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Beat burnout: How Two HR professionals bounced back better

Hareta McMullin was a senior HR manager when the ‘perfect storm’ of unmet resource needs pushed her to burnout. Shelley Johnson was back from parental leave, working full time and studying for her master’s degree – she hit a wall. Both returned from burnout crises to help transform the companies they were part of. Here’s what they did to beat burnout.

At a glance
  • Ensure managers have frequent one-on-ones with employees and upskill them to identify the signs of burnout.
  • Provide autonomy and offer flexible work options so your employees have the space to operate on their own terms.
  • A culture of trust and psychological safety is necessary to prevent burnout.
  • Find out what your employees want and need before crafting your wellbeing strategy.
  • Wellbeing is about more than health, Financial education and benefits can help your employees develop skills and resilience.

Hareta McMullin was working as a senior HR manager in the tech industry when the ‘perfect  storm’ of unmet resource needs pushed her to burnout. 

“My boss had gone on parental leave, and we weren’t replacing her,” she says. “Then my colleague went on maternity leave and another resigned.” 

Between managing multiple employee relations cases, covering all bases in her team and recruiting to fill the gaps, as well as collaborating with colleagues in international time zones, Hareta found herself working 12-16 hour days.

She hit rock bottom. 

“After I cried for the 10th consecutive day, I realised I had to reprioritise and restructure what I was doing,” she says.

Hareta went one step further by leveraging her story to bring about organisational change, beginning with ending the glorification of overwork.

While the organisational culture had never enforced clock-watching, long hours were par for the course – partly as a way of managing the challenge of collaborating across time zones.

Change, says Hareta, started with education about the negative health impact of working long hours over a long period of time. 

Managers were trained to keep their expectations in check, maintain frequent one-on-one meetings and look for signs of burnout.

The organisation also made it easier for employees to access support by simplifying the process for flexible work requests, such as condensing hours into four days a week, going part-time or job sharing.

“People would go to their line managers and, if the request was simple, [the line manager] was empowered to approve it,” she says. 

When employees did put in long hours, managers could reward them with unofficial days off – a move that can help to shift the way an organisation and its people think of long hours from the norm to an uncommon necessity in particular periods.

We would send a note out to managers to say, 'This is going on, this is why it's great. Talk about it with the teams in your next one-on-one'.
Hareta McMullin

The treatment of sick leave also changed. 

“We repositioned the language to call it personal leave,” says Hareta. “It’s a small tweak, but psychologically it made a big difference because you didn’t have to be physically sick to take it. You could just be tired after a big week.”

The impact of the cultural shift was clear. Employee survey data showed an increase in engagement, health and wellbeing, and staff turnover dropped below 7%.

Co-designing your wellbeing strategy

Along with survey insights, organisation-wide focus groups were used to learn more about the challenges employees were facing and the benefits they would like to see. 

“We used that information to look at what was realistic, and what we could implement and grow from there,” says Hareta.

This meant the buy-in rates were strong, with benefits such as massages and running clubs actually being utilised. Education sessions to improve financial wellbeing were also a hit, particularly related to investment, mortgages and superannuation.

Whenever a new event or benefit was introduced, the organisation made sure to spread the word. 

“We would send a note out to managers to say, ‘This is going on, this is why it’s great. Talk about it with the teams in your next one-on-one,” she says.

Bouncing back with benefits

When Shelley Johnson’s first child was five months old, she went back to work full-time as an HR manager at a not-for-profit while doing her master’s degree.

After a year of disrupted sleep, new-mum duties, full-time work and study, she hit a wall.

“I was running a staff meeting for more than 100 people when I hopped down offstage and realised I was not okay,” she says. “I left work within an hour and had three months off.”

When she was ready to go back to work, Shelley eased back into her role by working part-time and gradually building up her days from there.

She credits her manager’s support and the organisation’s wellbeing program for her recovery, which included sessions with a psychologist through the Employee Assistance Program.

“They also got me a coach who dealt specifically with burnout to help me rebuild resilience,” she says.

Learning how to set boundaries

The key to preventing burnout from happening in the first place is a culture of trust and psychological safety. 

