Kate Connors, Chief Mental Health Officer, and Nicola Lynch, Partner, Trust and Risk, Assurance, described how they are tailoring an off-the-shelf psychosocial risk assessment tool to assess PwC’s existing people systems.
Identifying the need
PwC Australia has nominated mental health as one of three priority social impact areas. Acknowledging the importance of “walking the talk”, PwC has committed to mental health and wellbeing as a central area of focus with its own 8000 employees across Australia.
In 2015, Kate Connors, newly arrived as the firm’s first internal psychologist and Head of Wellbeing, identified the Green Light to Talk initiative, developed by PwC in the UK. The UK firm had launched Green Light to Talk as a way to reduce stigma, promote open workplace conversations and increase awareness of mental health support available within the organisation.
In 2018, PwC Australia launched Green Light to Talk, with leaders sharing personal stories about their own experiences with mental ill health, and advocating the importance of accessing professional support when required. This was followed by a commitment to establishing an organisation-wide community of trained mental health first aiders, known as Green Light to Talk Advocates. An internal review of the program has demonstrated a positive impact in the reduction of stigma and an increase in professional help-seeking, as measured by increased use of PwC’s Employee Assistance Program (EAP).
The positive momentum from Green Light to Talk created the opportunity for PwC to apply additional rigour, and a systematic approach to the management of psychological risks within the organisation, as a natural next step.
Taking it to the next level
Nicola Lynch, Partner, Trust and Risk had already been collaborating with Curtin University’s Future of Work Institute on a range of workplace mental health projects, including the practical application of the evidence-based Thrive at Work framework.
Thrive at Work was developed in consultation with industry, based on an extensive evaluation of the academic literature. It provides organisations with a clear and comprehensive set of strategies to effectively manage mental health within workplaces. There are three pillars to the framework - mitigate illness, prevent harm, and promote thriving.
PwC is using the framework to identify existing good practice, as well as gaps and opportunities for improvement, relating to:
- Workplace system design: a review of all policies and procedures that mitigate illness, prevent harm and promote thriving.
- Operating effectiveness: validating whether organisational policies and procedures are being applied and having the impact PwC intended on mental health.
- Governance, data and reporting: reviewing PwC’s governance structures, data and reporting systems to assess against best practice and drive continuous improvement.
PwC will leverage this systematic assessment and gap analysis to:
- elevate pockets of good practice to share across the business and create a more consistent application of what is working well.
- validate and identify new and emerging mental health risks and controls for inclusion in the PwC risk register
- continue collaboration with Curtin University to develop an 18-month roadmap, to embed the Thrive at Work framework, inform best practice and embed evidence-based workplace mental health strategies throughout the organisation.