Reflecting on Telstra's culture of wellbeing and support

For so many of us at Telstra, the constant support we receive from the company and our leadership team allows us to bring our best selves to work, even during challenging times like the pandemic. 
World Mental Health Day Team · 13 October 2021 · 14 minute read

We work hard to provide an environment that’s open, inclusive, encouraging and flexible, so our employees know that their wellbeing is a priority and that support is always there when they need it. We also know that everyone’s story is different, and provide varied communities and networks of support to address the diverse nature of our people and their needs.

To that end, taking care of mental health isn’t a ‘disruption’ – it’s a priority! We’ve gathered together a number of our team members this World Mental Health Day to discuss in their own words how they’ve benefited from Telstra’s culture of support and flexibility. Read what they had to say below.

Smriti Kalra, Senior Strategy & Planning Lead, Telstra Enterprise

Hi Smriti, can you tell us how Telstra has supported your mental health over the past year of lockdowns and uncertainty?

Telstra has been a delight to work for, even during a lockdown! Firstly, right from the start of the pandemic, my leadership team made sure I had everything I needed to work comfortably and properly from home - an office desk and monitors, office chairs, etc. Telstra also doubled our phone data limits. 

The company has also conducted ongoing wellbeing initiatives, such as weekly mindfulness and yoga sessions, and a STEPtember challenge (I was one of the top three in my team!).

On top of that, there are a lot of company initiatives in general that support us psychologically. For example, I am part of the Brilliantly Connected Women  group and we are having a session called "Debunking the Myths of Having it all Together". With on/off lockdowns becoming the norm, how do we cope with juggling working from home, looking after our families and relationships, our mental health and the thousands of distractions and conflicting priorities?

There is often the societal pressure of 'having it all together' or needing to be super humans and with that we often put the burden on ourselves. In this session we will be debunking the myth of ‘having it all together’ and sharing skills and techniques to stay ahead of the game. We will also hear from a senior leader about her best practices and learnings from her work journey.

How has Telstra’s culture of flexibility positively impacted you?

The biggest benefit for me personally has been that the flexibility around working hours and working days means I can enjoy a virtual yoga session every day at midday with my mother and grandmother (who are in India), for a moment of three generations of togetherness. And in winter I love to finish my running schedule while the sun is still out in the late afternoons around 4pm, so I schedule my working hours in the evening to allow me to have that time to run while it is still light outside.

Feiselia Tan, Advanced Analytics - Chapter Lead Principal

Hi Feiselia, can you tell us how Telstra has supported your mental health over the past year of lockdowns and uncertainty?

During lockdown, different people experience different challenges, from dealing with juggling work with home-schooling, to lack of social interactions, to loss of normal daily routine. Telstra understands this and has taken the ‘one size doesn’t fit all’ approach successfully when it comes to addressing mental health. 

Telstra has provided lots of training courses and materials for both leaders and individuals to adapt and deal with pandemic fatigue; and for leaders to support their teams during lockdown. We have events, communities, training materials and professional health coaches. Every month, the ‘Wellbeing’ team organises discussions about a wide variety of topics including parenting tips, or managing pandemic fatigue. Additionally, there are communities in Telstra that aim to reduce the stigma of mental health and wellbeing, and to provide peer support by boosting social connections.

Personally, I have benefited greatly from all the support that Telstra has provided. Not only have I been equipped with the tools to support myself during these difficult times, but also given opportunities to support others. If anyone is feeling particularly challenged, please do not hesitate to reach out to your leader or your peers. Support is just one step away.    

How has Telstra’s culture of flexibility positively impacted you?

Telstra truly demonstrates flexibility for everybody. What has had a really positive impact on me is Telstra making a lot of roles location agnostic. It means opening job opportunities to the full talent pool in not only wider Australia, but all over the world. This has truly made Telstra one of the best companies to work for, improving employees’ attrition rate and attracting the best talents from all over Australia. I have the privilege to work alongside the most talented people in the industry every day.

Telstra has gone above and beyond to make sure that the flexible working arrangement works for everyone. This is reflected by the fact that leaders and colleagues respect your flexible working arrangement choices. It is empowering for me and other employees to be allowed to make these choices. A true testament of the trust that Telstra has in its employees.

Nicholas Hoare, Group Performance Lead

Hi Nick, can you tell us how Telstra has supported your mental health during your time with the company?

I suffered a serious spinal cord injury and both during my hospitalisation and my return home, Telstra worked with myself and my wife to eliminate the stress of work considerations. This significantly reduced the number of issues to deal with as I was going through a life-changing injury and subsequent rehab.

Telstra also supported my return to work, with professional assistance and assessments for what a return to work would mean for me, and the impacts it would have on both me and my family. They worked to support what was best for me in terms of when and how I returned to work and how this involved both working from home and the office. I can't overstate how incredible Telstra has been for me and I felt very fortunate to be working for such a company.

How has Telstra’s culture of flexibility positively impacted you?

Since I was injured in April 2020, flexibility has taken on new meaning and dimensions. I now have a long-term rehab program to regain as much pre-accident functionality as I can, as well as several recurring appointments to manage my rehab and health.

Being able to integrate life and work has required more flexibility than I previously needed. It’s not just the policies and frameworks that Telstra has - it’s also the mindset and care of the people I work with to make sure they understand my needs that has meant that I have been able to return to work in a full-time capacity.