“Without that, it’s very difficult for any employee to feel like they can have conversations about their health,” says Shelley, who has since founded her own HR consultancy and Boldside Consulting and hosts the podcast My Millenial Career

Psychological safety can be assessed through both risk assessment tools and anecdotally. For example, leaders can pay attention to how open team members are in conversations and identify any topics that might be off-limits.

“It starts with conversations to help people identify within themselves and others what they look like in their healthy zone,” says Shelley. “If I’m getting irritable, fatigued or tired, I want to be able to raise that with my boss, so I can make sure that I’m coming back into alignment with what healthy looks like.”

When you go through burnout, you feel like you’ve had a loss of control because all of a sudden your body checks out. So it’s important to give people autonomy over where they work, as well as their work hours and schedules.
Shelley Johnson

Helping your team set boundaries is also key. This is often a tricky area for employees to navigate, particularly if they are new and feel like they haven’t built up enough equity yet.

To overcome any awkwardness, Shelley recommends a team brainstorming exercise. The conversation should start by agreeing on expectations, such as not needing to respond instantly to every email, then explore people’s personal boundaries.

“For example, one of my team members would say, ‘When I’ve got my headphones in, I really don’t want you to interrupt me because I’m in my deep work mode’,” she says.

Shelley also recommends steering clear of mandates in teams, allowing people to buy in on principles rather than policy. This might mean allowing an employee to work from home on a day the team usually convenes if they’re feeling flat. Granting autonomy is particularly important in both preventing and recovering from burnout, she emphasises. 

“When you go through burnout, you feel like you’ve had a loss of control because all of a sudden your body checks out,” says Shelley. “So it’s important to give people autonomy over where they work, as well as their work hours and schedules.” 

Engaging a mentor can also be helpful. You could encourage employees to participate in the organisation’s structured mentoring program or to pursue their own mentor.

“Having someone who doesn’t have a vested interest in your performance can give you insight into things that might help you in your whole life, not just at work,” says Shelley.

For more guidance on upskilling managers, giving employees autonomy and identifying your team’s wellbeing needs, download the ebook: The race for talent: How to protect your teams from burnout.

How to address mental health in the workplace

Addressing mental health in the workplace is becoming increasingly important – for several reasons. First, employees can’t perform their best when they’re not mentally well. Work also tends to be a primary source of stress for many people, which means that companies have a responsibility to help alleviate some of that burden. Given this, it’s critical for HR teams to prioritise and support the mental health of their workforce. We’ll share ideas to help you accomplish this.

The importance of mental health in the workplace

Before we get into the recommendations, let’s take a closer look at how mental health issues are impacting your employees. According to the 2019 Thriving Workplace Survey National Report, which surveyed over 10,000 Australian workers in a broad range of industries and occupations, 50.6% of the Australian workforce had experienced a mental health condition.

Unfortunately, work was one of the top reasons for these mental health issues – with two in five employees reporting that their workplace either caused their condition or made it worse. This is largely due to factors like high-stress deadlines, unmanageable workloads, and demanding clients. As a result, these work-related mental health conditions cost approximately $543 million in workers compensation and $750 million in life insurance claims paid to Australians.

Despite these pervasive issues, more than half of Australian workers don’t believe their employers have taken any actions to improve their wellbeing. This demonstrates that there’s a clear gap between what employees need to perform their best and what companies are actually doing to support this need. 

Ideas to help employees with mental health at work

If you truly want to address the mental health of your employees, there are various steps you can take as an HR team. Some of these recommendations come in the form of additional benefits, while others are behaviors you can start putting into action today. Choose whichever ideas are the most aligned with the needs of your workforce, and go from there. 

1. Invest in mental health benefits 

Now is a great time to update your benefits package and include offerings that improve emotional wellbeing. For example, we’re partnering with Headspace for Work to support Flare’s customers on their journey to bring mental health programs and wellbeing into their workplaces. Another idea is to cover the cost of counseling sessions or a virtual therapy app for your employees. 

If you have a limited budget and can’t introduce significant programs like this right now, start small. Give employees designated “mental health” days to take time away from work and recharge. Or host a virtual series of employee-led wellness events to guide people through meditation or yoga sessions. There are many creative ways to incorporate more mental-health focused offerings into your employee benefits. 

