Air New Zealand

Nominee/entrant details

Air New Zealand

Organisation details

Size: 5,000-9,999 staff

Industry: Transport, Postal and Warehousing

Organisation background

Air New Zealand operates a global passenger, domestic ground handling and cargo service to more than 17 million passengers annually. The airline is publicly listed with a 52% government shareholding, operating under a Board and Executive team. Employees are spread across 20 domestic Airports, Cargo, call centres, sales hubs, Engineering and Maintenance workshops, and internationally across the Pacific Rim. The impact of COVID-19 was devastating, resulting in the airline undergoing a significant, rapid reduction of our workforce, operations, and flight schedules globally, which ultimately resulted in the loss of approximately 4000 individuals from our 12,500 strong workforce in early 2020.

Executive summary

Air New Zealand has a comprehensive Mental Health and Wellbeing strategy, overlaying our multi-tiered ‘Me, We, Us’ framework across the mental health spectrum, ensuring the right support and resource is available to our people, regardless of their situation. COVID-19 tested our approach, with increasing mental distress across our global network, but it proved successful, and with full support from the Executive we were quickly able to adapt and deepen our support to individuals, build capability within teams and leaders, and look to manage mental health from an organisational level to provide critical support, including to those individuals leaving the business.

Background on situation and opportunity

Sudden closure of borders, changes to ways-of-working, dramatically reduced operations and headcount created a huge sense of shock, uncertainty, anxiety, and financial concern, significantly impacting the mental wellbeing of employees and their whānau. Alongside this was the loss of face-to-face connection and cultural community inside and outside of work as individuals were forced into social isolation due to lockdowns, job requirements (e.g. post-flight isolation), and stigma from the community. This situation meant it was essential to provide trusted, meaningful support and resource to our people, many of whom felt overwhelmed whilst still needing to perform essential roles in safety-critical environments.


Our Mental Health and Wellbeing strategy overlays our multi-tiered ‘Me, We, Us’ framework across the mental health spectrum, ensuring the right support and resource is available to our people, regardless of their situation. It provides multiple avenues for our diverse workforce to seek assistance at each level: - Me (the individual): Evidence-based tools/resources enabling and empowering individuals to take control of their mental wellbeing. - We (the team and leaders): Knowledge, tools and support to build a culture of positive relationships, peer support, and grow the capability of leaders to look after their teams. - Us (the organisation): Ensuring ‘in design’ and a risk management approach to mental health is applied and designed into roles, processes and environments. COVID-19 tested our strategy, with increasing mental distress across our global network, but with full support from the Executive we were quickly able to adapt, grow and deepen our approach to provide critical support, including to those individuals leaving the business. Air New Zealand’s promise of Manaaki underlays this – care for others that upholds their mana and enhances your own. We needed to ensure that no person was disadvantaged from accessing or receiving support – particularly our ‘non-wired’ employees or those working/isolating at home, who may be feeling disconnected from the organisation. With this in mind access, visibility and understanding of the strategy was vital, and our employee networks, HSRs and unions play an important role in this. The primary goals of our strategy are: - Empower people to take control of their mental health and wellbeing - Provide multiple and confidential ways to reach out and request support and connection - Encourage a work culture where people look out for one another and identify those in need - Increase the confidence and capability of our leaders - Implement a psychosocial risk management approach to mental health


Air New Zealand initiated the ‘Survive, Revive, Thrive’ strategy to guide the organisation through the Covid-19 recovery journey, and our wellbeing strategy mirrored this to support our people during this period of uncertainty and constant, rapid change. In order to successfully support the mental health and wellbeing of our people and help them feel psychologically safe, the following tools were implemented: Digital Support: - Wellbeing Hub – provided a trusted online source of mental health and wellbeing information, tools and resources, which is accessible on any device, globally. - Thrive Mental Wellbeing – a customised app that is free to all employees, and those leaving the business, linking to Air NZ support including EAP, Wellbeing Hub and Occupational Health Team. - Livestreams – online sessions with Air New Zealand health and wellbeing experts and special guests, covering specific topics, sharing information and promoting support options. Personalised Support: - Domestic Abuse and Awhina Fund – access to provision of leave, financial support and safety was important to ensure our employees with social or financial wellbeing challenges had vital assistance. - Wellbeing Check-In Tool – a weekly message sent via text and email to 12,500 employees during lockdown to provide trusted, timely COVID-19 information; check on the health and wellbeing of individuals and their whanau; provide an opportunity to request personal connection and support from a Wellbeing Team member or their manager. - Peer Support Network – a trusted network of trained volunteers who provide guidance, care, and connection to vital support services, helping share the responsibility of larger and remote teams with leaders. Leaders Support and training: - Mental Health training – provided via face-to-face and virtual workshops, including mental health and support, QPR Suicide Prevention, and Helping Conversations. - Support Systems for Senior Leaders – including a Buddy system, and specialised EAP clinicians to assist with wellbeing, mentoring and leadership challenges.

