Bank of New Zealand

Nominee/entrant details

Bank of New Zealand

Organisation details

Size: 5,000-9,999 staff

Industry: Financial and Insurance Services

Organisation background

BNZ is a financial services provider. BNZ has a national presence with 78 branches in communities as well as 33 dedicated spaces for business customers and eight corporate sites. BNZ has 5255 colleagues. BNZ is part of an ever-changing industry, subject to a lot of regulatory change and oversight. In the last 12 months we have been adapting to post-Covid-19 reality which includes the unexpected housing bubble, increase in aggressive and distressed customers, while also helping colleagues settle into a new hybrid and increased digital way of working.

Executive summary

The last 18 months has been like no other. Covid-19 impacted colleagues both personally and for many within the work environment. BNZ knew immediately that we needed to be proactive to equip our colleagues with tools which would protect their mental health from the impacts of dealing with distressed customers. Removing the stigma around the traditional EAP service, training and individual wellbeing coaches were used as preventative and simple tools which proved to be effective. Colleagues felt supported, cared for and overall, their wellbeing in 2020 improved compared to 2019 which was a huge achievement given the impacts of Covid-19.

Background on situation and opportunity

As the full impacts of Covid-19 were being recognized a significant level of stress went onto our Bankers to quickly support customers who were facing extreme levels of stress and distress. They had to deal with the entire spectrum of human emotions from customers i.e. frustration, anger, helplessness. To provide context we had to find solutions for >50,000 individual housing / business customers during the initial phase. Over the last 12 months we have continued work with these customers to ensure they can get back to a level of normality while putting in place support for our colleagues.


The BNZ strategy over this time was firstly, to have the foundations to make sure BNZ is a proactive, supportive and responsive organisation to colleague’s mental health. Secondly, it has been to offer fit-for-purpose tools and education which engage and increase the understanding of mental health with prevention as the end goal. Thirdly, to have support processes in place which are trusted for our most vulnerable colleagues. In the two years prior to Covid-19 work had been done to build the fundamentals for us to be able to talk and support mental ill-health. This has included internally developing and training all people leaders in “Supporting BNZers Mental Health”. This mandatory training has now been attended by over 900 leaders and continues to be delivered quarterly. This training equips leaders with skills to understand differences between stress, burnout, mental ill-health and mental health, and how to have a conversation with someone they are concerned about. This common understanding was a foundation to build the support. One of the key aspects of BNZ’s approach was to keep ahead of changes impacting our colleagues. We recognised the following as impacting colleagues: - change in Covid-19 alert levels, - work demands to have branches open at all Alert levels and be able to implement government support packages, - health anxiety, - customer behaviours, - Uncertainty and ambiguity due to changing environments and working from home - emotional and physical fatigue - Need to recover. This meant the BNZ support framework over the 18-month included both generic and targeted campaigns. The targeted support aimed to be preventative, for example the support framework put support in place for colleagues within the “deferral teams” who were proactively ringing customers identified as being in financial stress and being exposed to high levels of stressful conversations.


For generic support, we pulled together tools and resources aligned to the changing environment - Within the first week, have developed a presentation covering “Ways to Wellbeing in Covid-19” which took the BNZ ways to wellbeing and gave tips on how to implement within a lockdown life. This training was delivered to 68 teams. - We understood the psychological stress of working from home, and that recognized that colleagues were stressing about work set up items which in a normal situation would not have been a big deal. We implemented a new process to report work from home ergonomic issues which saw a 996% increase in pain and discomfort reports over the same period in previous year. - Information was provided centrally on managing remote teams, tips to stay connected and how to identify if someone wasn’t doing well from afar. - A comprehensive webinar series was developed and delivered at every alert level change - Develop and implement Wellbeing Warrant of Fitness For the targeted support we quickly identified groups of colleagues who would be more exposed to mental harm from distressed customers and work demands - Mandated training for our 2000 front-line colleagues implemented within the second week of level 4 lockdown, which covered: o Understanding what driving the distressing / challenging behaviour of customers o Learn a model for how to respond to customer distress, to facilitate them towards collaboration and solution finding o The Zone of helpfulness - meeting the emotional and operational needs of customers o Learn skills to manage your emotions, during and after challenging interactions o Protect your overall wellbeing and where to go for support  Specialist training and support for teams making proactive calls to customers identified as being at financial risk. This included being allocated an individual external wellbeing coach.