2. Create a culture of wellness 

Aside from benefits, we encourage organisations to make wellness a foundation of their company culture. What exactly does this mean? This means making work a place where it’s normal and encouraged to be honest about topics related to mental health. There are several ways to achieve this type of culture. 

First, invest in mental health training for the entire company. This will help everyone better navigate conversations about mental health and develop more compassion for those who are struggling. Also, consider introducing safe spaces for employees to discuss their own progress or hardships with their mental wellness – this can be in the form of an Employee Resource Group, Slack channel, or monthly meeting. Finally, encourage your executive team to lead by example. When the CEO is willing to speak openly about a tough topic, it’ll inspire the rest of the organisation to follow suit. 

3. Commit to specific goals 

It may be helpful to identify metrics when it comes to these mental health initiatives. Not only will it help you track progress, but it’ll also hold everyone accountable to these investments. So whether it’s aiming to reduce the stress levels of employees by 10% or having 90% of your employees feel that their mental health is supported at work, commit to specific goals.

From there, you can use regular wellness surveys, employee focus groups, or one-on-one conversations to gauge how your company is progressing. Collecting this type of feedback can also alert you to programs that aren’t performing as they should and give you an opportunity to iterate on them as needed. 

Mental health plays such a huge role when it comes to the overall happiness, performance, and wellbeing of your employees. Don’t overlook this critical aspect of your HR strategy and make sure to introduce initiatives that support the mental health needs of your workfroce. 

If you have any employees who need support, be sure to check out Wellness@Work, a free hub designed to support HR and Australian workers by giving them access to free content.

If you’re looking for an additional HR software to support your business, Flare offers a free onboarding software with employee management and benefits. To learn more, please request a demo.

What to do when you can’t give your employees a pay rise

With Australia now experiencing a new wave of COVID-19 outbreaks, companies continue to feel the pressure of the pandemic. Unfortunately, this also means that employees may have to keep waiting for their promotions and pay rises due to constrained resources. This, of course, is likely to lead to lower employee morale.

But there are ways for companies to mitigate the negative impact of the pandemic. One of the best solutions is to consider expanding your benefits offerings. These additional offerings can support your employees in key areas during this challenging time and also provide some financial relief to make up for the lack of a pay rise. Below, we share four categories of benefits to consider: 

Flexible work benefits 

According to a study, a flexible work arrangement is one of the ‘must have’ benefits for Australian employees. This is especially prevalent now, as employees are feeling the stress of balancing their work and home lives once again. Here are some flexible work benefits to consider: 

  • Flexible working hours. The 9 to 5 schedule doesn’t work for all employees – especially those with families and children. Allow your workforce to choose their own hours so they don’t have to stress about being online at a time that’s inconvenient for them. This will not only relieve stress but also demonstrate to employees that you understand and respect their individual needs. 
  • Work from home options. Whether your employees have recently returned to the office or are still remote, it may be a good time to either extend or offer up work from home options as an alternative to being in the office. As COVID-19 cases escalate again, you want to make sure everyone feels safe while they work. 
  • Home office setups. If you do have employees working from home, relieve some of the burden by paying for their home office set up. This can include covering the cost of a new desk, chair, monitor, or whatever else they need to work comfortably from home. 

Financial benefits 

Even if you can’t directly provide a pay rise, there are other ways to financially support your employees – while staying within your HR budget. Below are a few ideas of the types of financial benefits you can offer: 

  • Employee discounts. At Flare, we have an exclusive benefits and discount platform. that provides your employees with discounts from hundreds of leading retailers, including Amazon, Woolworths, and Foot Locker. Giving your workforce access to these types of benefits can ease some of the financial burden they’re feeling right now. 
  • Novated car leasing. Offering employee benefits like novated car leases and salary packaging can help your employees reduce their taxable income and therefore reduce their income tax. Flare offers novated car leasing to customers as part of employee benefits.
  • Real time pay. Imagine if employees could access their pay after each day’s work rather than waiting for the weekly, fortnightly or monthly pay cycle? This could soon be a possibility. Flare will soon be offering real time pay as part of employee benefits so that employees can access their pay for a small fixed fee for when they really need it.
  • Equity. If you can’t afford to increase the salary of your employees, consider giving them more equity instead. This is an investment that can pay off many times over in the long run, and it gives workers more stake in your organisation – which, in turn, can boost morale and engagement. 
  • International payment transfers. You may have employees with family members outside of Australia that they’re providing financial support to during COVID-19. If you want to help them save on expensive transfers, consider offering WorldRemit as a benefit – they offer much more affordable international money transfers. They’re also a partner on our own benefits platform!

