When Kiwi ‘magic’ works at work

NZ businesses drive progressive workplace wellness changes.

Southern Cross Health Society's mission is to help more New Zealanders live healthier lives for longer.
The Southern Cross Health Insurance Wayfinder Awards recognise the visionary businesses, business leaders and employees who value their workforce and grow the health and wellbeing of their people - nationally across all industries. We're sharing and celebrating their varied stories with you and hope you are inspired to explore innovative workplace wellness programs in your own organisations.

Across our six Wayfinder Award winning businesses, one message rang out loud and clear:

Take the wellbeing of employees seriously and they will work their magic.

To make the learnings even easier to implement, we asked an independent registered psychologist, Moira Howson from Worklife Psychology who specialises in organisational and counselling psychology, to break down each of the Wayfinder Awards winners case studies into actionable tips on how the initiatives might be implemented in your business.

Global idea empowers

Nadene Winchester “absolutely transformed” her company’s wellbeing culture, helping her win the Wayfinder Star Wayfarer Award.

As People and Capability Coordinator at Christchurch-based Dynamic Controls, her achievement reflects her caring and compassionate approach.
Dynamic Controls, which specialises in providing electronic control systems for medical mobility products, also operates in the UK and Asia – and this is where Winchester really made her mark.

Wellbeing initiatives

Winchester formed a global wellbeing team - empowering it through five ways
(connect, give, take notice, keep learning, be active) after company surveys last
year revealed staff felt disconnected from colleagues based
in different locations and time zones.
She also scaled fun events and organised staff into fundraising events. One, a green
lunch, encouraged employees to bring along food that was one or more of the following:
homemade, bought from a local business or made from locally sourced ingredients,
vegan/plant -based/vegetarian or with no packaging.

Registered psychologist
"Fundraisers at work enable people to contribute, and if they are suggested by employees about the things that matter to them, are likely to be well-received.  Fun events also encourage connection and playfulness at work which can alleviate stress."

Get a good range of activities and
fundraisers from staff and ensure
participation is voluntary.
Some people may not be able to
contribute the time or finances to
fundraising or prefer their own
company, reading a book in the
sunshine at lunch may be their thing
to recharge, rather than engaging in
work social activities. 


Employees across the time zones are
now interacting, sharing photos of
wellbeing activities and contributing
to ideas and fundraising initiatives. 
Staff in Christchurch had a morning
tea, the UK team held a BBQ with
locally sourced meat and salads,
while the China team participated
by getting indoor plants for their
office space.
In fundraising, the team raised
almost $2000 by helping two
employees take part in the April
2023 500km Tour of New Zealand
cycling event held to raise funds for
the New Zealand Spinal Trust.

The business whose
people “work magic”

Rob Holmes has a mantra: Trust in the workplace
is the secret ingredient of innovation.

It is a philosophy he shares with the team he leads at Wellington-based PaperKite. “If you’re trying to get great work out of people who aren’t in a good place, it simply doesn’t work,” he says. “But once you have experienced trust you want to create this environment again and again – give people the space and they will work their magic.”
Holmes - who won the Wayfinder True North Award for a people-leader who has improved their team’s health and wellbeing – believes empowering employees is at the heart of any innovation strategy.

Wellbeing initiatives

One of the most significant of Holmes’ initiatives was the introduction of a dual
coaching system through which every PaperKiter has a people coach and a discipline
lead to assist with personal and professional development and who are responsible for
providing pastoral care and helping staff grow well beyond their time at PaperKite. 
He also helped improve sick leave provisions, resulting in staff able to take it from their
first day rather than waiting six months for it to kick in. 

Registered psychologist MOIRA HOWSON says:

"Making sick leave available from the first day of employment helps reduce the stress of either having to take unpaid leave, coming into work when you probably should not or worrying about children who are unwell. These concerns can impact on the ability to focus on the job at hand. "

Ensure managers role model that it is okay to take time off when unwell.


