Karen Shearer

  • Karen Shearer
    Executive Manager People and Culture

    Uniting Country SA

Supporting staff wellbeing remotely: caring for those who care for others

(Speaking with Karen Marshman)

In 2015 Uniting Country SA identified that the number one risk to the health and safety of their employees was psychological injury. This was both due to the nature of working with very vulnerable people in crisis and working across large geographical areas with small teams.

HR Manager, Karen Shearer reached out to Let’s Talk’s Karen Marshman to discuss how her remote staff could be better supported. Karen Marshman had previously been a CEO of a NFP with a background in psychology running prevention programs with lawyers, and other workplaces. Both individuals were passionate about caring for people who care for others, and a model and resources were created that developed all staff skills in self-management, wellbeing and resilience and peer response.

To sustain internal capability, internal staff were recruited to a volunteer role of Wellbeing Ambassadors and trained in responding to, supporting and advocating for staff mental health. The results were incredible with measurable increases in wellbeing, wellbeing management and reduction in risks which have been sustained over time.

When COVID hit, the investment in the psychological infrastructure that had been put in place carried the challenges of the times, became relevant to all organisations and shows what a remote support model can achieve.

This case study session will include:

  • How to build internal, ongoing skills and capacity to care of staff
  • Aframework for a ‘contact officer’ role with substance, skills and leadership
  • A structure and model that responds to ongoing and changing needs, remoteness, diversity, Covid
  • How to skill up staff beyond emergency mental health management, for preventative and multi-faceted mental health leadership
  • How to build in cultural ‘north stars’ in resilience such as ‘taking our cape off’ sometimes and identifying as an organisation where you mentally need to ‘bend your knees before lifting’.

About Karen

Karen Shearer has 15 years experience in the not for profit sector with overall responsibility for all functions of human resources, volunteering, work health and safety, communications, marketing and risk. She is passionate about providing best practice contemporary services which meet the challenging workforce needs of the day.

Karen is a member of the South Australian Industry Skills Council where she provides independent industry-led advice to the government on skills and workforce development

One of the highlights of her career is leading the process formerly recognising Uniting Country SA as one of Australia’s best places to work in 2021.

Karen believes that an engaging workplace culture where people are valued and appreciated is the key to attracting and retaining a skilled workforce.

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