Physical and mental health benefits 

Your employees are dealing with many stressors right now – from feeling anxiety around their job security to worrying about the health and safety of their family members – which can come with negative physical and mental health side effects. To help them combat these potential problems, you may want to consider the following benefits: 

  • Wellness budget. If you have the funds to do so, consider giving each employee a wellness budget. They can use this money to invest in self care. For example, they can use this budget to cover the cost of a massage, new running shoes, or an online meditation course – anything that helps improve and maintain their sense of well being. 
  • Fitness subsidisation. Staying active can go a long way. And the great news is that there are tons of virtual fitness classes these days. So whether it’s an online yoga course or a cycling class, pay for your employees to indulge in their favorite exercise routines – it gives them one less thing to worry about cost wise and encourages them to get moving. 
  • Healthy snack delivery service. If you want to make healthy eating more accessible for your employees and boost their morale, provide them with delicious snacking options! Companies like Snacks With Bite will deliver healthy snacks directly to your employees’ homes. It’s one less decision they have to make, and it’s something they can share with the rest of their family. 

Family benefits 

As schools start to close down again due to the new wave of outbreaks, parents are scrambling to figure out how to balance work and family life for the second time. Not receiving the pay rise they were expecting can further exacerbate your employees’ stress levels. To help, here are a few benefits you can offer: 

  • Childcare support. If your working parents do find themselves back at home with the kids, give them the funds to hire additional childcare support. Maybe they can have a trusted babysitter take care of the kids in the morning, when they’re the busiest with work. Or they can hire an in-home chef to prepare healthy meals for the family if they don’t have time to.
  • Fun family activities. It’s challenging for parents to always think of new, stimulating things to do with their children. To help, send your working parents “family care packages” that contain fun activities – such as puzzles, at-home scavenger hunts, or s’mores kits. This is one less thing that your employees have to think about and gives them a reason to spend quality time with their families. 

Even though your employees will be disappointed to not receive the pay rise they’ve been waiting for, they’ll appreciate your efforts to compensate them in other ways in the meantime. Take care of your employees’ needs during this challenging time, and you’re likely to see a more engaged and productive workforce.

Want to give your team access to more employee benefits and discounts? Flare Employee Benefits gives your workforce access to an exclusive benefits and discount platform of leading retailers like Woolworths, JB Hi-Fi and Amazon. If you’re looking to implement more employees benefits in your company, reach out to [email protected] to learn more.

Simple strategies to promote emotional wellbeing in your workplace

We live in an increasingly stressful world. Everything from rising costs to escalating pressures in the workplace are contributing to mental health issues in our employees. Given this, prioritising emotional wellbeing is more important than ever. But what exactly is preventing our workers from achieving emotional wellness, and what can we do to help? These are questions we’ll address in the rest of this post. 

Why is emotional wellbeing important? 

As of 2019, 50.6% of the Australian workforce had experienced a mental health condition, and two in five of those workers reported that their workplace either caused their condition or made it worse. These work-related mental health conditions cost approximately $543 million of workers compensation and $750 million in life insurance claims paid to Australians each year.

It’s clear that emotional wellbeing, or lack thereof, is a huge problem that infiltrates the workplace. There are a few reasons why it’s important for employers to address this problem head on: first, since one of the main sources of stress is from work, it’s every company’s responsibility to help alleviate some of that burden. Secondly, without addressing emotional wellbeing, we can’t expect our employees to perform their best at work. Mental health issues can affect everything from an employee’s satisfaction with their job to the bottom line. 