The flexibility I am given allows me to be the best version of me and manage my wellbeing during these challenging times.

Kelsey Geldenhuys, Human Resources Graduate

Hi Kelsey, can you tell us how Telstra has supported your mental health over the past year of lockdowns and uncertainty?

Telstra has great initiatives that encourage people to check-in with their own mental health and support each other. This includes implementing meeting-free days, R U OK? Day, and a company-wide day off, as well as access to professional support through their EAP program.

What I really appreciate is the more direct support that comes from managers and team members. Being based in Melbourne and constantly being thrown into lockdowns or having various levels of restrictions, the way my team reaches out to check-up on how I'm feeling or encourages me to take time off in order to relax and recharge enables me to keep on top of my own mental health. They make sure I know that taking time to care for myself is not an inconvenience, which can sometimes be a reason to push through issues instead of taking time to address and rectify them.

How has Telstra’s culture of flexibility positively impacted you?

The most obvious example of Telstra’s commitment to flexibility can be seen with the choice to work from home as often as you choose to, even during periods when the office is open. It means I only work from the office when I feel comfortable and safe to do so in between lockdowns.

Because of this policy I’ve found it easier to stay connected to my family, who live in rural NSW. One of my relatives had surgery earlier this year, and because of Telstra’s culture of flexibility I was able to travel to support them while they were recovering, while still completing my work.

Krystal Lim, Graduate Human Resources Specialist

Hi Krystal, can you tell us how Telstra has supported your mental health over the past year of lockdowns and uncertainty?

My team was very supportive throughout the Sydney lockdown. For example, when my day-to-day manager heard that we had a lockdown starting, she made it really clear to the team that if we needed someone to talk to, her virtual door was always open. Not only that, when I had issues or wanted new direction at work, she was easy to approach, helped me to stay occupied (important during these endless feeling lockdowns) and listened. My manager and team embodied Telstra values so beautifully.

How has Telstra’s culture of flexibility positively impacted you?

Telstra's flex policy has meant that I can work and still prioritise my health. I can go to the physio during work hours, and this means I can pick my provider of choice. Finding a good physio is difficult and finding a good one that's open outside of work hours is even harder!

From day one, I was able to capitalise on the company’s flexible policies and head off in the middle of the day, one day a week. These policies have been around for a while now and managers are starting to live and breathe it. The flex policy might seem like a little thing, but working flexibly is awesome!

Bettina Marson, UX Design Lead

Hi Bettina, can you tell us how Telstra has supported your mental health over the past year of lockdowns and uncertainty?

During the pandemic, Telstra has been incredibly supportive. They have provided a number of great initiatives and resources that staff can access whenever they need support, assistance or even just somebody to talk to. We have had access to frequent online Mental Health and Wellbeing events, and our Intranet home page features a variety of really useful articles on how to access help and recognising symptoms of pandemic fatigue.

Our flexible working arrangements have also become very generous. In my experience within my own team, I feel like we have built a culture of reaching out, asking how our colleagues are going, and whether there is anything they need help with - even if it's just a frank and honest chat.

How has Telstra’s culture of flexibility positively impacted you?

Even before the pandemic, Telstra's flexible working arrangements were well known within the industry. It's a culture and environment that's built on trust and responsibility in order to be successful.

or me personally, our flexible working arrangements have allowed me to thrive in my role and responsibilities, enabling me to set a rhythm for a healthy work-life balance. Prior to the pandemic, working from home on an occasion in order to see the dentist was perfectly normal.

Now, with many of us working from home due to extended lockdowns, we have even greater flexibility in terms of setting our hours, home office setups and working conditions, all whilst managing households, families and everything else we've had to do while at home. That dual nature of trust and responsibility has seen our culture of flexibility really thrive in the pandemic, with many new work-life possibilities made possible through our digital workplace technologies. I'm really excited to see where this takes us in the future.

Justin Dolman, Business Specialist - Business Operations and Engagement

Hi Justin, can you tell us how Telstra has supported your mental health over the past year of lockdowns and uncertainty?

First and foremost, I understand that having a secure job and fulfilling career is quite a privilege – especially in the midst of a worldwide pandemic. Beyond this, I have been surrounded by a supportive workplace where I feel connected, supported, and engaged.

I feel supported by the open environment in my team – we openly reach out to each other when we need help, and my team and managers are genuinely committed to my learning and career growth.

During lockdown, we’ve kept connected through regular catch ups and one-on-one meetings where we talk about both work and our personal lives.  Lastly, I have also kept myself engaged by learning new skills, and actively taking on new projects to spice up the day-to-day routine.

 How has Telstra’s culture of flexibility positively impacted you?

Telstra’s culture of flexibility is ingrained through the organisation: through our working hours, agnostic location, leave policies, and career development.

In my most recent role I’ve opted to start and finish early in the day, to make the most of my afternoons. In previous roles, I adjusted my start and finish times depending on my workload throughout the day.

This flexible culture has also enabled me to work remotely while I support and spend time with my family. I’ve also made the most of Telstra’s various leave options, including Volunteer Leave, to support a few local non-profit organisations. In addition, the flexibility has supported my career development as well, as I’ve been able to build a diverse skill set by working across various departments here.

Browse and apply for open positions with Telstra here!

By World Mental Health Day Team

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