Winning with wellness

26 Jun 2019

Rabo Construct winners

From left, Denise Batchelor, Rabo Construct administrator, Site Safe CE Brett Murray, Kate Bull, Rabo Construct Health and Safety advisor and Rabo Construct director/owner Rachel Soakell at the Safeguard Conference.


It’s funny what tradies get enthusiastic about…..

Kate Bull the Health and Safety Advisor at Auckland’s Rabo Construct, says of all the activities the company has put on for its staff and contractors as part of its wellbeing programme, it’s been the meditation class that was a big crowd pleaser.

“We did not expect it to be as successful as it was,” she says “We had really good feedback about it and lots of our team saying they’re incorporating it into their day-to-day lives which is really awesome.”

But out of all the activities Rabo Construct have put on to date, the number one event people got behind was the Ronald McDonald House Cook night, catering for some 120 well deserving people who live at the house while their loved ones are going through treatments.

Administrator Denise Batchelor, who is one of the key members of the Wellbeing Team, says that was a top experience for the team.

“Just being able to help and to see how happy people were to get something nice to eat when their children are in hospital was great.”

“It was quite humbling, and definitely put things into perspective for a lot of the team,” says Rachel Soakell, owner of Rabo Construct (the Manukau Major Projects franchise for G.J. Gardner Homes).

  Rabo Construct won the Site Safe Best Health and Safety Initiative by a business of no more than 50 staff at the recent Safeguard conference in Auckland.

 In presenting the award Site Safe CE Brett Murray said although Site Safe was formed 20 years ago by New Zealand’s largest  construction firms, “we make the biggest difference by supporting the small to medium operators building Aotearoa”.

“These make up a huge and important part of the sector and that’s why I believe Site Safe supporting the “Best health and safety initiative by a business of no more than 50 staff” is so important.”

 The award went to Rabo Construct for identifying mental health and wellbeing as a matter for its staff and the construction sector. In an effort to better understand where the company’s strengths and weaknesses the group undertook the WorkSafe SafePlus Self-Assessment.

The results showed that fatigue and work-related stress were areas where improvements could be made. Coincidently these are directly linked to studies around mental health and wellbeing within the industry, so it seemed to be a no-brainer to create a programme that reflected their employee’s needs, Rachel Soakell says.

“Obviously the construction industry has a massive focus on safety, particularly on-site” Kate says. “So while we had that side of things well managed, there was the whole issue of mental health which we weren’t targeting quite as well.”

Kate enlisted Denise and they developed a series of events based on the Five Ways to Wellbeing; a programme from the Mental Health Foundation focusing on monthly activities in the company.

The programme urges companies to get people to connect, keep learning, be active, to give, and to take notice by staying in the present. Denise says the value of positive mental health has always been something that is close to her heart and she has been keen to promote this in the workplace.

The first step was to get people enthusiastic about it as a key part of the business and how they view mental health and wellbeing in their daily lives.

 “For me the important thing was getting our message out there to our staff [of 14] and subcontractors about how important it is to look after ourselves.”

Rachel says from a business perspective there has been increased engagement from staff and that in turn means less absenteeism and increased productivity. “We’ve also had our subbies involved where we’ve gone to a site, put on a barbecue and set up a gumboot throwing competition to raise funds for Gumboot Day.”

Rabo Construct also took part  in Pink Shirt day and introduced meditation to the team in early May, and are just about to kick off July with some yoga.

“It’s all about bringing the team together and creating an environment where we are able to step back from our day to day routines and focus on our health and wellbeing,” says Rachel.

Kate notes that putting the Five Ways into practice doesn’t take a lot of resource. “We’re only a small firm of 15 staff at the moment and it’s only taken a few hours to set the programme up initially. Once the Mental Health and Wellbeing programme was up running it’s only just been a matter of communicating our goals and activities to the staff and subbies on a regular basis.”

 Rachel says it’s important for the team and subbies to know  Rabo Construct is taking a more holistic approach to health and wellbeing, and that it is a company that cares about staff.

“Right now our focus is starting small, identifying how we can better help our employees and give them the skills to cope, while the long term the plan is to facilitate a shift in our working habits, focus on what is creating stress and fatigue and trial ways to reduce or remove it all together.

“Getting our sub-contractors involved is a natural progression for the programme and reading the BRANZMental Health in the Construction Industry Scoping Study really kick-started thiswider reach programme.

“Getting our subbies involved has opened the lines of communication and normalised talking not only about mental health but has also helped develop our working relationships into friendships, creating a fantastic community on site and sense of shared purpose and culture.”

She says Rabo Construct is looking forward to seeing how far they can take the programme and are excited to see it become a more commonly discussed topic within the construction industry. 

For more information about Rabo Construct go here.

For more information on the Five Ways to Wellbeing, go here.

Ron Don House

Cooking up a storm at Ronald McDonald House, from left: Kristian Tamatoa, Henry Coetzee, Beverly Coetzee, Denise Batchelor, Matt Bourke, Kate Bull, Rachel Soakell, Johan Vollebregt and Craig Haycock.