Michael Schneider, Bunnings Group Limited

Published Thu, Sep 10, 2020

A couple of times when I’ve been under significant pressure, I’ve had a close colleague have the courage to say to me: “Things aren’t right, you’re not your normal self,”. They’ve encouraged me to get support.

I’ve had lots of ups and downs on a personal and business front. I’ve also had family members suffer from depression, bipolar and anxiety. All of us feel some of those things at times.

But it was that nudge at a personal level – when I was pushing against headwinds – to realise that we really needed to support our team at Bunnings around mental health.

A clear goal

Mental health all begins with that willingness for someone to talk. So, I have a clear goal: to make it okay for our 50,000+ team members to talk when they’re not feeling their best.

When we talk about our struggles, we allow others to help us; but by sharing our stories, it allows us to help others.

Mental health is now a core part of our workplace health and safety plan at Bunnings. We talk about it, look at the numbers, and always look for best practices.

A full-court press

To use basketball parlance, we are taking a ‘full-court press’ approach to mental health: we are trying to engage our team in any way we can. We are creating many pathways for our team to have a voice and to open doorways to a lot of conversations.

It has been a challenging six to eight months. All our resilience muscles have been tested and will continue to be.

But we are seeing an improvement in team engagement; an increasing number of people have reached out and are using our counselling service.

We have also run a highly successful series on gratefulness, empathy and mindfulness through our enterprise social media platform.

A common foe

Corporate Mental Health Alliance Australia allows us to work with like-minded organisations. Organisations really focussed on the overall wellbeing of a person, including their mental wellbeing.

At the Alliance, we have found a place where like-minded leaders share best practice. Most times in business you don’t share anything because you’re competing. But with mental health, we’re all competing against a common foe.

We are very willing learners and collaborators. We want to share what we’re doing and learn from others.

Some organisations, for example, have shared how they’re providing better support to the families of team members struggling with mental health. That’s something we’re now looking at.

Improving flexibility

Looking forward, I want to see a really healthy use of areas of support that we and other organisations offer staff.

But I also want to see organisations implement policies that allow team members to use leave and leave entitlements to decompress.

Sick leave shouldn’t just be a few days to get over an ailment. Often mental health challenges go on for a long time, so improving flexibility in the workplace becomes really important.

Less alone

As a leader, improving mental health starts with a willingness to make yourself vulnerable. If you can accept your own shortcomings and open some of those up to others, people feel less alone. That’s all a lot of people in the world want, to feel less alone.

If leaders can set that tone and standard, it empowers others to have that voice and be themselves a little bit more.

Michael Schneider, Managing Director, Bunnings Group Limited

Board Member, Corporate Mental Health Alliance Australia


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