Air New Zealand

Nominee/entrant details

Air New Zealand

Organisation details

Size: 5,000-9,999 staff

Industry: Transport, Postal and Warehousing

Organisation background

Covid-19 caused a sudden closure of borders, a dramatic reduction in operations and headcount, and significant changes to regulations, creating a huge sense of shock, uncertainty and anxiety amongst our employees, and their whānau. Coupled with this was the loss of face-to-face support and connection from both work and wider social support groups, as individuals were forced into social isolation due to lockdowns, specific job requirements (e.g. post-flight isolation), and stigma from the community. With many of our people performing essential roles in safety-critical environments under these circumstances, it was essential to ensure they were well supported.

Executive summary

Air New Zealand was one of the hardest hit organisations during COVID-19, undergoing significant and rapid reduction of our workforce, operations, and flight schedules, which placed a huge strain on the mental health of our people. With full support from the Executive and collaboration across the business, we were able to quickly implement a multi-tiered digital support programme that provided critical support to our people, whether they were continuing to work on the front line, isolated at home or forced to leave the business. This programme ensured everyone was able to access and receive relevant support, regardless of their situation.

Background on situation and opportunity

Covid-19 caused a sudden closure of borders, a dramatic reduction in operations and headcount, and significant changes to regulations, creating a huge sense of shock, uncertainty and anxiety amongst our employees, and their whānau. Coupled with this was the loss of face-to-face support and connection from both work and wider social support groups, as individuals were forced into social isolation due to lockdowns, specific job requirements (e.g. post-flight isolation), and stigma from the community. With many of our people performing essential roles in safety-critical environments under these circumstances, it was essential to ensure they were well supported.


We quickly established the need to do more than simply get mental health and wellbeing information to people – it was essential to provide key messaging, guide people to the right resources and offer meaningful connection and support. This was particularly important for our operational employees, as well as those at home on stand-down or in isolation who may be feeling particularly vulnerable or disconnected from the organisation and their community. Our key focus was to ensure no person was disadvantaged from accessing or receiving support, regardless of their situation. With this in mind, our main goals were to: - Provide people with trusted, timely information about Covid-19 - Check on the health and wellbeing of individuals and their whānau - Offer people a confidential way to reach out and request support - Empower people to take control of their own mental health and wellbeing - Provide support for leaders and increase their wellbeing leadership capability, especially as they went through change and uncertainty themselves. To achieve these goals we utilised our multi-layered “Me, We, Us” approach to wellbeing to ensure a diversity of offerings were made available through digital technology (from an individual, team and organisational perspective), covering the full mental health spectrum. This meant we worked to implement a solution that proactively ‘pushed’ support and information to our people, but also allowed them to self-service and seek out help as needed.


We were able to quickly bring together key stakeholders from across the organisation and develop a comprehensive digital support and connection programme, bringing together new and existing resources, with an associated rollout and communications plan. Key components of the online support programme were: 1. The Wellbeing Check-in Tool was developed and deployed within two weeks of going into Level 3 lockdown and was an integral part of our digital support strategy. It enabled us to proactively reach out to all employees via both text message and email and provide them with trusted, timely information about Covid-19 and the current situation, check on their health and wellbeing and that of their immediate whānau, and provide an opportunity for personal connection and support by being able to request a confidential phone call from their manager or the Wellbeing Team. The Wellbeing Check-in Tool also linked employees to other components of the support programme, ensuring ongoing awareness and connection. 2. The online Wellbeing Hub was quickly optimised to ensure timely and relevant information was available to all our people, whether at work or home, with four Covid-19 toolkits being created – “General protection from Covid-19”, “Working Remotely”, “Managing Anxiety”, and “Financial Wellbeing”. These toolkits provided resources to help our people navigate their current situation including access to EAP, bespoke financial support, and other digital tools. 3. Online training sessions and livestreams were provided consistently throughout the pandemic, utilising internal experts and special guests. These covered topics such as general Covid-19 information and business updates, mental health, resilience and financial advice. These were also recorded and available for staff to watch in their own time. A number of specific online training workshops were also held for managers and people leaders, increasing their capability to support their teams. (See appendix for more information)