Related article: 5 Ways to help your employees improve their financial wellbeing

Barriers to emotional wellbeing 

It seems as though more and more employers are investing in emotional wellbeing programs each year. But if this is the case, why do mental health issues continue to be a problem among Australian workers? It may be that the programs aren’t explicitly addressing the most common barriers to emotional wellbeing, which include: 

  • Lack of education and training. A survey found the most common barrier to achieving an emotionally healthy workplace is lack of appropriate skills in managers. Therefore, investing in more training and education around mental health and wellbeing can help break down this particular barrier. 
  • Fear of stigma. Even though the conversation around emotional wellbeing is becoming more commonplace, that doesn’t mean the stigma around mental health issues doesn’t exist. In fact, research has found that mental health is the issue Australian workers feel most uncomfortable discussing with their managers.
  • Access to the wrong resources. Finally, it may also be the case that you’re not offering the resources that employees actually need to improve their emotional wellbeing. Unless your decisions were backed by feedback and data from your workforce, there’s a good chance that your employee wellness program isn’t aligned with people’s mental health priorities.  

In the next section, we’ll cover simple strategies that will help your organisation overcome these common barriers. 

Related article: 10 Ideas to help you boost your employee engagement

3 simple strategies to promote emotional wellbeing at your company

Your emotional wellbeing strategies don’t have to be complicated or break the bank. Start off with one or all three of these strategies to start taking steps in the right direction:

1. Make mental health trainings a requirement

Sometimes mental health can be tough or uncomfortable to talk about. That’s completely natural. But that’s why we encourage HR teams to invest in mental health training – not just for employees, but also for the managers and leaders at the company as well.

These educational opportunities can give everyone the practice they need to navigate conversations about emotional wellbeing, respond with more empathy to people who are struggling, and understand what next steps might look like. While you don’t want your managers to play the role of therapist for your employees, they should – at the very least – know how to handle those initial conversations and connect their direct reports to the right resources. 

2. Normalise conversations around emotional wellbeing

It’s unsurprising that Australian employees don’t feel comfortable talking about mental health at work. This usually stems from a fear of judgment or – worse – a fear that it’ll affect their career development. The best way to assuage these fears is to normalise conversations around mental health in the workplace so that your employees know this is a challenge that almost everyone is dealing with. 

Don’t just wait for Mental Health Month to have these conversations – instead, make it a normal and accepted part of your company culture. There are several ways to accomplish this: ask your leaders and managers to speak openly about their own mental health struggles; create safe spaces or Employee Resource Groups where people can speak openly about emotional wellbeing; and make it ok to take mental health days.

3. Customize your benefits offerings

This may also be a good time to revisit your benefits offerings. Even if you have an incredible benefits package that gives employees stipends for massages or virtual therapy sessions, that doesn’t mean it’s what your workforce needs. Maybe it turns out that they’d rather have flexible working hours and more mental health days instead. 

The only way to find out what your employees truly need is to ask them. You can do this through one-on-one conversations or, if you have a bigger organisation, send out a wellbeing survey to identify the current gaps in your benefits. Once you have this information in hand, you can actually customise your offerings to align with your employees’ priorities.

Don’t overlook emotional wellbeing when it comes to your overall HR strategy. The mental health of your employees has the potential to make a huge impact on their happiness, productivity, and desire to stay with your organisation. Use our strategies to demonstrate that you care and to promote the importance of emotional wellbeing in your workplace. 

If you have any employees who are in need of support, be sure to check out The Flare Wellness Network, a free hub designed to support Australian workers by giving them access to benefits and offers, while encouraging businesses to partner together in an effort to support the wellbeing of the Australian workforce.

If you’re looking for an additional HR software to support your business, Flare offers a free onboarding software with employee management and benefits. To learn more, please request a demo.

10 appealing employee benefits companies should consider

Employers understand that they play a huge role when it comes to helping their employees succeed both in and out of the workplace. But you may be wondering: how do we support every individual’s needs when we have a rapidly growing organisation? The answer lies in employee benefits.

Employee benefits are additional forms of compensation that are provided to employees in addition to their salaries. They’re a great way to address the needs of your workers and can easily be scaled. To ensure that you’re only investing in the most impactful offerings, we put together a list of 10 employee benefits that we believe will have the most positive effect on your workforce.

Why are employee benefits important? 

