BlueSkyMinds


Nominee/entrant details

BlueSkyMinds


Organisation details

Size: self-employed staff

Industry: Education and Training


Organisation background

We are a team of highly trained, passionate facilitators with corporate experience, providing evidence-based mindfulness programmes proven to reduce stress, and increase productivity and wellbeing in and out of the workplace. All facilitators have completed the MTIA 12-month, globally recognised, mindfulness teacher training course. We deliver tools and strategies to improve the working environment for the individual and lift the engagement of teams, positively impacting the growth and success of organisations across New Zealand. Every facilitator has over 10 years of personal mindfulness practice, attends regular teacher retreats, and has ongoing supervision to ensure adherence to global mindfulness teaching standards.


Executive summary

The founder of wellbeing consulting business, BlueSkyMinds, knows all too well the impact our mental-wellbeing can have on us and our whānau. Debbie’s father tragically lost his battle with depression when she was 18. Later in life she then suffered from postnatal-depression. During her recovery she completed a life-changing 8-week Mindfulness programme called ‘MBSR’. In 2015 driven by her prior corporate experience and belief in the evidence and benefits, she retrained to deliver MBSR and set up BlueSkyMinds. BlueSkyMinds is now a team of passionate, highly-trained facilitators who have delivered programmes to numerous organisations, and over 650 participants across Aotearoa.


Background on situation and opportunity

AAI Insurance wanted to empower people to help manage mental wellbeing, other than EAP and one-off workshops. Short programmes already on offer were not bringing a desired level of lasting change. A staff survey at AUT, indicated that mindfulness to support professional development would be a valued addition to their wellbeing offerings. They were looking for a research-based curriculum that would align to the culture and values of AUT’s people. Prior to 2020, Xero experienced high growth, and a high paced work environment. This led to low engagement relating to mental wellbeing, with staff reporting overwhelm and work related stress.


Strategy

Step One: Engage – Run 1 hour Intro Sessions for clients to engage their key audience. Provide communication and resources to share with client workplace. Step Two: Train - Deliver ‘High Performing Minds’* programme. Survey participants and measure qualitative and quantitative results pre and post programme, then present to the client. Step Three: Embed - Create sustained lasting change. Create an internal mindfulness community which supports each other. Eg. Training employee ‘champions’, providing ongoing resources, delivery of ‘refresher’ sessions, and level 2 programmes and retreats. *About High Performing Minds Our main strategy centres around our High Performing Minds (HPM). HPM is based on the global gold standard mindfulness training programme - Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction (MBSR). MBSR is a comprehensive, evidence-based approach to mindfulness that teaches skills and practices to help break cycles of anxiety, stress, unhappiness and exhaustion. We carefully adhere to the structure of the programme, whilst ensuring it is practical and works for our client. We work with a senior MBSR supervisor, Dianne May, who is a co-director of Mindfulness Training Institute (MTI) to ensure our programmes follow global teaching standards and stay true to MBSR. HPM is highly experiential and personal, allowing the group to integrate mindfulness into their personal development areas. Delivery is once a week for 2 hours over eight-weeks. This time-frame ensures cognitive, emotional, and behavioural changes are ingrained within individuals. HPM is currently part of numerous wellbeing strategies for a range of successful organisations across New Zealand, including AUT and AAI Insurance. “This programme has helped me immensely in my professional environment - with increased concentration, looking at a variety of options in dealing with stressful situations, and improved relationships with co-workers.” AUT March 2020


Execution

Engage: At AA Insurance over 2020/2021 - We ran four one-hour introductory sessions covering the strategies, values, background of HPM, the benefits, what the programme entails and what commitment is required. Everyone in the organisation was invited. Train: Over the past 18 months we have run six Auckland based ‘High Performing Minds’ programmes, with a total of 50 employees. These included the following steps: Weekly two-hour workshops over an 8-week period - hands on practical sessions exploring a range of mindful practices including mindful breathing, awareness of body, thoughts, sounds and feelings. These classes are run without powerpoint, to foster higher levels of participation and engagement. Regular group discussions are encouraged throughout the sessions to bring out personal experiences, integrating practices into everyday life. A comprehensive week-by-week workbook explaining the practices and scientific rationale behind each week's content. Small reminder stickers of key practices such as S.T.O.P and The Mindful Minute. Weekly email reminders of core practices each week and motivation to keep going. Online mindfulness meditation recordings to listen to each week. The group is encouraged to undertake some form of formal meditation practice five days per week. Embed: After the programme, eight weeks worth of follow up emails are sent to each group to remind them of key practices. In 2020 we ran our second two-hour programme for AAI’s first responder network, a group of 30 people trained to be mental health and domestic violence first responders. In 2020 we ran a customised series of online seminars on relevant topics such as managing uncertainty, which particularly resonated in light of Covid-19. Regular newsletter sent to participants, including articles and free offers. One-day silent retreat offered in June 2021 to past participants. Free online meditations offered during MHAW in 2020.