The dual coaching approach led to a new performance review format through which employees
present to their coach and discipline lead. Where once there was fear, anxiety, and discomfort
about the reviews, there is now a real sense of celebration.
Another example came when the company supported a PaperKiter with flexible work to
prepare for running the Kepler Track in the Fiordland National Park. He had problems with his
ankle and needed a lot of physiotherapy to enable him to train.
Designing work to fit around life outside of work has become the norm. Parents,
migraine sufferers, keen runners have all benefited from the approach.  

coaches spark
work change

In 2021, Spark had a wellbeing challenge. 

Leaders were finding it a challenge to support and connect with their teams while feeling vulnerable themselves. 
Uplifted by her own experience when seeking therapy for help with significant family challenges Heather Polglase, Spark’s People and Culture Director, wanted to help Spark people who were struggling the most to access the same professional help she was privileged enough to afford.

Wellbeing initiatives

Spark partnered with two psychologists to be on-hand for any employee facing a
crisis or significant hardship.
The company provided training for 20 to become wellbeing coaches so they could
better support their colleagues and the initiative was a key factor in Spark winning
the Wayfinder New Horizon Award in recognition of an innovative wellbeing
support programme.


Each Mahi Tahi (Spark’s new wellbeing strategy) coach has been trained and
supervised by the Spark psychologists and has a minimum of three hours per week
to help colleagues and teams. This positions them well to refer those who may need
more specialist support to the in-house psychologists. 
Following this success, the company has further invested and now has 55 coaches.

Registered psychologist

" In organisations, people may be reluctant to talk to managers or colleagues regarding mental health issues like depression and anxiety, due to fear of judgement, lack of confidentiality and potential negative job-related consequences. But having trained and accessible coaches at work encourages help-seeking and referrals, and destigmatised mental health concerns." 

Get a good range of activities and
fundraisers from staff and ensure
participation is voluntary.
Some people may not be able to
contribute the time or finances to
fundraising or prefer their own
company, reading a book in the
sunshine at lunch may be their thing
to recharge, rather than engaging in
work social activities. 

“Wake-up call” for company leaders

When Nicole Kennedy started at Wellington-based Thankyou Payroll as a People Experience Manager in early 2023, she was burnt out and anxious.  

The mum of three young children was struggling to keep her head above water while juggling work and home demands.  And yet a year on in her new job, she is relaxed, fulfilled, and pinches herself every day at getting paid for doing what she loves. 
This turnaround is due in large part to the attitude of her employer and the healthy workplace culture it has engendered.
Just two years ago in 2021, staff turnover at the payroll software provider exceeded 28 per cent and this was a wake-up call for the leadership team, who decided to implement a raft of wellbeing measures which helped it win the Wayfinder Small Business Award.

Wellbeing initiatives

Thankyou Payroll gives staff 20 days of leave for mental and physical wellbeing
and an annual wellness allowance of $400 which they can spend on things
like gym memberships, ergonomic chairs and sports gear.
It has also invested in Mental Health First Aid accreditation for nine staff members,
including the senior leadership team. 
To help reduce emissions, the company pays employees for their public transport to
and from the office and gives them access to interest-free loans to buy e-bikes. 

Registered psychologist

"The provision of interest free loans to buy e-bikes and covering staff’s public transport costs are promoting sustainable behaviours that help reduce individual carbon footprints and engage in green behaviours. This may align with values of staff, reduce their individual travel costs (and therefore financial stress) and may help mitigate climate change anxiety."

Is it possible to keep track of the
organisation’s carbon footprint shift
as staff transition to public transport
and e-bikes?
Find out any barriers to uptake, for
example, secure parking for e-bikes
and work with the staff to overcome.


The implementation of these
generous wellbeing measures has
paid off. Staff turnover has dropped
to 12 per cent.
The latest staff survey shows 96 per
cent of staff would recommend
Thankyou Payroll as a great place to
work with 100 per cent of them
being proud to work there.  

