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How Sydney Water supports employees’ mental health through COVID and floods

Published by: liliana,

The last two and half years have been challenging for employees of Sydney Water, Australia’s largest water utility working in Greater Sydney, Blue Mountains and Illawarra. As essential workers, Sydney Water teams had to power through the pandemic and all the recent extreme weather conditions, from bushfires to floods, to continue delivering its services.

As the challenges grew, Sydney Water’s leadership team knew it would go beyond the traditional support systems it had in place to help its employees cope. The internal consensus was that the employees needed mental health support in addition to extra operational help.

To combat these challenges, Sydney Water partnered with LifeWorks, a leading provider of digital and in-person total wellbeing solutions, to create new ways of helping employees maintain their balance and deal with stress and potential mental health issues.

The solutions included access to immediate counselling, coaching and medical support (including vaccination rollouts) that provided confidential and safe channels that workers could use to share and resolve wellbeing concerns. The system also helped with wellbeing assessments, monitoring and resources for employees to manage and achieve better mental, physical, social or financial wellbeing.

James Wallace, Manager of Safety Capability and Resilience said prioritising employee mental health and wellbeing is paramount for Sydney Water.

“We know that if our people are in a good space mentally and physically, they’re better able to support our customers,” Mr Wallace said.

Sydney Water has seen great improvements in its employees’ overall wellbeing and productivity since partnering with LifeWorks to leverage its Employee Assistance Program (EAP), Total Wellbeing Platform, and vaccination rollout.

The solutions needed to be accessible to all employees, regardless of their technical skills and capabilities. We have a unique and diverse workforce ranging from our office staff to employees who work in the field across all locations, so accessibility was key in choosing a solution.

“LifeWorks gives us the tools we need to get real-time insights into how our employees are feeling on any given day, allowing us to offer services that meet their needs, whether it’s financial advice, access to physical health facilities, or help to deal with their wellbeing. Prioritising mental health has given us a healthy business amid the pandemic and a safe place for all our employees,” Mr Wallace said.

According to LifeWorks’ Mental Health Index, half of Australians feel they need mental health support in the workplace, and over one-third want to prioritise their mental health. Yet, more than half of Australians believe that their career options would be limited if they had a mental health issue and their workplace was aware.

“It’s refreshing to see one of Australia’s largest organisations keeping employees’ mental health and wellbeing at the heart of their business,” says Jamie MacLennan, Senior Vice President and Managing Director, Asia-Pacific at LifeWorks. “Australia has come a long way in identifying the need to assist people with their wellbeing and mental health issues, however, there’s still a long way to go. Sydney Water is absolutely moving in the right direction to break down the stigma associated with these workplace issues and to create a more supportive organisation.”

As talent shortages continue to loom in most sectors, attracting, engaging and retaining quality talent is critical, and wellbeing and mental health support are crucial to maintaining a healthy, satisfied and productive workforce.

Make your employees feel loved