Engagement and communication

At AAI, Airways and Southern Cross we recorded a short video explaining the HPM programme to all staff. Introductory sessions are part of the strategy; these help participants to find out if the programme is right for them, experience a ‘taster’ of what the programme will be like and understand the commitment required. After each eight-week programme, a full slide deck presentation is fed back to key stakeholders outlining the key metrics and feedback received. HPM was renamed at AUT to ‘Being Present’ to better engage with a tertiary work environment. In 2020, at Southern Cross and Airways, we provided information about mindfulness and its benefits, plus resources for the company intranet. We provide comms for the client to send to participants, managers and key stakeholders. We provide regular newsletters to past participants to keep them engaged in the content. All our trainers are skillful, inspiring communicators. Erin Brearley AAI Safety & Wellbeing Business Partner July 2021 “We have had the pleasure of partnering with BlueSkyMinds for the past two years and have been offering staff the opportunity to take part in the eight week mindfulness course Debbie has designed. The results have been amazing for those that have taken part and I have been particularly amazed by Debbie’s ability to pivot and adapt during lockdown periods. Nothing was ever too much trouble during this stressful time and Debbie was genuinely concerned for looking after our people. The enthusiasm Debbie has for her work is unprecedented and infectious, and having tried other mindfulness programmes in the past, Debbie has been able to present her programme in a way to our people that is relatable and engaging for a variety of audiences. I wholeheartedly believe BlueSkyMinds deserves recognition for the work they are doing for a range of New Zealand workplaces”.


Impact

Of our 17 eight-week Auckland programmes over 2020/2021, we received the following ratings from 142 participants: How likely are you to recommend this programme to colleagues?: 8.9/10 Please rate the resources delivered: 9.1/10 Please rate the workshop facilitator: 9.6/10 AAI - Participant Data below: Stress Levels - Perceived Stress Scale (PSS)* overall average across four-workshops including a total of 38 people down by 17% after eight-weeks. *The Perceived Stress Scale (PSS) is the most widely used psychological instrument for measuring the perception of stress. It is a measure of the degree to which situations in one’s life are appraised as stressful. Items were designed to tap how unpredictable, uncontrollable, and overloaded respondents found their lives. Productivity “I am able to notice when my attention has been pulled away and redirect it to the present.” Overall average across four workshops including a total of 38 people up by 27.9% post programme. “I am able to be fully attentive in meetings, conference calls and presentations.” Overall average across four workshops including a total of 38 people up by 28.6% post programme. “I take time each day to optimise my personal productivity.” Overall average across four4 workshops including a total of 38 people up by 29.75% post programme. Impact Quote: “The training has had a knock-on effect on my conversations with my stakeholders and stakeholder management. I think at times we all find ourselves in a position where we find it difficult to help others see the benefits of our solution even if it's different from the way they imagined. This training has taught me to take a step back and listen to what they're saying, acknowledge how they're feeling and then articulate the next best steps with your experience and expertise being a guide/voice of reason to lead them towards success”. AAI, Feb 2020


Inclusion

In 2021 we made the commitment to integrate te ao Māori into our teaching. Debbie has completed a Level One Te Reo Programme with Toi Williams from AUT, and is engaging his advice on how to put Maori perspective on mental-wellbeing and mindfulness respectfully into the curriculum. Our curriculum is based on MBSR. The nature of this content has been designed to be as inclusive as possible to all. The content is secular, and actively fosters a sense of belonging to the group for the eight-week journey. The programme encourages people to recognise their own judgements and biases of others. Our trainers are skilled at adapting content to suit a diverse audience. Eg. At AUT, we had one participant with hearing difficulties. Rather than assume what they needed, our trainer asked them. This is important as it empowers people and everyone has different needs. The participant asked the trainer to not talk with her back to them, and to repeat what others had said if they hadn't heard them. It went very well, and this participant was one of the most engaged people on the course. “I’ve used my experience taking a deliberate deep dive for 8-weeks into mindfulness as a talking point with others how they cope with stress, look after themselves and enhance their self-awareness - appreciating that there are many ways we can each do this mahi. These conversations get us communicating at a deep level about coping, and the importance of self-care in the greater equation of care for others, especially as leaders.” AUT, May 2020 “There were a lot of things to come from completing HPM, such as the unexpected but lovely consequence of the group environment where those attending opened up to one another and strengthened bonds on a deeper level.” Foster Moore, Nov 2020


Innovation and creativity

We have committed to an adaptive and iterative approach so our programmes can be accessed by the broadest possible range of participants. During various lockdowns across 2020 and 2021, all our trainers undertook specialised training to learn how to run classes on Zoom if required. During this time we were running a range of 8-week programmes and so we oscillated between online/face to face delivery at Xero, AAI and AUT. We have developed a full online version of HPM, which we delivered to the Australian/NZ leadership team at MoleMap in 2020. We designed a Hybrid version of HPM (5x Face to face + 3x Online sessions), this was delivered to Xero in 2020 and for Southern Cross in 2021. We customised content for clients where needed, for example: mindfulness to work with uncertainty, feelings of isolation, working from home and working with high levels of anxiety. Our classroom sessions are always adapted to the needs of each group, our facilitators are highly skilled at adapting each week's content based on what comes up from week to week. We worked with AUT in 2021 to develop a ‘Leading with Presence’ programme. Kate Birch, Director of Talent & Culture – AUT – August 2021: “In 2020 we launched our first ‘Leading with Presence’ programme for People Leaders with BlueSkyMinds. Participant feedback demonstrated that it helped leaders to really focus on what they need as leaders to be resilient, and therefore were better able to role model selfcare, and deliver the best for their teams and the organisation. Feedback from the participants has also been very positive, with many recommending the programme and commenting on the transformational impact this course has had on areas such as wellbeing, achievement and compassion to themselves and others”.


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Referee details

Erin Brearley, Safety and Wellbeing Business Partner (AA Insurance)

(09) 352 6234 Mobile 027 2784001 • [email protected]


Key contact

Debbie Schultz, Founder (Key Contact is Business Owner)

021 653 107 • [email protected]

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