Anne Lee

Bringing mental health in alongside the physical aspects of wellness has been a deliberate and important part of developing an overall staff wellness programme, FarmRight human resources manager Desiree Barnes says.

This time last year the company’s annual conference, themed “Staying Sharp” included several speakers who shared their own challenges with mental health and successful tactics to be well.

Desiree says feedback from farm and corporate staff, across three corporate offices and its 70 farming and horticultural operations that include more than 55,000 cows, showed the conference had really lifted the lid on a topic that had touched a lot of people personally, either themselves directly or their family, workmates and friends.

In the months following, some had come forward as they recognised they could do with some help and felt safe asking for it.

It also helped some recognise others were struggling and prompted them to check in with those people.

“While it was great to get the feedback that it was good to be openly talking about the subject we could see that to really invest in our people and care for them we needed to do more, go the next step and put something in place for them to access help.”

Desiree says she did a lot of research into various providers and talked to other organisations in agriculture, construction and other fields.

It became clear the greatest benefits would come from putting mental wellbeing alongside physical health and lifestyle, so at this year’s conference the company has launched a wellness programme for its 370 people that has a three-pronged approach.

It uses three different providers and, under the mental wellbeing pillar offers free counselling.

Under the physical wellbeing pillar it offers free medical services including hearing, vision, lung function and blood pressure health tests as well as flu vaccinations.

Free dietary advice, exercise advice, relaxation techniques and help with setting lifestyle goals comes under the balanced wellbeing pillar.

The company has previously offered some physical health testing and vaccinations but Desiree says now there’s much more awareness that multiple factors feed into overall wellbeing and health.

The approach, though, doesn’t stop with putting the programme in place.

It’s an ongoing culture of caring, she says and one of the next steps is in talking to managers about what help they want in terms of techniques in recognising when people are struggling mentally, how they should approach conversations with them and guide them towards help.

Zero Harm

Technology in the form of an app will be one way farm investment and management company FarmRight will strive towards its goal of zero harm.

Lost time injury goals are common across many farming businesses as the primary sector strives to improve its health and safety record.

But FarmRight has gone a step further this year announcing the zero-harm goal at its recent conference.

Over recent years a concerted focus on health and safety and the successful development of a strong culture across the farms has meant the number of lost time injuries has been tracking down at a steady rate, reaching a point now where zero harm is the logical goal.

“We’re just not comfortable having a situation where any of our employees are hurt at work,” human resource manager Desiree Barnes says.

Having an app that’s easy and quick for staff to log a near miss or hazard will give us more information.

“We can then see trends – are we getting a run of hazards that, for instance, could cause slip and fall injuries?

“From there we can then share that with all our farms in a more timely and interactive way using pictures or diagrams to help avoid accidents or near misses.”

Desiree says such systems can help staff who have English as a second language and may also help build the health and safety culture by alerting new staff to the high priority the company puts on it.