Maree Herath interview Geelong and Regional Vic GM, Lifeline, Jason Doherty.

An HR challenge of the pandemic, was maintaining psychological safety in the workplace. We chat with Lifeline Regional GM Jason Doherty.

While the early days of COVID created curiosity, the novelty quickly wore off as life changed. Interstate and international travel was embargoed. New regulations and laws forced the shutdown of society. In work and business (for the majority of employers) where and how the work was done changed – for some dramatically. Childcare centres closed and schools and educational institutions, after brief closures, moved to home schooling and remote formats.

Instead of optimism as cases reduced, the next phase for Geelong emerged as “Stage 3” restrictions prevented all social connection outside of home. Hospitals and aged care facilities closed to visitors, sporting clubs and other community groups could no longer congregate. Travel beyond home and surrounds was illegal unless essential.

Employment was impacted, staff were laid off, stood down or hours and remuneration reduced.

As such, the biggest HR challenge of the pandemic, according to the majority (68%) of the region’s employers was the psychological safety and wellbeing of its workers.

Half of those surveyed said maintaining personal resilience was the biggest HR challenge which emphasises the toll the pandemic took on key individuals and departments responsible for looking after their people amidst the pandemic. Of interest, our microbusiness struggled most here with 75% reporting that maintaining personal resilience was their greatest challenge (with only 25% challenged in getting across the daily changes in regulations) and 75% of our largest employers’ HR departments also reported this as a key challenge – greater employee numbers contributed to the increase in workload.

While we are emerging and thankful to be coming out of the crisis, we can’t ignore the fact that as employers it is vital to “care for the carers” even if, in microbusiness, it is the owner. Employers must ensure those who shoulder a significant responsibility in times of crisis are prepared, acknowledged, resourced and supported physically, mentally and emotionally.

The Lifeline Australia Experience

As we all know, Lifeline do an amazing job in crisis support. It’s been a tough year for Lifeline, starting with the bushfires in January and calls to the service increased by 35% during the pandemic.

When Jason Doherty took over as Geelong and Regional Victoria GM for lifeline in January, there were eight volunteers and two casual staff members. As of November, 2020 there are now over 100 volunteers and 35 casual staff.  Workforce planning due to rapid growth meant long days and the organisation now see staff retention being paramount.

During the pandemic administration staff worked from home, whilst the call centre, deemed an essential service, saw volunteers remain on site.

The psychological safety of Lifeline workers was upmost priority with Lifeline increasing it’s peer support, self-care strategies, mentoring, coaching and mental health models.

There are 40 Lifeline centres across Australia.

As part of the HR Index, Maree Herath chatted with Jason Doherty, Lifeline GM, Geelong and Regional Victoria.

Watch the interview with Jason Doherty.


2020 Geelong HR Index

Harvest Director, Maree Herath  hosts a casual “on the couch” discussion with special guests Justin Giddings CEO Avalon Airport, Lisa Barton HR Operations The Gordon, Jason Doherty Regional GM Lifeline, Brian Cook CEO Geelong Cats , Debra Nash Commercial Director Truffle Duck and Mark Valena CEO GMHBA.

Click here to watch the 2020 Release of the HR Index on You Tube.    (60 minutes)

Each industry, based on how the pandemic played out, had different HR challenges which can be found in the separate findings by sector. If you wish purchase one of The Geelong HR Index 2020 Reports, please contact Harvest t: 1300 363 128

  • Complete Geelong HR Index 2020 Report – $399
  • Regional Report – $299
  • Industry Reports – $199

We trust the findings will increase your understanding of the Geelong region; that you will be able to use the data to respond to challenges, take advantage of opportunities and play your part in the social and sustainable development of our great City.

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