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Why do I need a Wellbeing Champion Network in my workplace?

In recent years, the term Wellbeing Champion has gained widespread recognition, but what exactly does being a Wellbeing Champion entail, and why should you consider having them in your workplace? Wellbeing Champions are individuals who actively promote and support the wellbeing of their colleagues. They possess a genuine interest in health and wellbeing. Acting as advocates for positive mental health initiatives and authentically engaging in regular and meaningful conversations.  

Within workplaces, there are people that others naturally gravitate towards. The ones you go to readily seek advice, the ones that are easy to talk to and approachable. These individuals are trained with the skills and tools to have meaningful wellbeing conversations and connect with others. While employees may not always feel comfortable speaking with their managers or those in more senior roles, Wellbeing Champions act as trusted confidantes for internal support. They provide an informal safety culture where employees have an alternative means of seeking support independent of their direct managers. 

So, why should you have a Wellbeing Champion network?    

Research shows that:   

  • 1 in 4 Australians will experience a mental health illness within any given year [1].  
  • 81% of organisational leaders indicate their workplace has mental health support for their employees, but more than one-third (35%) don’t know they exist or have access to them [2]
  • One in five Australians (21%) have taken time off work in the past 12 months because they felt stressed, anxious, depressed or mentally unhealthy [2] 
  • Work-related psychological distress costs up to 17.4 billion each year [3].  

Many factors contribute to a mentally healthy workplace, one being having a Wellbeing Champion network. So, what are the benefits?   
  1. Wellbeing Champions can break down the mental health stigma and create a culture of psychological safety. Open peer-to-peer conversations about wellbeing can help reduce the stigma associated with mental health in the workplace. When employees feel comfortable discussing their mental health, it challenges misconceptions and normalises these conversations. These conversations can encourage more individuals to seek help without fear of judgment or negative consequences. Wellbeing Champions who role model these behaviours and attitudes can create positive change that promotes mental health and wellbeing at work. 
  1. Wellbeing Champions can be a protective factor for positive mental health and wellbeing at work. Research suggests that peer support and the quality of interpersonal relationships can buffer against emotional distress. Employees who feel connected and supported by their peers can better deal with work stressors. They often feel more comfortable confiding in their colleagues who may share similar experiences and challenges.  
  1. Connect people with professional support. Wellbeing Champions may be the fine line between an individual not coping so well and going at it alone. For those who may not be travelling so well, seeking professional support is considered one of the most crucial steps towards accessing appropriate mental health care and improving quality of life. Wellbeing Champions encourage help-seeking behaviours by referring colleagues in with support. They don’t have to have all the answers, but being a listening ear and pointing a colleague in the right direction can break down the barriers to someone accessing appropriate care.    

Wellbeing Champions are just one part of the puzzle in promoting positive mental health and creating culture change from within. Done right, Wellbeing Champions can greatly impact creating a culture of wellbeing and psychological safety. These peer-to-peer programs can be an invaluable asset for any workplace.

So, upskill your Wellbeing Champions with the capabilities to be an active advocate for mental health and confidently engage in wellbeing conversations. You can rest assured that they understand their role and have the appropriate tools to enact support because ‘we all have a role to play’ when it comes to mental health at work. [Mental Health Training for Wellbeing Champions]