employees.

From 2020, Lendlease supported employees impacted by COVID with the Lendlease Hardship & Wellbeing Fund, which has since disbursed around A$1m. In 2021, we utilised the Fund to recognise our frontline and customer facing workers who went to great lengths to support our customers and clients during the pandemic. Through this Fund, we supported over 400 employees and families in Asia.

Our longstanding commitment to ensuring employee health and wellbeing has been recognised within our industry. Since 2017, we were certified as a Global Healthy Workplace, a certification that remains valid till 2022.

The social return of investment (SROI) analysis conducted on our Health & Wellbeing Framework in 2017 showed a positive and healthy ratio, demonstrating that our programmes improved our employee’s health and wellbeing, engagement and retention rates. We are in the midst of our 2021 SROI exercise and are confident that we have progressed since 2017.

Q The workplace is where the majority of adults spend most of their time, thus a positive company culture is vital in ensuring productivity and job satisfaction. How is this being promoted at Lendlease? 

Lendlease is a place where we believe in equipping our employees with the environment and skillsets that are needed to make a difference. Our diversity & inclusion (D&I) initiatives and learning & development programmes aim to ensure that everyone gains a sense of belonging and can thrive in the future of work.

Our D&I strategy focuses on creating an inclusive workplace. As shared by Justin Gabbani, CEO Asia of Lendlease at a recent employee forum, “What excites me when I come to work is not just working on exciting projects but being part of the family where all our voices are valued. That allows us to bring our best selves to the workplace”.

As such, from hiring through to career development and progression, we ensure that talented people can join our business and fairly access opportunities. An example is where we strive for 50% female representation in our leadership pipeline, with efforts to reduce unconscious bias and develop female talent. We also recently launched the Connect4 initiative, a peer-to-peer networking programme to connect women in our Asia business.

Flexible working is the way in the future of work. Recognising the unique needs and work nature of our employees in offices and on sites, we focus our flexible working principles on how, when and where we work to deliver in the most effective way. These arrangements are made between the employee and manager to not only meet personal needs, but also team and business needs. We see that having regular connections whether for work or for serendipitous conversations, especially face-to-face ones, is important for collaboration and wellbeing purposes.

This year, we implemented an upskilling programme for Asia colleagues, called LLevel UP, to equip them with capabilities to not only deliver outcomes but to shape the way we interact with one another.

Amongst the programmes delivered are Masterclasses on emotional intelligence and empathetic listening, which are focused on getting our people mindful of their behaviour and the impact they have on each other’s wellbeing.

For our managers and leaders, we focus them on creating a conducive team culture through Masterclasses like Building Trust, Managing Remote Teams, and Radical Candor. We find these skillsets becoming critically important as market trends informed that the workforce is increasingly feeling disconnected in view of the prolonged safety measures due to the pandemic.

Just-in-time resources and sessions such as the 'hiring manager toolkit', situational leadership, and QuickBytes session are also aimed at helping managers recruit, engage and lead teams the Lendlease way.

Q On a whole, how do you see your employee wellbeing initiatives evolving in the next three to five years, and why? Any initiatives in the pipeline?

We expect that as the pandemic continues, people’s needs and challenges will shift (as it did since the pandemic began). This means that we must be ready to pivot and evolve our wellbeing initiatives as needed.

To allow us to do that, we started to shift how we support mental health and wellbeing at Lendlease. We recently refreshed our Global Minimum Requirements (GMRs), or risk framework, to update the environment, health, and safety guidelines and incorporate a specific focus on the mental health and wellbeing of our people. These GMRs guide the way we operate and interact across Lendlease, allowing us to consistently deliver our quality and level of care.

We also extended and expanded conversations with employees, especially at employee town halls and during their 1:1s with managers to discuss wellbeing needs. We want to show our colleagues that our doors are always open to them, and we invite anyone facing difficulties in coping with stressors to step forward.

Q One challenge many organisations face is a lack of communication between leaders and their employees. Employees hesitate to share their personal challenges with their managers. Why is this so, and what steps can companies take to bridge communication between both parties, to nurture a healthy work environment for all?

Trust and psychological safety are fundamentals to a healthy relationship, which allows a freer flow of conversations within the organisation. We recognise that this is what will allow Lendlease to continually outperform and we have taken active steps to strengthen this organisational climate.

To guide how our people interact with one another, we recently took steps to shape the regular conversations between managers and employees. Most tend to talk about work tasks and performance at such meetings. We are encouraging managers to connect on a more personal level and discuss wellbeing and flexibility needs. This is a critical step to bridging any communication gaps.

Listening tours by senior leaders and the Asia Senior Leaders Conference also allow us to keenly listen to our people and for leaders to communicate the way forward.

We also refreshed our employee town halls, spotlighting the experience of our people and our culture of care. Our senior leaders also became our mental wellness ambassadors, telling their personal stories on wellbeing and challenges, making it more real and relatable. We hope that through these, it becomes more acceptable to talk about mental wellness and encourages employees to seek help and support when needed.

Through strong connections, sense of belonging and continual care of our employee’s wellbeing, we can achieve a healthy work environment for all. We strongly believe in this and took a step forward to reach out to the community, for example by conducting webinars with our tenants at Paya Lebar Quarter to discuss experiences and tips to support flexible working and wellbeing.

Q Personally, how are you prioritising your own mental health and wellbeing?

The nature of my job requires me to engage with people a lot and it is important to have my “me time” to wind down. As busy as one gets, it is critical to find one’s own rhythm so that it’s sustainable, and to schedule in down time. Each down time enables us to recharge and continue our journey. I do this intentionally and ask of the same from my team.

As to what I do, I make it a point to get out of my house (or office) to cycle or run, breathe some fresh air, and tune out. I also find it therapeutic to cook and channel my creativity there, something I’ve done a lot more since the pandemic started.

I do enjoy reading – the last 15 mins before bedtime is sacred, where I will do some light reading to relax and forget the stresses of the day.

While you're here..This year, the focus of HRO's National Counselling & Psychotherapy Conference (NCPC), is on promoting the overall mental health and emotional wellbeing of our community as we navigate these uncertain times. Topics include 'the biology of good relationships', 'willpower: self-control, decision fatigue, and energy depletion, and more. Find out more here or write to Cyrus Ching for more details.

Photo / Provided

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