The average employee spends one-third of his or her life at work. Given this, workers have very limited time to tend to other aspects of their life – whether that’s family, personal passions, or health. By offering a variety of benefits, employers can make this balancing act a bit easier for their employees by providing them with the resources, tools, or opportunities needed to take care of their personal and professional needs. 

There are business advantages to offering employee benefits as well. These types of offerings have been proven to improve company culture, boost productivity, and increase retention rates – all of which can lead to significant cost savings for your organisation. 

Below, we share 10 types of employee benefits to consider.

Mental health

The unfortunate reality is that we’re living in an increasingly stressful world. This is reflected by the fact that more than half (55%) of Australian employees feel stressed at work. One of the most effective ways to help employees manage this stress is to offer mental health benefits. These can come in the form of tools and resources to help your employees relax, work through their problems, and build resilience. 

Examples of mental health benefits:

  • Online therapy or counselling services
  • Meditation or mindfulness apps 
  • Paid time off for mental health days 

Related article: 10 Ideas to help you boost your employee engagement

Physical health

Physical health is an extremely important component of employee wellness as well. Whether it’s helping your employees stay active or better manage any illnesses they’re dealing with, benefits that improve physical health can make a huge difference to your workforce. 

Examples of physical health benefits: 

  • Flexible wellness budgets
  • Subsidised gym memberships
  • Annual health screenings 
  • Chronic disease management or smoking cessation programs


Juggling the demands of both work and family is challenging. To ease some of the burden, employers can offer benefits that either financially support family-specific needs or make the integration between home life and the office a bit more seamless. 

Examples of family benefits: 

  • Flexible childcare spending accounts
  • Adoption, surrogacy, or in vitro fertilisation support 
  • Daycare center at the office 
  • Monthly family-friendly work events


As businesses start to re-open after COVID-19, we’re likely to see an uptick in commuting. Getting to and from work can easily be one of the most stressful parts of an employee’s day, as they battle terrible traffic or sit on the bus for long periods of time, just to get to their 9 a.m. meeting on time. Fortunately, there are commuter benefits you can offer to minimise the impact.

Examples of commuter benefits: 

  • Subsidised public transportation passes
  • Employee parking spots 
  • Flexible schedules that allow employees to commute during off-hours

Financial well-being

Two out of five Australian workers experience financial stress during their careers. This makes it clear why financial wellness benefits are becoming an increasingly important part of wellness programs for many organisations. Offering benefits to boost the financial health of your employees can help reduce anxiety and help them reach long-term goals like buying a home or starting a family.

Examples of financial well-being benefits: 

  • Financial counseling 
  • Real-time payments
  • Financial education courses 
  • Additional superannuation contributions

Related article: 5 Ways to help your employees improve their financial wellbeing

Professional development

A study found that one of the ‘must have’ benefits that Australian employees expect to receive is training and development on the job. To keep people feeling fulfilled and engaged at work, you have to provide them with opportunities to grow – not only professionally, but personally as well. Benefits are a great way to encourage this type of development. 

Examples of professional development benefits: 

  • Learning and development budget
  • Monthly training opportunities 
  • Coaching or mentoring programs

Flexible work

One of the other ‘must have’ benefits for Australian employees is flexible work arrangements. Increasingly, people are looking for the ability to choose when and where they work. That’s why companies that offer flexible work benefits, such as accommodating remote working options, are likely to attract and retain top talent. 

Examples of flexible work: 

  • Work from home days
  • At-home office budget 
  • Flexibility to set a personal schedule


Did you know that 62% of Australian households own a pet? Your employees likely view their dogs and cats as part of the family. This can make it stressful for workers to leave their pets at home all day or deal with a sick animal. Offering pet-focused benefits that relieve some of the financial burdens or allow pets to be in the office with their humans can have a positive impact on your employees. 

Examples of pet-friendly benefits: 

  • Pet-friendly office
  • Subsidised pet care
  • Paid time off to take care of a new pet 


Introducing benefits that are focused on recognizing the hard work of your employees can be a powerful way to keep them feeling motivated and appreciated. There are many types of recognition programs you can introduce to your organisation. 

