Nominee/entrant details


Organisation details

Size: 1,000-4,999 staff

Industry: Information, Media and Telecommunications

Organisation background

The 2degrees story started back in the late 90s, as the New Zealand Government readied an auction of 3G rights. Using the Treaty of Waitangi to challenge the auction, A group of Maori Visionaries gained the right to launch a 3G mobile network in 1999. In 2009, 2degrees hit the New Zealand market, making an immediate impact by halving the cost of Fast forward to today, 2degrees is a full-service telco with a network that covers 98.5% of the places Kiwis live and work. We employ 1150 smart people located nationally, with our main offices in Auckland, Wellington, and Christchurch.

Executive summary

‘2degrees Together’ is an internal mental wellbeing programme. This program was born from our conversations around the business, particularly in Customer Care, which told us that we could do more to support, advocate and educate our People about mental health. And we listened. We initially started in 2019 with a campaign to talk openly about mental health but it quickly became apparent that we needed a targeted support strategy for our Customer Care team. Given the nature of their work and many of them had their own mental health struggles, we took a considered approach to support them.

Background on situation and opportunity

Conversations, unprecedentedly high churn rates in 2019 within Care, the feedback from our annual engagement survey, made us rather uncomfortable, throw in COVID and our Agents working from home, we had to do more – we had successfully opened up the conversations around mental health but we were naïve in appreciating the number of people who were struggling themselves and how our Customers behaviour (at times) negatively impacted our People. We know we had to put our money where our mouth is and “Fight for Fair” for our own People. We know we had to support them as much as we could.


Taking into account our business purpose is 'Fighting for Fair to make New Zealand a better place to live', our 2degrees Together purpose of ‘Supporting the mental wellbeing our People” and our company values (In It Together, Dare to be Different, Own It), we worked with representatives across the Care team to develop a strategy that supported our Care team both whilst in the office and when working from home. Working with the team, we've focused on end-to-end support. One that works for both our care specialists and our customers. This program includes: 1. Setting boundaries and protocols around call types including: a. Lonely b. Aggressive c. Racist/sexist abuse d. Suicidal or self-harm We also empowered our care specialists to end such calls if needed. 2. Induction training run by Lifeline Aotearoa on how to manage these call types 3. Easy access flipcharts as quick reminders 4. Thriving Matters workshops by Dr. Hillary Bennett. These sessions help team managers talk about mental health with their team. 5. Setting up 0800 DEBRIEF line run by Lifeline Aotearoa. After a difficult call, this line gives our agents access to a trained counsellor. This is a confidential line. We also recognise that some of our staff have their own personal struggles. To offer support, we set up: 1. An internal mental health workshop called Kotahi covering a broad spectrum of topics. This ranges from mindfulness to emotional intelligence, triggers and coping mechanisms when triggered. 2. Free, weekly onsite counsellor 3. Access to between 3-6 EAP sessions dependent on need 4. Regular Lunch & Learn sessions featuring prominent speakers. To name a few that spoken thus far, we’ve had Jehan Casinder, Mike King, and Brad Smeele 5. Access to our Wellness programme


Setting boundaries and protocols around negative call types: We agreed on realistic boundaries and included it in our induction, on the Care Knowledge Base, and in flipcharts. Induction training run by Lifeline Aotearoa: Lifeline conducted several pilot workshops. Feedback was incorporated into their training until the respondents felt empowered to respond to negative call types. Easy access flipcharts for care specialists: We developed flipcharts with an external design agency, had them printed and distributed. Thriving Matters workshops: Dr. Hillary Bennett led these sessions which helped team managers have difficult conversations around mental health with their team. 0800 DEBRIEF line run by Lifeline Aotearoa: Currently in trial with a team in Auckland and Christchurch, this initiative gives our agents access to a trained counsellor after difficult calls. We plan to roll this out in time to all of Care. Kotahi - An internal mental health workshop: This workshop covered topics including mindfulness, emotional intelligence, triggers, and coping mechanisms. Initially a 2-day workshop, it has now shifted to 1.5h/day virtually over 6 weeks. Free, weekly onsite counsellor: We trialled a counsellor for two 30m sessions every alternate week for 6 weeks. The trial’s success saw us increase to four 30 min sessions each week. Access to 3-6 EAP sessions: Though we have offered EAP services for a few years, we now commit to paying for up to 6 sessions and advertise through posters across the office (attached) Regular Lunch & Learns: We have regular Lunch & Learns covering a variety of topics from cooking to mindfulness. We invite mental health advocates including Jehan Casinader, Mike King and Brad Smeele. Each session is recorded and can be joined in person or via Teams. Participation in mental health week: We run a number of workshops, massages, classes, challenges etc during that week