Engagement and communication

Our approach to communication is always to be transparent, use language, which is relatable, and not to only have messages about mental health coming from the HS&W team. We have four main internal channels to communicate; Workplace (Facebook for workplaces), a weekly email, the Need to Know which goes to call colleagues and a dedicated people leader email, live chats and locally delivered messages. We utilised all these channels in the last 18months. Workplace was used to communicate through the HS&W page where we provided tips for being proactive around mental health for example reminders on the circle of influence. As a result, the HS&W workplace page was made compulsory for all users. Key messages were included in live chats, which had senior leaders talking about the importance of looking out for each other, being kind and normalizing not being ok all the time. This included a range of interviews with the CEO, for example with a front line backer talking through the training tools given and help helpful they were to deescalate customer behaviour, and how the comprehensive support eased the psychological safety of colleagues in branches. To engage our more targeted groups we used senior or local leaders to own the messages. For example, getting senior leaders to introduce the Managing Customer Behaviour through high stress training, talk through their own experiences and follow up on the strategies within their teams, or getting local leaders to ensure that individuals allocated a wellbeing coach were also allocated the work time to attend and had schedules of work which allowed time to debrief between calls.


BNZ had two key tools to measure the success of the programmes. The first is the BNZ engagement survey tool called ‘Heartbeat’. BNZ tracks the question “Does BNZ have a genuine interest in my wellbeing”. This question has ranked within the top three strengths of BNZ since March 2020. Most recently BNZ also asked in the survey how a colleague rated their wellbeing in last two weeks, 70% rated this as good or very good. In September 2020, BNZ ran a dedicated Wellbeing Heartbeat to pulse deeper into colleague wellbeing. The top three strengths of that survey indicated that BNZers felt very cared for, they were comfortable to raise a mental health concern with their people leader, and that tools and resources provided were actionable and helpful. The second tool is the Wellbeing 360 survey. BNZ has deployed this survey annually for three years. An average of over 2500 colleagues participate each year. The survey is a 116-question battery which uses evidence-based health risk parameters (e.g. physical inactivity, high stress levels or lack of fruit and vegetable consumption) to calculate individual scores across each of these segments; Mental Wellbeing, Physical Wellbeing, Work Wellbeing and Social Wellbeing. Everyone who completes the survey obtains an individualised report and BNZ obtains anonymised data which we can manipulate to look at trends across business units, geographic locations, age and gender. The results in 2020 (taken in October annually) showed that overall wellbeing had improved for colleagues in the year which is an amazing achievement given the challenging year we all faced. In particular our social, work and physical wellbeing scores have improved.


The whole ethos of the support frameworks and tools is based around the understanding that mental health does not discriminate. Our frameworks are inclusive by design. Anyone in the organisation can raise a wellbeing referral. A wellbeing referral is a notification to the Wellbeing team which is completely confidential. A referral can be made for any aspect of wellbeing and is proven to support our most vulnerable colleagues with return or stay at work planning. The objective of the referral process is to offer the same support for someone with mental ill-health as they would receive for a physical injury. In the last 12 months we have seen an increase in self-referrals. In the 18 months there have been 260 referrals. The main reasons are workplace stress, mental ill health and personal stress. The wellbeing programmes are interconnected with our Diversity and Inclusion framework which looks at aspects of psychological safety. However, over this time and due to our place in the maturity curve we did not run programmes aimed at particular diversity groups as priority had to be on all colleagues experiencing the new reality for Covid-19. We will be focusing on this moving forward. A recent example of this is the webinar on “Coping with uncertainty and grief when miles away from loved ones” and communication with support tools for colleagues in the Indian community when Covid-19 outbreak peaked there. We also have a project within our HS&W strategy to align our Wellbeing frameworks to Te Whare Tapa Whā.

Innovation and creativity

One of the key successes over this time was how we reframed the use of EAP, moving it from a ‘bottom of the cliff’ to be a ‘top of the cliff’ support. We knew from existing data that teams that had higher utilisation rates of EAP had lower rates of Wellbeing referrals (per FTE). To change the perception of EAP we developed a Wellbeing WOF with Benestar which removed any hangover of stigma attached to accessing support. It was a brief (30-60 min) call with a psychologist who went over all aspects of wellbeing and gave practical tools which colleagues could immediately put in place to be well (and stay well). It was communicated similarly to taking a car for a WOF but delivered as a holistic once over. As a result, EAP use went from 5% to 14%. We also had 40% of colleagues who completed a WOF go on for more traditional counselling. We then also asked Benestar to change the registration email address from [email protected] to a proactive [email protected] to remove further stigma from accessing this wellbeing support. We also allocated over 50 colleagues individual wellbeing coaching. This was communicated a support tool with an eye on the long term and a tool to customise a personal strategy to recover from challenging conversations, as we knew how these can impact on wellbeing. Each colleague was put in touch with a professional to meet one-to-one monthly. Really appreciated BNZ supporting not just me but my team during the hard times of 2020 by assigning us our own wellbeing coaches. Typically, in these situations you know the support is available, but you never get around to reaching out and taking it up, so it was so helpful to have this as a proactive tool. (Jason, Coachee.)

Supporting materials (optional)

Photograph of key staff (optional)

Link to video (optional)

Referee details

Bridgette Dalzell, General Manager, Customer Connection Hub (BNZ)

0274317268 • [email protected]

Key contact

Bridget Smaill, General Manager, Health, Safety & Wellbeing (BNZ)

0211012523 • [email protected]

3 Months
Since posted
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