Examples of recognition benefits: 

  • Experiential recognition program
  • Peer-to-peer recognition program 
  • Company value awards 


Having the opportunity to connect with other teammates can be hugely beneficial to employees. Not only does it encourage collaboration, but it ensures that people know they have a community to turn to. There are several socially-focused benefits you can offer to encourage these bonding moments at work.

Examples of social benefits: 

  • Monthly team outings
  • Budget for coffee dates or lunches with colleagues
  • Company-wide gatherings or events

Want to give your team access to more employee benefits and discounts? Flare Employee Benefits gives your workforce access to an exclusive benefits and discount platform of leading retailers like Woolworths, JB Hi-Fi and Amazon. Check it out here

How the coronavirus is a catalyst for people-first employee engagement programs

While there’s certainly a lot of negative news to come out of the pandemic, we’re particularly interested in one silver lining. Companies have turned their focus to the people behind the business — reinvesting in HR and people ops. 

Flexible working arrangements

Social distancing requires lots of workers to skip the office and instead work remotely from home. One survey found that 61% of companies have experienced increased levels of employee engagement as a result of this transition. Another found that 90% of companies believe culture has improved, 83% believe employee experience is better, and 84% believe employee engagement has increased.

Allowing your workers to work from home is just the first step. It’s also the employer’s role to help staff make that transition. Offer to purchase any equipment they may need. Check in regularly. And set realistic expectations. We’re not just “working from home” right now — we’re working from home in the middle of a worldwide pandemic. That comes with a lot of physical and emotional baggage that can wreak havoc on productivity. 

Job security


Job security is the top concern for workers right now. An estimated 1.4 million Australians will be jobless.

Luckily, as restrictions ease and employees head back to work, employers will be able to offer more job security. In addition to regular hours, a living wage, and a safe workplace, employers should look to proactively provide health and wellness support—especially as that is the second biggest concern for workers. Consider building an employee wellness program to tackle this head on.

Support on a human level

It’s not just financial security that concerns workers. At the beginning of April, 68% of Australians were concerned or very concerned about their health due to COVID-19. In fact, personal health was the second most important issue for Australians during the first half of April 2020. 

We’re talking about both physical and mental health here. 68% of employers say their workers have higher than normal levels of anxiety. Here, companies have a chance to be proactive in aiding their staff’s health and well-being. And nearly 90% of companies are doing exactly that. 

Beyond allowing workers to set up at home and have flexible working arrangements, employers can go the extra mile to support mental and physical health and wellness.

Moving forward with your employee engagement initiatives

The pandemic has brought many previously dismissed issues to light, and we’re seeing the importance of mental health, work-life balance and effective people management. The coronavirus workforce demands transparency, trust and a top-down people-first philosophy. 

At Flare, we have a free HR solution which includes a paperless onboarding software, employee management and a free employee benefits platform which gives your employees access to discounts from leading Australian retails such as Woolworths, Kmart, JB Hi-Fi and more. Find out more about how you can engage with your employees more by booking a free demo today.

How to build an effective employee wellness program

It’s no surprise to see that employee wellness programs are on the rise. With absenteeism costing the Australian economy over $32.5 billion each year, companies are looking for ways to minimise the costs and better support the well-being of their employees. The disruptive effects of COVID-19 have made the need for these programs even clearer. 

However, as you’ll learn in this blog post, there’s more to an employee wellness program than subsidised gym memberships and free health screenings. We’ll explain how to build one that your employees actually utilise and has the flexibility to accommodate diverse work situations – including the one we face today with the pandemic. 

Why invest in wellness programs?

Up until the late 20th century, work was about bringing home a paycheck. Employees clocked in at 9 a.m., clocked out at 5 p.m., and went home to their families. The line between work and home was clear. Today, our approach to work looks drastically different. 

Now the majority of employees will spend one-third of their adult lives at work. Technology allows us to take our work anywhere and blurs the line between the office and the home. We also rely on work as a source of identity, socialisation, and personal development. Employers are recognising this shift and acknowledge that they need to take responsibility for the well-being of their workforce. 

However, there’s one problem. Many studies point to the fact that wellness programs don’t actually work. But the problem lies – not with wellness programs themselves – but as a result of companies not taking a holistic approach to them. This is a problem that can be addressed by being more strategic when building employee wellness programs. 

