Mental wellbeing and physical activity: connection and communication

Wednesday 29 April, 2020




Health areas

Mental wellbeing and physical activity


Tips and activities

In light of the coronavirus pandemic, VicHealth has introduced several activities to support staff wellbeing, provide regular updates to staff on changes and encourage staff to connect virtually. These activities include:

  • ‘Town Hall’ all staff meetings: In the first weeks of staff working from home, the CEO and executive team hosted weekly all staff video conference meetings via Microsoft Teams. This meant staff were aware of any changes to the way the organisation was operating and adapting in light of the coronavirus restrictions, and could ask any other questions on their mind. Now that people are becoming more used to working from home and no new restrictions have been introduced for some weeks, the meetings are moving to fortnightly instead of weekly.
  • Online wellbeing webinars: These webinars have been organised for staff with a psychologist. The purpose of these sessions is to boost staff resilience and help them navigate this unpredictable time in a positive way. These wellbeing sessions will:
    • Help staff manage change and build resilience
    • Provide guidance on living and working remotely
    • Provide an opportunity to share what is working well and what is not working well for them right now
    • Provide the latest strategies and coping techniques.
  • Guidance for managing health and wellbeing: VicHealth’s People and Culture team created a set of guidelines for staff about how to work productively at home. With useful links and online tools, it offers a 'one-stop-shop' for staff and their families during this challenging time. It includes links to sites with accurate health information and sites to help staff stay physically active as well as information on how employees are being supported. It includes expertise of the Mentally Healthy Workplace Alliance member bodies and VicHealth resources, such as our SuperFit Mates Peer Mentor Program.
  • Support services: As always, VicHealth staff and their families can access our help and support services which include the Superfit Mates Mentor Program as well as our Employee Assistance Program (EAP):
    • SuperFit Mates is a peer mentoring program that provides informal support for staff who may be experiencing mental health difficulties. A SuperFit Mate is a colleague that staff can go to if they need to chat, debrief or talk through personal or work-related issues. They are trained to assist staff in moving through difficult times to get to a better place. 
    • Our EAP is a confidential counselling service which also has a number of online support materials available. EAP is available for all staff and their families and is paid for by VicHealth.
  • Team video sessions: VicHealth executives and managers are taking part in video calls once a week via Microsoft Teams so staff can discuss the week ahead and ensure engagement across their portfolio.
  • Premier’s Active April staff competition: Staff were encouraged to sign up  to be part of Premier’s Active April and were divided into two teams. The teams log their physical activity (in line with physical distancing measures) via the Premier’s Active April website and encourage their teammates to be active. It’s given staff an opportunity to be active on their own and together online via Microsoft Teams, helping keep staff in touch with each other and preserving the sense of being in a team. It’s also given staff a light-hearted topic to talk about outside of their work duties. VicHealth’s staff wellbeing committee also organised several activities that staff could participate in including online yoga, Bollywood and home exercise classes.
  • Random Acts of Coffee: Participating staff are randomly paired up each fortnight to have a virtual coffee catch up. This is a great way for staff to interact with people outside of their immediate team.
  • New “Afternoon Tea” staff podcast: A member of VicHealth’s communications team is interviewing a different staff member each week for an “Afternoon Tea” podcast episode. The interviews cover topics such as how staff are going at home, what they’re doing to maintain positive mental wellbeing, as well as sharing stories about their interests and hobbies.
  • Staff staying engaged virtually: Throughout the week different teams and staff members within VicHealth are checking in with each other via various tools including video calls on Microsoft Teams, posting on the workplace social media platform Yammer and messaging via WhatsApp – as well as ‘old-fashioned’ phone calls! Staff are using these platforms to share non-work-related activities, such as how they’re being active, what they’re cooking or how they’re taking care of their own and their family’s wellbeing at home.

    Prior to the coronavirus pandemic, employees would bring their dogs to work on a Friday for Dog Fridays. Staff have been able to keep that going by posting photos to Yammer of their dogs (and other animal friends) working with them at home. Using these online tools is helping increase social connection, which is missing with staff working remotely right now.