Ten days additional leave during lockdown was a mental health lifeline for stressed workers at a local telecommunication company.
Leaders at Chorus knew a large number of their staff were juggling other responsibilities such as homeschooling kids and caring for elderly relatives when working from home and didn't want them pressured into using annual or sick leave.
This week is Mental Health Awareness week and employers and business leaders are being urged to be proactive about workplace mental wellbeing.
Shaun Philp, from Chorus, said the additional leave was offered to 900 staff members working from home and could be taken in blocks of hours or days to suit the home situation.
"We have staff who were homeschooling children, who had aged relatives they were caring for, staff who were flatting and those living alone," he said.
"We knew there would be a lot of home environments where it would be hard to be productive and we wanted to reduce that pressure."
Philp said the leave was even more important during the level 3 lockdown as there was often just one person working from home and trying to homeschool children.
The company had also paid for all staff to keep access to the mental health awareness app Minuteman founded by All Black great Sir John Kirwan.
Research by recruitment agency Randstad during New Zealand's first lockdown found 52 per cent of workers felt their employers took care of their emotional wellbeing during the pandemic.
Randstad CEO Katherine Swan said this was positive to see but said the flipside meant 48 per cent of employees did not feel their needs were being met.
"During these uncertain times, it has become more critical for organisations to step up and look after their people," she said.
"Companies can do more to support their teams, and organisations should consider training and support for managers, so they are better equipped to support their staff."
Swan commended the move by Chorus to give special leave.
"It's all about being flexible and understanding the pressure Covid-19 has put on people and on home life," Swan said.
Swan said Mental Health Awareness Week was the perfect time to make sure its wellbeing and mental health support was fit for purpose.
Randstad's research showed employees' concerns had shifted in the past few months from salary and benefits to job security.
"With Covid, it is a good time to have open and honest conversations with staff and address any concerns they have about job security," Swan said.
"Providing a safe space where people can have those conversations and ask questions is really important. It can put people at ease."
Swan said Mental Health Awareness Week was also a timely reminder to make sure staff who were working from home were not being overloaded or expected to work outside normal hours.
"Instead of holding employees accountable to certain work hours, managers should consider task-based monitoring," she said.
"This allows employees to have a bit more control over their time, which will allow them to retain a healthy work-life balance."
Chorus' five point plan for mental health
Whānau: Recharge with others.
Wairua: Rediscover everyday wonder.
Whenua: Return to nature.
Tinana: Refuel your body.
Hinegaro: Refresh your mind.