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13 Mar 2023

How Heritage Bank built a safe workplace culture

The Australian bank teamed up with Unmind to put mental wellbeing at the top of the agenda

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Heritage Bank, one of Australia’s largest customer-owned banks, established in 1875, is leading the charge for change when it comes to employee wellbeing. 

It believes that people and profit aren’t competing priorities. For a business to flourish, people need to flourish. So it set out to create a psychologically safe environment for employees. 

‍Why psychological safety is key

Creating a psychologically safe working environment is a top priority for many organisations right now. Yet Heritage Bank – with its ownership model and ‘people first’ focus – had a head start.

Part of this was knowing that, for any chance for cultural change to work and last, it has to start at the top. Leaders set the tone in organisations and this alone can make or break any mission to shape a new workplace culture with wellbeing at its core.

So, Heritage Bank began at the very top, with Margo Dewar, chief people officer, and Peter Lock, chief executive.

“We launched Unmind at our senior leadership retreat in May 2022,” says Margo. “How people show up, lean in, be present and support each other matters. 

“It put in lights the role of leaders in leading mental wellbeing. It served as proof to our teams that mental wellbeing matters … as part of something we very much see as creating a proactive culture. 

“For us, launching Unmind, and the way we did, was the start of improving our culture.” 

Getting leadership buy-in

While leadership buy-in is key, it’s also just a start. For a wellbeing strategy to really work takes a whole organisation approach – where every inch of the business shows up and feels able to talk about mental health. 

At Heritage Bank, the fact senior leaders backed mental health support early and loudly made company-wide awareness, in the words of Sue Lowe (Heritage’s head of health, wellbeing and engagement), “pretty easy.”

She adds: “When you’ve got the CEO standing up in front of all your senior leaders saying: ‘We want Unmind and we want it now’, made it effortless.”

The result of this approach, paired with the impact of the science-backed platform, is clear. Within a month of launching, staff were making Unmind a part of their work. Teams were using it to start their meetings. A senior leader had even used it at a sales conference. 

Sue Lowe says: “Sometimes I wonder if it’s enough. But then I hear a story from an individual on how [Unmind] has helped them, and ‘I think that is enough’. 

“It is exactly what it should do. No one size fits all, but if we can help someone. that is all we need to do.”

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In partnership with Unmind

Our vision is to create a world where mental health is universally understood, nurtured&celebrated.

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