Engagement and communication

We recognise that no one form of communication works for everyone. To make sure our initiatives are less "yawn' and more "yay", we work with our Internal Comms team. Their inputs help us keep each program engaging and the messaging entertaining. 1. It's safe to say our CEO has a lot on his mind. But one subject that's always top of mind for him is mental health. That's why he never shies away from discussing its importance. He does this at every opportunity - People Leader's call with 200 invited attendees. He also takes time to talk about it at every Fair Call which has 1150 invited attendees. 2. Internal communications a. Monthly newsletter – refer to example b. Weekly roundup – refer to example 3. Various posters: a. EAP - refer to example b. 2degrees Together clarity – refer to example 4. Sharepoint site dedicated to Mental Health 5. Teams “Connect” site where we communicate events etc 6. Wellness and 2degrees Together teams 7. Our newsletter behind toilet doors also gets fantastic cut through (After all, the audience is so captive) 8. For our Care Specialists, we check in with each other and also share information in the weekly team huddles


We won't sugar coat it. In 2019, our care team had people heading for the exits, fast. To get to the bottom of this, we set up 'Project Bluesky'. This program aimed to develop our leadership to listen and respond better. It examined the physical environment our care team were in. And above all, it took a holistic approach to mental wellness (as outlined above) All this focused effort paid off. In 18 months, we saw our churn rate drop (and stay) below 40% of what they were at their peak in 2019. . For now, our engagement surveys and anecdotal evidence keeps us striding forward. From what we're hearing, some of the inspiring insights we've gleaned include: • 2degrees is doing well in employee satisfaction, wellness, and values. • Our people appreciate a strong focus on wellness • Employee wellness starts with the small things. This includes wellness sessions, free fruit stations and celebrating cultural festivities. • The people at 2degrees believe the organisation supports diversity, flexibility, and wellness • Our staff call receives heaps of positive feedback, fostering a cordial team spirit • Our wellness program reflects a real commitment to inclusion and diversity •People now feel their direct managers cares about them professionally and personally. • Our mental and wellness programs instil the confidence that support exists when needed • Our work across mental health within the organisation is exceptional and genuine •The people at 2degrees value our charity support We've also seen the number of employees accessing EAP double in 18 months. This tells us our people are getting the support they need. In turn, this inspires them to make New Zealand a better place to live for our fellow Kiwi customers. Of course, this is not a sprint. It's a marathon. And we have many, many more laps to go


At 2degrees we have over 60 different cultures and so we appreciate the importance of being inclusive and appreciating that everyone belongs but respecting individual uniqueness. However, our approach is currently based on the Mental Health five ways of wellbeing but are slowly transitioning our whole 2degrees Together programme to align with te whare tapa whā. With that in mind the '2degrees Together' team and the Care team working on this project took a two-pronged approach to success (that alliteration was a mouthful, wasn’t it?). We began, and continue to ensure we have a cross-functional business team. We also ensure even representation across ethnicity, gender, culture, and age profiles. This allows us to shape strategy from diverse perspectives. Kind of like the Marvel Avengers, only without the costumes. But like the Avengers, we know we can't rest on our laurels.

Innovation and creativity

At 2degrees, we don't brag about caring for our people. We care because it’s in our culture. Our internal programs are solely for the benefit of our People and are the working manifestations of that culture. Our philosophy is simple - if you build it, they will come. We have run our programmes for a number of years now and we have seen an increase in asking for help and support which is fantastic to be a part of. While this project has many such milestones, the three we're most proud of are: 1. Our growing partnership with Lifeline: Their workshops have been a real ear opener. It empowered our wonderful Specialist with some of the tougher calls. And the 0800 DEBRIEF helpline showed us that the only thing remote during COVID was work, not care. 2degrees is among the first NZ-based call centres to set up such a respite. With 0800 DEBRIEF, our care specialists can come off call queues at any time to use the service. After all, you can only learn to care for a customer if you practice self-care. 2. The development of an inhouse resilience workshop: Kotahi has covered a range of topics such as: 1. Emotional intelligence 2. Resilience 3. Self-compassion 4. Triggers 5. Grounding techniques 6. Mindfulness 7. Journaling This course is part of our care induction process and so far, shows a 100% positive response. We even have a waiting list for future workshops from other areas of the business. 3. High profile speakers talking about mental health: To draw a wider audience, knew we had to go big. And go big we did. A commitment that reflects in the quality of our speakers. Each of them proved proficient on mental wellbeing and as a result, our staff attendance rose 300%.

Supporting materials (optional)

Photograph of key staff (optional)

Link to video (optional)

Referee details

Megan Barclay, Lifeline Enterprise Consultant (Lifeline)

021605472 • [email protected]

Key contact

Nicky Vaughan, Head of Safety & Wellness (2degrees)

0223533326 • [email protected]

3 Months
Since posted
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