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How to Make Work More Human: With a Nod from Sir Richard Branson

Experiments Collection Virgin ChapmanCG_ribbon

Since the beginning of time, we, as homo sapiens, have needed to adapt in order to survive. From adjusting to changes in our environment, our food and water supply, to developing communities, agricultural practices, trade and social structure, we have always acclimatised to both survive and ultimately thrive.

However, the speed of technological advancement, social media and the demands of ‘more for less’ work cultures are outpacing the human ability to adapt. This phenomenon is causing a global anxiety and depression epidemic the likes of which we’ve never seen before.

World Health Organization (WHO) data indicates that more than 600 million people suffer from depression globally and that depression and anxiety cost the global economy US$1 trillion each year in lost productivity.

As adults, we spend most of our time at work.  If our experience and relationships at work are positive and meaningful, we are energised, productive and well.  Conversely, if our experience at work is negative, has little or no meaning, is overwhelming, highly stressful or if we are fearful, harassed or bullied, this can catalyse anxiety or depression, or can exacerbate existing mental health conditions.

“Employees who feel appreciated and are treated as humans are far more likely to give extra discretionary effort, be more loyal and to go above and beyond.” – Stephanie Nash, Chief People Officer, ChapmanCG

According to World Health Organization research, every US$1 invested by a company in the treatment of depression and anxiety leads to a return of US$4 in better health and ability to work.

Aside from the fact that it’s the right thing to do, the business case for investing in more progressive and inclusive HR, wellbeing and mental health programmes is a no-brainer.

We must make work more ‘human’.

Case Studies: How to Make the Workplace More Human

“I don’t think of work as work and play as play. It’s all living.” – Sir Richard Branson

The Branson Family and Virgin Group founded a non-profit foundation named Virgin Unite to apply Virgin’s entrepreneurial approach to finding solutions for the world’s most urgent challenges.

One of Virgin Unite’s initiatives is 100% Human at Work, an independent collective of organisations and leaders focused on shaping, testing and scaling action to create a better future of work. Triggering businesses to start thinking of people as human beings and not as “resources” is a key goal. The participants in this initiative believe that focussing on how we can help people achieve their highest potential and purpose will naturally and positively impact the bottom line.

ChapmanCG has enjoyed the privilege of partnering with Virgin Unite on its events in Sydney and New York. Born out of the 100% Human at Work workshop in Sydney, the Virgin Unite team published a 100% Experiments Collection showcasing innovative programmes in a broad cross-section of companies in Australia and New Zealand.

The 100% Experiments Collection is almost like a high-end HR ideas guide or manual on how to make your workplace more human, and we’re delighted to share a summary of a few of these inspiring programmes with you here: The 100% Experiments Collection

Mental Health and Wellbeing

Travelex have created a Wellbeing Toolkit that prompts discussion around what a person’s manager can do to proactively support someone to stay mentally healthy, sharing the warning signs, and what to do if colleagues notice issues or have concerns..  This strategy also includes mental health first aid training for people leaders and creating a global cohort of mental health champions to build a culture of awareness and empowerment.

Ravensdown (NZ based Agricultural Company) introduced The Resilience Genie, a set of methods that supports wellbeing and resilience in the workforce. The Resilience Genie is designed by a cognitive psychologist and disaster practitioners at McNaughton & Wills who bring together global research and years of experience supporting the wellbeing of teams working in the toughest circumstances. The methods have been tested under the ultimate conditions of prolonged stress and uncertainty.  Employees are now better equipped to approach difficult conversations, openly share frustrations and ideas and have a greater understanding of how to proactively manage wellbeing and support teammates. There is a sense of relief that everyone has the permission to talk openly about these things with one another.


Being a diverse organisation with team members located in Australia and New Zealand, Virgin utilised online and app-based technology to engage people, act as a platform to share resources, run physical activity challenges and competitions, and even provide access to free flu vaccinations for all team members. The programme includes a mental health strategy, mental health first aid training, Crew Care, Healthy Minds Training, on-site coaching and counselling.

Diversity, Inclusion & Flexibility / Belonging

QBE introduced the Champions of Change Programme consisting of diversity and inclusion Learning Bites aimed at increasing awareness and understanding within their global team of 12,000 people. The top 50 leaders have stepped up as QBE Champions of Change, supporting diversity and inclusion, and normalising flexibility across the organisation through Flex@QBE.

Mirvac has introduced the One Simple Thing flexibility policy which involves employees changing one thing that would help enable them to have a better work/life balance.  This initiative, together with Mirvac’s suite of employee experiences, has resulted in ongoing employee engagement at 90%.

ChapmanCG is 100% virtual. The business offers  virtual working arrangements to enable people to better integrate work with their ‘whole life’ – exercise, study, hobbies, travel and their social and family lives. This approach also means that people can bring their ‘whole self’ to work, knowing that there is a broader understanding and support for who they are.

EY believes that some flexible arrangements, such as a significant reduction in working hours, require a thorough job redesign. It has devised and published a process guide for working through this, and the FlexEY Programme is in operation in Australia and other countries, allowing people to successfully reduce their full-time job schedule so they can fulfil their personal, as well as their professional goals.

Case Studies: Marginalised Groups

It is great to read about Career Seekers, an organisation supporting refugees and asylum seekers into skilled work. Allianz also has a very successful Refugee Employment Program.  NSW Department of Premier, Cabinet and Treasury partners with Jawun to support indigenous communities and organisations to build leadership and to deliver on their vision and strategies.

In Summary

It’s very exciting to see all these inspiring programs making work more human. HR Leaders and business leaders have an incredibly influential role in this mission. Together, we must ensure that humanity does not take a backseat to technology and profit, but rather we foster the connection of humans working together creatively in pursuit of a better world.

ChapmanCG is a global partner of Virgin Unite’s 100% Human at Work Initiative.

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Key Contributors:

Paul Jury
Paul Jury

Managing Director

Consulting Team
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Paul Jury
Consulting Team

Paul Jury

Managing Director

Paul holds the position of Managing Director with ChapmanCG and is a member of the organisation’s senior management team (Global). He holds responsibility for people and performance across the Australia and New Zealand region, and he works with a dynamic team across SE Asia. Paul takes a particularly hands-on approach to building ChapmanCG’s business and brand in Singapore, Jakarta and Manila. In the past he has managed teams and continues to deliver regional searches across APAC.

Before joining the ChapmanCG team, Paul spent eight years at Talent2 International as Managing Director of the recruitment business across Australasia, where he also served as a member of the Global Recruitment team. Prior to this he held various senior management roles with TMP Worldwide (NASDAQ Listed) and Morgan & Banks (ASX Listed) across Australia and New Zealand.

Originally from Melbourne, Paul has worked with the Essendon Football Club, Arthur Andersen & Co and Pacific Access. He holds a Bachelor of Business (Accounting) from Monash University and has participated in professional development at the Macquarie Graduate School of Management.

These days Paul’s personal interests revolve around his teenage family and trying to stay balanced. He is an avid lover of sport and has a passion for football, cricket and golf.