Ahurea Wāhi Mahi | Workplace culture

Workplace culture has an important influence on the RSI workforce’s wellbeing and productivity. To better understand the nature of workplace culture in the RSI system, we asked RSI organisations about what they do to support employee wellbeing, alongside how they supported their employees in response to COVID-19.

Toiora kaimahi | Employee Wellbeing

We asked RSI organisations what policies and programmes they have to support employee wellbeing. Common types of policies and programmes provided across institutions included mental health and wellbeing programmes, flexible working arrangements, and support for parents.

Please see pages 24-27 of the report on the RSI Workforce Survey of Individuals for an employee perspective of workplace culture. The findings from both surveys are broadly aligned. For example, respondents to the Workforce Survey of Individuals noted that a major way in which they were supported during COVID-19 was an increased organisational focus on health.

Ngā hōtaka hauora hinengaro me te toiora | Mental Health and wellbeing programmes

Organisations support their staff through the provision of mental health and wellbeing programmes, including mental health first aid courses, counselling and EAP services, and online social events for those working from home.

“We have set up support groups for people originally from overseas, and for Auckland based staff; EAP support, online courses available to those leading in wellbeing offered during Covid-19 lockdown Aug 2021; guidance on wellbeing while working at home.” – CRI

Ngā whakaritenga mahi ngāwari | Flexible working arrangements

Respondents noted that they support their employees by allowing flexible working arrangements, including flexible hours and working from home.

“Flexible working arrangements (hours, time of day, working from home, distributed locations, etc) allow non-conventional (e.g. not 9-5) employees to thrive in the workplace while balancing family or cultural needs.” – IRO

“Our 'MetFlex' flexible working policy encourages job design or hours to be worked to suit lifestyles.” – Other

Tautoko KOWHEORI-19 | COVID-19 support

The COVID-19 pandemic has had significant economic and social impacts on the RSI sector, both nationally and globally. Some of the effects identified by an earlier MBIE study include financial challenges, disruption to international connectivity and mobility, and increased inequities for Māori and Pacific communities, including members of the RSI workforce.

RSI organisations outlined several ways in which they provided support for employees in response to COVID-19. The most common types of support offered were work flexibility, financial support, and wellbeing and mental health support.

Other notable types of support included allowing extra leave for vaccination, providing Personal Protective Equipment (PPE), and regular communications with employees.

A resilient research and science innovation sector enabling post pandemic economic transformation [PDF, 412 KB]

Tautoko ā-pūtea Financial support

Organisations provided financial support to alleviate the burden caused by interrupted external project funding. This included:

  • reprioritising contestable research funding to support staff affected by COVID-19
  • extending deadlines for completion of research projects
  • full payment of salaries or wage subsidies during lockdowns
  • payment of other costs incurred by staff when required to isolate
  • providing grocery vouchers / care packages to employees experiencing extended lockdowns.

Some organisations stated that their employees were assured of their job and salary, no one experienced a reduction in earnings or threat to their livelihood, and nobody was disadvantaged because of the lockdowns.

“The University introduced the COVID-19 Hardship Allocation for Research in late 2021 to support researchers for up to 12 months. A key aim of this fund was to reduce the financial burden of externally funded projects that had experienced interruption caused by COVID-19, including enabling Principal Investigators to provide targeted support to ECRs.” – University

“For periods of lockdown, all waged workers, either on fixed term or casual contracts, who would have normally been scheduled to work but were unable to, were paid for their expected hours.” – CRI

Tautoko hauora hinengaro me te toiora | Mental health and wellbeing support

Respondents offered mental health and wellbeing support by running Mental Health First Aid programmes for staff, offering counselling and Employee Assistance Programme (EAP) services, providing well-being calls to determine if staff needed targeted support, organising online social events for those working from home, and running welfare surveys.

“…we have supported staff to work from home wherever possible - and have made sure staff understood (especially during lockdowns) that family and health come before work.” – Business

“We maintain close contact with all employees on a daily basis to ensure their needs are met - working from home requires a different mindset and doesn't work for all, so other options are available.” – IRO

Whakamatuatanga motuhake | Special leave

Respondents offered various types of leave for their employees, including leave for staff to get vaccinated, post-vaccination leave for those who developed severe reactions to the vaccine, extended special leave, and well-being leave. Some respondents also set up special or new leave codes for COVID-19-related absences.

“We have been offering Covid leave to all staff to take as required to ensure that staff are not worse off when they have been required to isolate, get vaccinated, or to recover.” - University

“We top up employees’ sick leave by 5 days if their balance reaches 0. We are allowing employees to work reduced hours where required to ensure they are looking after their mental health and wellbeing.” - Other

Ngā kaupapahere KOWHEORI-19 me ngā kawa | COVID-19 policies and protocols

Respondents introduced COVID-19 strategies, protocols and guidelines to allow staff to work safely during the pandemic, including providing extra personal protective equipment and Rapid Antigen Testing (RAT) kits. Some respondents pointed out that their COVID-19 response policies and support mechanisms are regularly updated with the full involvement of staff. 

“We have clearly defined protocols and policies re COVID-19. We actively support all of our people in respect of vaccinations, time off required if having to self-isolate etc.  All of our staff are given the best possible masks for their given roles.” – Business

“Protocols and practices to keep our staff safe at work were developed for those performing essential work during essential work eg, additional personal protective equipment, cleaning protocols and team 'bubbles' that did not mix.” – CRI

Ngā whakawhitiwhitinga kaimahi | Staff communications

Many respondents told us that they focussed on maintaining open and clear communications within their workforce through various means, including regular online meetings, weekly updates, and virtual coffee catchups.

“We have been focused on providing clear communications and support to staff and line managers throughout the pandemic and there have been regular and frequent communications from the top to the staff throughout the period.” – University

“Very consistent and regular updates. All our R&D activities have continued. All our team are equipped to work from home.” – Business

Manaaki kaimahi | Pastoral care

Several respondents offered pastoral care and support for vulnerable staff, including those from abroad, those stuck overseas, and team members who were identified as “at risk” and vulnerable, such as those living alone or separated from their families.

“Vulnerable team members were identified e.g., those that live alone – and support networks were created to help them connect with colleagues… Employees stuck overseas were supported to work remotely so that they retained their employment.” – CRI