Club Central is rolling out an Employee Wellbeing Plan to provide additional support for its team in the wake of the COVID-19 lockdown and it is calling on other clubs to follow its example.
The club already has a well-established employee assistance program but the added challenges that lockdowns and government restrictions presented this year saw its Human Resources team looking at providing additional forms of support for employees.
With the assistance of trainer and workplace mental health consultant, Anna Feringa, Club Central's Human Resources team is presenting an Employee Wellbeing Plan that aims to break down the barriers around mental health and normalise speaking up about the challenges that many are facing.
"We spend around one third of our lives at work. It's a big part of our lives and can have a considerable effect on our mental health - in a positive or negative way," said Ben Williamson, Executive Manager - Human Resources for the Club Central Group.
"Hospitality can be a challenging environment at any time and that has been further amplified this year by COVID-19.
"We had a 70-day government-imposed shutdown, followed by reopening with a completely new way of operating including temperature checks for all visitors, limitations on numbers, social distancing requirements and the need for all our staff to become 'COVID Marshalls' to ensure compliance with the government restrictions.
"We are beyond proud of the way that our whole team has responded to and overcome these challenges, while still providing a place for our members and guests to come and enjoy themselves.
"However, we were also conscious of the impact this might be having. We want to do what we can to support our team through it," he said.
In early December, Club Central's duty management teams from Hurstville and Menai participated in a two-day Mental Health First Aid course led by Anna Feringa.
The course teaches participants how to assist people who are developing a mental health problem, experiencing a worsening of an existing mental health problem or who may be in a mental health crisis, until appropriate professional help is received or the crisis resolves.
"Our duty managers lead our frontline teams and we wanted them to have the tools and training to provide another layer of support to help prevent and respond to mental health challenges that may come up," Mr WIlliamson said.
"These may be issues that arise during work hours, but we are also increasingly aware that mental health challenges from outside of work can be having a big impact on our staff," he said.
Along with the Employee Assistance program, another recently introduced initiative is bi-monthly Mental Health Focus Group meetings.
This casual group chat aims to provide an open forum for team members to come and share, seek support or guidance or simply a friendly face to chat to.
Club Central supports other mental health initiatives like R U OK Day as well as general health and wellbeing initiatives like Movember, breast cancer awareness, domestic violence prevention, homeless and cancer research through regular giving and participation in special events.
"Overall our focus is to break down the stigma associated with putting your hand up and admitting that you may be struggling with a mental health challenge," Mr Williamson said.
"As a HR team, we've noticed a significant increase over the past 12 months in our staff coming forward for support. We want to ensure that we are doing what we can to provide the appropriate support and referrals to help our team be happy and healthy," he said.
Recognising that this is not an isolated issue, Club Central put the call out to other clubs inviting their teams to join the Mental Health First Aid course.
Representatives from Moorebank Sports Club, Blacktown Workers Club, DOOLEYS Lidcombe Catholic Club, Australian Club, St George Leagues club and Panthers Leagues Club all participated.