Engagement and communication

A dedicated communications has been developed and executed through our well-established communication channels to ensure that employees understand that mental health and wellbeing is a priority for the organisation, and are aware of how to access the components relevant to their current situation. Mental health and wellbeing features in regular company-wide employee and leader communications, including ‘Wellbeing Wednesday’ weekly emails during Covid-19 that outlined the support options in place, addressed current concerns, and provided a range of relevant tools and resources (e.g. podcasts, articles, online modules, community helplines). Yammer is also utilised as a key communications tool, allowing us to engage directly with employees to push out information, share experiences and enable regular connection. The vast majority of operational staff are non-wired, so mediums such as posters, face-to-face workshops and short video content are essential to ensure a broad reach and clear messaging. A number of specific business area communications and media channels are utilised to provide customised content and information. These include Livestreams aimed at specific audiences (e.g. Cabin Crew or Engineering and Maintenance), digital screens in lunchrooms, and information packs for business/peer leaders to share. The use of the Thrive app and The Wellbeing Hub enables employees to interact with resources on any device, anytime, providing instant and discrete 24/7 support for our global and shift workers. Leaders and Peer Support training is also an integral part of our communications plan, helping raise awareness of tools and support options available inside Air New Zealand and within the community. The importance of continued engagement with our employees that have transitioned out of the business (either permanently or on furlough) has been identified, so ongoing communication with them ensures they had uninterrupted access to our mental health and wellbeing tools during this period of distress and distance from the company.


The impact of the numerous initiatives and strategy deployed over the last 18 months has enabled our solid foundation of care to be enhanced and adapted to the new ways of working as a result of the pandemic. By being able to deploy more resource and capability to peers and leaders around awareness, crisis support and identification of needs, our teams are now better supported, with an enhanced team culture whereby conversations around mental wellbeing is a daily discussion albeit in some cases digitally. The collaboration with leaders, community and our internal employee networks have enabled the broad connection to our employees to engage with their mental wellbeing and raise awareness of the support available to themselves and their whanau. The mental health literacy and capability of our workforce has increased markedly, with more open conversations about mental wellbeing. An example is the recent guidance to begin every 1:1 with a wellbeing discussion centering on personal wellbeing. Feedback from Leaders is hugely positive that they feel confident now to look after their people in a meaningful way. Engagement in Livestreams was consistently high (live and replays), and the number of trained volunteers in Peer Support roles (including Suicide Prevention Gatekeepers) has continued to grow. Our EAP statistics continue in a positive direction, with the utilisation rate around 10% consistently, showing awareness and trust in the programme, with guidelines suggesting a UR over 6% is an indication of proactive use, rather than reactive. Wellbeing Check-in data showed great engagement, with 29,000 responses sent, and 443 requests for a personal check-in call received. Whilst the journey has been incredibly time-pressured and emotionally charged, we have learnt the value of community, capability and heart/care as core values to continue this journey forward as the airline will no doubt have further challenges to come.


Air New Zealand is proud of our inclusive culture, with a broad range of diverse perspectives, experiences, cultures, genders and ages across our business. Our Diversity and Inclusion strategy sets out expectations of what we are doing to become a champion organisation of equality, diversity and inclusivity. With the Te Tiriti o Waitangi obligations in mind, and our organisational aspirations to ‘Supercharge New Zealand’, our ‘Me, We, Us’ Strategy aims to ensure not only our employees, but equally importantly their whanau and community live longer, healthier and more independent lives. Overlaying this is Air New Zealand's promise of Manaaki – taking care further than any other airline. This care encompasses everything we do, not just taking care of our customers but also taking care of our people and each other. Our Wellbeing team’s regular work with other companies to assist with strategy development and programme delivery is an example of this. The Te Whare Tapu Wha model guides the pillars of our offerings to include taha wairua, taha hinengaro, taha tinana and taha whānau – again not just to employees, but also their whanau (e.g. Air NZ offers a free ‘friends and family’ code for whānau to download the Thrive app to assist with their mental wellbeing). Encouraging our employees to join employee networks forms part of our strategy to strengthen connection and belonging, and our strong partnership with these networks ensures that we have a broad reach in terms of communication and support offerings. This includes working with our EAP provider to have clinicians with a diverse range of cultures and backgrounds available for our people to connect with, establishing strong diversity (e.g. a range of age, gender and cultural backgrounds) in our Peer Support networks and working with our employee networks to provide bespoke wellbeing information for their people.

Innovation and creativity

Our innovation and creativity is motivated by creating opportunities to feel safe seeking support, creating sustainable programmes and enabling connection to all employees globally including exited and furloughed employees. Mental-ill Health Gap Analysis: Mental ill-health is identified as a critical risk at Air NZ, and so a mental-ill health gap analysis was established to ensure that organisational psychosocial risks were controlled to mitigate harm to our people. The Mental Ill-Health Gap Analysis applied ‘In-design’ thinking to identify and control the risk of distress in the way we work by analysing aspects such as role clarity, job demands and control, relationships and support, change management, resources, and mental ill health declaration and recovery. Each business area completed an assessment with resulting actions identified and entered into our ERM. This analysis also highlighted areas for targeted promotion, but also visibility of the risks up to senior leaders. Community Partnerships: For sustainable outcomes to support our people beyond the workplace, partnerships with community organisations such as Lifeline and Just a Thought enhanced our leadership and peer support capability with SME content and long-term community reach. Peer Support Network: Establishment of our Peer Support network created an additional support option for employees, offering them a group of trusted, trained peer volunteers who could offer support and advice and have more understanding of the pressures they may be facing in terms of the work area or their culture. Wellbeing check-in: Our Wellbeing Check-in Tool provided us with the ability to proactively reach all employees (including exiting and furloughed) on a regular basis. This scaled-up approach of communication meant vital information could be pushed out to employees, whilst also giving them the opportunity to request a check-in call from the wellbeing team or their manager, enabling assistance and connection where and when it was most needed.

Supporting materials (optional)

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Referee details

Darren Evans, General Manager People Safety and Aviation Medicine (Air New Zealand)

021 994729 • [email protected]

Key contact

Rachel Moon, Senior Manager Strategic Wellbeing (Air New Zealand)

021 594985 • [email protected]

6 Months
Since posted
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