Engagement and communication

A dedicated communications plan was developed and executed to ensure the support programme was relevant to the current situation and promoted and accessible to all our people. This utilised the expertise of our Communications team to ensure the key messages were communicated in the right tone and voice for each target group and was delivered through our well-established communication channels across the business. Key influencers throughout the organisation (e.g. Health and Safety reps; Union delegates and diversity group leaders) were also provided with resource packs and online training to ensure they were aware of the programme. The Wellbeing Check-in Tool enabled key messaging to be sent directly to employees via both text message and email weekly, which then allowed them to request personalised support or click through to resources relevant for them (e.g. EAP; The Wellbeing Hub; community helplines; Ministry of Health etc.). This was supported by a regular weekly ‘Wellbeing Wednesday’ email sent to all employees, outlining the support options in place, addressing current concerns and providing a range of relevant tools and resources including podcasts, articles, online modules, community helplines. Yammer was also utilised as a key communications tool, allowing us to engage directly with employees and giving them another medium to ask questions. Visual displays (posters and electronic screens) located around the business promoted the support programme and reminded people about options available. This was tailored to specific business areas (e.g. PPE information for front line workers; Peer Support options; financial wellbeing support for affected employees etc.). Regular livestreams and video clips provided information and tips to employees, and were targeted to specific audiences by using relevant business leaders, subject matter experts or network leads to present the information (e.g. Chief Medical Officer; Manu network leads; Wellbeing Team; Employee Benefits manager etc.) (See Appendix for more information)


The impact of our digital support programme has been significant, with both individuals and leaders benefiting. We have seen the mental health literacy and capability of our workforce increase markedly, with more open conversations about the mental wellbeing of our people. An example is the recent guidance to begin every 1:1 with a wellbeing discussion centring on how the individual is doing on a personal level, rather than from performance perspective. Feedback from the online Leaders Training suggested the sessions were invaluable in helping leaders support their people in a meaningful way. “The korero was about how awesome and how needed Tuesday was and the Kaupapa really set the scene for a great day. It will help everyone cope a little bit better with the challenges that still face us. Thank you for everything you do, it is hugely appreciated and don’t underestimate the positive impact it has had on us and that is the essence of manaaki.” 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 have continued to trend in a positive direction, with a consistent utilisation rate around 10%, showing great awareness and trust in the programme (EAP guidelines suggest 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. “Your call was exactly what I needed, and the timing could not have been more perfect. I have always believed our people come first and are the most important part of our business, and your call proved that our culture of taking care of our staff and their wellbeing, is alive and well.”


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. One of our organisational aspirations to ‘Supercharge New Zealand’ plays an important part in our Me, We, Us approach to wellbeing, encouraging employees to use our tools to enhance not just their own, but also whanau and community wellbeing. With the Te Tiriti o Waitangi obligations in mind, our wellbeing strategy includes the sentiment of ensuring 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. The Te Whare Tapu Wha model guides the pillars of our offerings to include taha wairua, taha hinengaro, taha tinana and taha whānau. Throughout the pandemic and our response, bespoke support packages and online sessions were provided to reach and support our diverse workforce. These included Livestreams hosted by a range of diversity networks (e.g. Manu-Pacific and Pride Networks) designed to help them connect with and support their members around COVID -19 concerns, tailored video messaging and content, and partnership, consultation and guidance from key diversity stakeholders in the business. It was also essential to ensure that diversity was available in terms of support – this was achieved by working with our EAP provider to have clinicians with a broad range of cultures and backgrounds available for our people to connect with, and establishing strong diversity in our Peer Support networks.

Innovation and creativity

The Covid-19 pandemic placed tremendous pressure on our workforce, as they dealt with significant uncertainty, isolation, loss of connection, constant change and concerns for their personal health, all whilst continuing to work in a highly regulated and safety sensitive environment to provide a service that was the lifeline for our country. We quickly identified the need to proactively offer personalised connection and support, and created the Wellbeing Check-in Tool to facilitate this. The tool enabled us to provide people with trusted, timely information about Covid-19; check on the health and wellbeing of individuals and their immediate whanau; and importantly provide an opportunity for personal connection and support as needed. Individuals were also able to free-text a response and reach out for urgent help or support if needed (e.g. domestic abuse or mental health crisis). Throughout the four months the Wellbeing Check-in Tool was proactively sent, 443 individuals requested wellbeing calls, with follow-up calls providing ongoing support where necessary. The wellbeing calls were made by trained members of the Air NZ Wellbeing Team, who used the Lifeline “Helping Conversations” framework to support them and connect them to key support services and resources. A Power BI data dashboard was also created to ensure aggregate results were quickly able to be reported to the Executive, Board and Senior Leaders to ensure they had an overview of the wellbeing of their employees throughout the pandemic. The Wellbeing Check-in tool continues to be utilised as a key support option throughout Air New Zealand today, with requests coming from individuals across a variety of business areas on a regular basis, for a range of issues. Employees are now also able to request a call from specially selected and trained Peer Support volunteers if they prefer to connect with someone they relate to more readily.

Supporting materials (optional)

Photograph of key staff (optional)

Link to video (optional)

Referee details

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

021994729 • [email protected]

Key contact

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

021594985 • [email protected]

3 Months
Since posted
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