Retail staff safety and wellbeing a top priority for Z

Safety and wellbeing October 6, 2023

Photo credit: WorkSafe

Z Energy (Z) has always put staff safety and wellbeing front and centre, embedding employee wellbeing in the organisation’s values and what it stands for as an energy company for Aotearoa New Zealand.

Now, a recent report by WorkSafe New Zealand has shone a light on Z’s commitment to enhancing the lives of its people and communities, which includes every single one of its 2000+ strong retail workforce. 

 “The report has really highlighted that wellbeing work is leadership work. It’s never done and is a continual focus,” says Andrew Shand, Z’s Head of Safety, Wellbeing and Risk. “The retail environment has unique challenges, but the fact our people feel well supported by management and leadership is very encouraging.”

 In June 2023, Z participated in the Psychosocial Safety Climate project initiated by WorkSafe New Zealand, with 26 workers across four retail sites in Lower Hutt surveyed. While it might be an unfamiliar term to many, Psychosocial Safety Climate is linked to employee wellbeing, and refers to the shared perceptions and beliefs of employees regarding their organisation's commitment to their psychological health and safety. Put more simply, it’s the extent to which employees feel that senior management in their organisation care about their wellbeing. 

Angela McGregor, a senior advisor in the Mentally Healthy Work Team at WorkSafe, led the project with Z. She says the Psychosocial Safety Climate project is an effective way of measuring and looking at workplace culture. Z’s score of 49.29 was an excellent result, particularly against a NZ average of 39.7.

“In terms of the research, a score of 41 or above is your best practice threshold. So anything 41 and above is showing that there's some really positive things happening,” Angela says.

“When we're talking about work culture, we're talking about the shared values, attitudes, beliefs and practices of a workplace. It’s encompassing the overall atmosphere, the behaviours in the workplace and expectations. What we know is that leaders have a really strong influence over how a person experiences the workplace, and whether those conditions are harmful or supportive of wellbeing.”

In the report, overall feedback reflected a supportive team atmosphere among team members, with many sharing examples of positive leadership and management. One staffer noted that three of the leadership team turned up on site when a team member activated the call tree used in emergencies. 

Andrew says this is exactly what Psychosocial Safety Climate is about, noting “the actions leaders decide to take ultimately determine the climate of the organisation.”

 Z retailer Lynne Burns agrees and says it’s vital that retail workers feel valued, listened to and supported, especially given the unique challenges they face.

“Our teams’ wellbeing is front of mind. Z (leadership) always listen to our concerns, and they are willing to challenge the status quo to develop ways to lessen the psychosocial effects from a sometimes challenging work environment.”

Lynne says an example of this is the pre-pay trial that is running at the moment which she hopes will reduce shoplifting and drive-offs. These situations are stressful for staff. She points out that fuel is cited as a “grudge purchase” and staff often have to manage heightened emotions from customers towards something out of their control, especially in a cost-of-living crisis.

Andrew reflected that reports like this are helpful, as it provides an opportunity to enhance what’s working well and improve what’s not. To address the findings of the report, Andrew said that his team will work with front-line staff to determine which parts of the feedback should be prioritised going into the next year. “Involving the workers in these decisions is really important, as these choices have a direct impact on their workplace, and they should therefore have a seat at the table when determining what needs to change” he said. Ultimately, all the recommendations from the report would be taken on board and actioned.

Lynne says as a retailer, she has taken the report on board and recently trialled a new system, where team members give a score out of five to indicate their wellbeing when they sign in for each shift. “We need to keep encouraging our team to be pro-active in supporting one another and being open to saying how you are feeling on a daily basis. We have been trialling weekly check-ins at a leadership level to report on the week and are coaching our site leaders to do daily check-ins with their team. Free Employee Assistance Programme (EAP) counselling services are also available to team members and their whanau.”

 Angela says Z has shown a keen willingness to be involved in the initiative and has a genuine commitment to the wellbeing of its staff.

“Each workplace is unique and the interventions and things to put in place will depend on the workplace and the people involved. I think that's important to realise that there isn't a one-size-fits-all approach. But if management is engaging with their workers and working together to identify risks and look at the different solutions, that's really the best way to go, and that’s what Z is doing here.”

The videos can be viewed here: