Sailing the seas of workplace health, safety and wellbeing

When navigating the waves of wellbeing, SUEZ is at the forefront. It is managing health and safety in a holistic manner.

When it comes to workforce management, SUEZ has taken it as a fundamental way of doing business. When navigating the waves of wellbeing, SUEZ is at the forefront.

The water industry can be a challenging one to work in. It’s not just about the long hours or weekend shifts. It can be the sudden requirement to jump out of bed to deal with an emergency. Sometimes, it’s being in a rapid-response team for an extended period. These are just a few situations where staff members can feel burnt out.

It’s why SUEZ is spending time ensuring that its people have the equipment and training they need to do their jobs well. It’s also about looking after their physical and mental wellbeing, as well as their work/life balance.

This is why flexible work and training go hand-in-hand with improved employee wellbeing. At SUEZ, teams can look at different methods for improving the wellbeing of their employees.

How people are supported

Nichole Perry is the Head of Safety and Wellbeing at SUEZ Australia and New Zealand (SUEZ ANZ). She takes her role seriously, having worked previously in high-pressure industries such as oil and gas.

“Health and Safety (H&S) has changed from being more ‘policing’ and paper checklist on clipboards to becoming more engaging and visible with all workers (and with no paper),” she said.

“H&S is about having those conversations with workers, discussing choices made in the field about risk management, work setup and understanding the mindset of why people choose what they do. This is the ever-evolving change I have seen in over 20 years as a H&S professional.”

Perry explained that SUEZ aims to improve the work-life balance of all workers. To do this, SUEZ created a working group with members from all SUEZ contracts based around the country. This working group is tasked with developing wellbeing policies and programs to improve workplace mental health for SUEZ across all levels of the organisation – individual, team, and management levels.

Similarly, Chris Melville is the Head of Information Technology (IT).

“SUEZ has always promoted the physical health of its people, along with its Safety Week,” Melville said.

“I can’t remember what the tipping point was, but the awareness of mental health issues within the broader health and safety field has developed over time. I’m proud to say that I have utilised SUEZ’s services, as have family members.”

Chris “Cashy” Cashman is the Safety and Wellbeing Manager of the Production and Treatment Alliance.

“My background is in behavioural science,” Cashman said.

“I know that we need a world-class culture to develop world-class performances. It’s the culture within any organisation that determines its performance level. I work hard to improve the commitment, credibility, capability, engagement, and trust within the team.

“Our HSW strategy aims to improve these fundamental elements of organisational culture so that team member happiness – supporting psychosocial wellness, physical wellbeing, and remaining physically safe – and organisational efficiency can flourish.”

Increased focus on mental health

Mental health and wellbeing are being discussed more often as people on social media have given these topics a ‘voice’. Perry believes that the increasing volume of their voice has changed how SUEZ deals with the issue.

“We need to be proactive and regularly check in with our people,” she said.

“We need our leaders to review the design or management of work amongst team members such as rosters, shifts and upskilling. As an organisation, we need to check our work environment, so our workers are not isolated if they work from home.

We also need our workers to feel safe and supported to come forward if they are experiencing issues in the workplace.”

Perry also looked at the impact of the global pandemic, suggesting that it heightened the focus on mental health. With so many people staying at home, the stress levels caused by the social isolation resulting from the pandemic were impacted by the inability of people to go to work, seek support from loved ones, as well as engage in their communities.

In the eyes of Melville, the opportunity for staff and their family to access mental health services has been vital to employee retention and minimising burnout.

“I have spoken to people within SUEZ, and people know your name, and they do care for you,” Melville said.

“If you’re struggling in any way, shape, or form, there are countless numbers of people within the company or external to the company that we’ve partnered with that can be of assistance. I’m proud of SUEZ’s track record of looking after its people’s mental health.”

Flexible work arrangements support teams

In a sector known for demanding schedules and long work hours, SUEZ is studying safety and wellbeing through a more holistic lens. Flexible work arrangements allow its employees to balance their responsibilities at work and home. The practices SUEZ has adopted contribute to improved psychological, physical, and emotional wellbeing among employees.

“We can all agree that the COVID-19 pandemic changed worker health and safety in many ways,” said Perry.

“It’s changed how we communicate and meet, how we perform work and be productive, and more importantly, how we embraced technology.”

Perry emphasised the importance of understanding that different people have different working styles. Having a single approach for the entire company does not work.

“The flexible arrangements recognise that people work differently,” she said.

“For those who can do their jobs remotely, they’ve still been able to maintain their team working relationships and be included in the workplace.”

By embracing flexible work arrangements and continuing with remote working options, SUEZ has elevated its employees’ work-life balance. The company’s approach taps into diverse talent pools, promotes inclusivity, and reduces carbon footprints through remote arrangements.

For SUEZ, embracing flexibility signifies a commitment to modern, sustainable, and adaptable work cultures.

“Our staff can better manage things going on at home,” Perry said. “By supporting this flexible working environment, SUEZ has created worker and business resilience – balancing productivity, risk management, and team leadership.”

Flexible work: an IT perspective

Melville has a similar perspective for the IT staff across SUEZ.

“Many people have said that people in IT can work anywhere,” he said.

“We found that people need that interaction, which changed my perspective during the COVID years. Looking back on it now, there were times when we did not see team members face-to-face for months. We have staff that love being out and about while we have other happy team members in front of the computer without needing to travel.”

Melville believes that encouraging a balance across the team is the most effective direction to head.

“I’ve always promoted a balance when it comes to flexible working hours,” he said.

“Most of the team like to travel and get to sites around the country. I would think that every three to six months, one team member will fly to a different site around the country. That means trips to Perth, Adelaide, and Melbourne. It’s important to get around to learn and bring back new knowledge.”

Remote work at the treatment plants

Cashman believes in the importance of empowering his colleagues.

“My approach has always been to empower my team to fill the entire space of their role,” he said.

“Although there are only three of us in the team, we talk every day and have a planned program of work that ensures we are achieving and exceeding the expectations of our stakeholders. The way we work together ensures that flexible arrangements are embedded.

“We’re on-site when we need to engage and support our operational teams. We’re in the office when we need to deliver an output for our stakeholders. Sometimes we can work from home when it makes more sense.”

He pointed out that taking a broad-based approach that encourages independence and self-sufficiency has seen better outcomes for his team.

“Effectively, I become much more of a coach rather than relying on a managerial role title,” said Cashman.

“The team delivered everything on our strategic plan in the last financial year. We met all the outcomes of our work program and completed an additional 100-plus emergent smaller projects over the financial year. This level of performance is only achieved through flexible working arrangements and great team culture.”

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