Company’s wellbeing
strategy “no token”

Rebeca Clifton, Health, Safety, Environment and Quality Manager, says workplace wellbeing initiatives can often feel token, or even like an unwelcome imposition – but not so at her company, Marlborough Lines. 

The company’s Wayfinder Medium Business Award was in recognition of 19 initiatives it has introduced and Clifton says “our programme is a long-term and continually evolving strategy that offers lots of choice with something for everyone.”

Wellbeing initiatives

The company’s mainly male and older staff were not traditionally interested in talking about
wellbeing, so the key was to make it easy for them to take part in health checks and flu jabs by
running them on-site during work time.
It also ran a survey for staff to contribute wellbeing ideas. As a result, the company introduced
an annual wellbeing benefit of $500 to enable employees to buy bikes, pay for sports
memberships and other equipment relating to their preferred sports and hobbies.

Registered psychologist MOIRA HOWSON says:

"The cost-of-living crisis has been seen to impact people in seeking health care and participating in team sports or gym memberships.  By enabling staff to have a free annual check-up they reduce the financial stress of taking care of their health and may reduce any nagging health-related anxiety.  Providing a wellbeing allowance acknowledges uniquely individual approaches to wellbeing.  Providing a free or subsidized gym membership may not appeal to all, whereas the ability to pay for sports club or a bridge club membership, or buy a paddleboard, new footy boots are likely to meet individual needs."


Share and communicate the variety of wellbeing initiatives undertaken by staff


Staff asked for - and received - a paid day off on their birthday and a volunteer day while a
senior management initiative resulted in the introduction of a nine-day fortnight.
So far, using their volunteer leave, employees have chopped wood for the local Lions Club,
planted trees through Volunteer Marlborough and given time to Marlborough Four Paws.
The company also has defibrillators with its fleet of about 80 vehicles while another popular
benefit has been the introduction of a programme to help staff transition to retirement.

When “life” happens at work

Like many parents, Kiwibank’s Chief People Officer
Charlotte Ward knows how busy life can be.

“I love my work and I love my family. Like everybody else, I am just trying to make it all work,” she says.
Since joining Kiwibank in September 2020 she has helped create a better working environment in her role leading work to reshape the bank’s culture (Ngā Kauwaka), steps which contributed to Kiwibank winning the Wayfinder Large Business Award.

Wellbeing initiatives

One of the key initiatives the company introduced was supported leave (this
replaces normal sick leave and can be used for time off around things such as long-
term sickness, menstruation or menopause, gender transitioning, caring for
dependents, the death of a pet or extended bereavement leave).
Employees also get a paid volunteer day every year and a quarterly wellbeing day in
addition to annual leave. This can be used for anything – no questions asked.


In line with its supported leave Kiwibank has introduced menstruation and menopause
guidelines to raise awareness and end stigma around the issues, including providing
complimentary sanitary products in the company’s gender-neutral bathrooms. 

Registered psychologist
“Supported leave is an example of diversity and inclusion in action.  It is a holistic and modern approach to employees’ lives, acknowledging gender specific needs, our role as carers for elderly parents and relations as well as children, and our individual needs and responses to grief.”

Clear communication and
education around supported leave
and its basis on need.  There may be
people who see the supported leave
agreements as “unfair”, for example,
if you have a pet, are female or trans
and you are “allowed” extra days.
Also communicate the range of
wellbeing day activities. This is so
people have an understanding that
they are based on individual needs
and preferences.

Southern Cross Health Society CEO Nick Astwick says:

“Through the Wayfinder Awards we’ve met some amazing businesses that are leading the way in workplace wellbeing, and we hope they will not only inspire other businesses, but give them some great ideas to try in their own workplaces.”

To find out more about the Wayfinder Awards go to

To read the case studies in full, click on the below BusinessDesk links.