Guidelines to build an effective employee wellness program

To build an effective wellness program, companies need to focus on four pillars: financial, emotional, physical, and social. Having initiatives that map to each of these pillars will help you build a more holistic program and more easily measure the outcome of each one. Let’s explore the pillars in depth below.


Financial health is a core component of wellness but, unfortunately, one that’s frequently overlooked. To understand why financial wellness needs to serve as the foundation for every wellness program, consider Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. For those who aren’t familiar, the hierarchy is typically represented as a pyramid with five levels of needs: physiological, safety, love/belonging, self esteem, and self actualisation. The theory is that people need to fulfill their basic needs (physiological) before moving on to their higher, more advanced needs (self actualisation).

Having enough money to meet basic needs, such as buying groceries and paying rent, falls under the category of physiological needs. This means financial wellness is necessary to achieve before addressing the other pillars. Given that 1 in 5 Australians have less than $1,000 in savings, it’s clear that the financial health of employees needs to be a priority when building an employee wellness program. 

There are many initiatives you can introduce to help your employees prioritise their financial health, such as:  

  • Educational programs on topics like saving for key milestones and developing healthy financial habits
  • Encourage additional superannuation contributions
  • Financial planning services and tools to help employees map out their goals 
  • Real-time payments to make money management easier


Untreated mental health conditions cost Australian workplaces approximately $10.9 billion per year. But it goes beyond just costs. Employees struggling with mental health issues face many other consequences: they may have trouble performing at work, experience isolation, and find their personal and professional relationships negatively impacted. 

All of these side effects lead to unhappy, unproductive workers. As Josh Bersin describes: “if you want to make your employees “well” and “happy” you have to make it easy for them to do quality work.” One way to do this is to provide employees with the tools and resources they need to not only manage their existing mental health problems, but also proactively address them before they become more serious.

Here are a few mental health initiatives to consider offering: 

  • Counselling or coaching services (virtual and in-person)
  • Mental health resources on how to build resilience, unplug from work, and manage stress
  • Meditation or mindfulness apps 
  • A flexible leave policy that allows for mental health days


Most companies are already aware of the importance of physical health. But there are an overwhelming number of initiatives to choose from. The best way to choose? Ask your employees. Each workforce is different – for example, some may have more deskless workers or remote workers than others – and your wellness program should be customised to what your employees actually need. 

But if you need some ideas to help you get started, here are a few physical health initiatives to consider: 

  • Subsidised gym memberships or fitness classes
  • Flexible wellness budget that can cover everything from physical therapy sessions to running shoes
  • Preventive health offerings, such as health screenings and vaccinations
  • Private health insurance
  • Onsite activities and programs that get employees moving


Finally, it’s critical for companies to recognise that their employees have a life outside the office. People need to connect with their loved ones and engage in non-work related hobbies to feel fulfilled. But employees may not feel like they have the time or space to do so, which is why companies need to create those opportunities for them. Not only does this lead to happier, more balanced individuals, but it also allows employees to be more present when they’re at work.

To give employees the time and space to cultivate their lives outside of the office, there are a few offerings you can introduce: 

  • Remote work or flexible schedules
  • Subsidised child care or pet care services
  • Experiential rewards that allow employees to participate in an activity of their choice
  • Unlimited leave policy 

If your company has been on the fence about introducing an employee wellness program, there has never been a better time to take action. Even after COVID-19 passes, the needs of employees will still remain the same. We believe all employers have a responsibility to support their workforce with a holistic approach to wellness – which means recognising all areas of worker’s health including the four pillars of wellness we reviewed in this article.

If you or your employees are in need of support during this time, be sure to check out The Flare Wellness Network, a free wellness hub designed to support Australian workers by giving them access to free benefits and offers, while encouraging businesses to partner together in an effort to support the wellbeing of the Australian workforce.

It’s no surprise to see that employee wellness programs are on the rise. With absenteeism costing the Australian economy over $32.5 billion each year, companies are looking for ways to minimise the costs and better support the well-being of their employees. The disruptive effects of COVID-19 have made the need for these programs even clearer.  […]