Global idea empowers employees

Staff disconnect an issue until one woman got to work.

Forming a team of colleagues from multiple countries and empowering it with five ways to wellbeing earned Nadene Winchester the Wayfinder Star Wayfarer Award.

This is awarded to an individual who has made a meaningful contribution to improving health and wellbeing in their workplace, regardless of their position.

In the words of her nominees, Winchester “absolutely transformed” her company’s wellbeing culture with no expectation of recognition or appreciation for it.

For Nadene Winchester, People and Capability Coordinator at Christchurch-based Dynamic Controls, this attitude reflects her caring and compassionate approach which, to a large degree, has been born out of her own fair share of trauma and tragedy.

In 2003, she worked at Crop and Food Research (now Plant and Food Research) when a chartered flight carrying nine members of the leadership team crashed on its approach to Christchurch Airport, killing seven of them.

The team supported each other in the crash's aftermath as they grieved the loss of their colleagues and the love and care she experienced and extended to others at the time has stayed with her throughout her career in human resources.

“It made us close. You wouldn't want to see anyone else go through that but being able to support each other through it strengthened us as a workplace,” she says.

Winchester is also a breast cancer survivor, and has been on a mission to support colleagues and friends going through similar health issues since recovering a few years ago.

Dynamic Controls, which specialises in providing electronic control systems for power wheelchairs, scooters, and other medical mobility products, also operates in the UK and Asia – and this is where Winchester really made her mark.

She 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.

“Our wellbeing committee purpose is about inspiring and empowering individuals to improve their resilience, mental and physical wellbeing,” Winchester says.

“We try to approach wellness in a holistic way and the five ways to wellbeing are intrinsically linked to our purpose and strategy.

“All five pillars are important, but having teams in multiple locations means we always have a focus on the connect pillar.”

Winchester says the five pillars originated from the Mental Health Foundation and they were already being loosely used in the company when she started. However, when the committee was created it conducted a review to make sure the concept was the right fit for Dynamic Controls.

Winchester also took it upon herself to scale fun 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.

“We actually did a morning tea in Christchurch rather than a lunch, but it was quite successful. Our UK team also participated and held a BBQ with locally sourced meat and salads, while our China team participated by getting indoor plants for their office space.”

Other events have included a nature photography competition and regular lunchtime walking groups.

Employees across these time zones are now interacting, sharing photos of wellbeing activities and contributing to ideas and fundraising initiatives.

Winchester says fundraising is important when it aligns with the company’s purpose as a business. One example of this was when the team raised almost $2000 by helping two employees take part in the 500km Tour of New Zealand cycling event held to raise funds for the New Zealand Spinal Trust.

Registered psychologist, Moira Howson from Worklife Psychology says:

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 find reading a book in the sunshine at lunch may be their thing to recharge, rather than engaging in work social activities.
Judges recognised Winchester with Gold: “She is authentic, warm, genuine and people gravitate toward her and feel genuinely welcome to take part. Nadene enhances the lives of our people at work,” her nomination said.
Winchester joined Dynamic Controls at the start of the first Covid lockdown in March 2020. She did not meet anyone in person for weeks but still managed to connect and get to know her workmates through virtual events. Once back in the office, and with Wellbeing Lead as part of her overall role, she set about creating a Wellbeing Champions committee and coming up with a purpose, strategy and initiatives.
When the lockdown ended, not all staff were feeling good about returning to the office. Winchester ensured people were allowed to work flexibly and that the office was a comfortable and welcoming environment.

“I want to make sure that people are happy with their roles and motivated to come to work and do their best.”

The team use a battery gauge analogy daily to check on each other. Employees feel comfortable enough to share when they are in the red, or yellow, and need a break, a rearranging of their hours or extra support, Winchester says.
This comes from a culture of openness, with the company’s “wellbeing champions” talking candidly to their colleagues about their own struggles.
But the most popular benefit Winchester helped to introduce was extending the company’s health insurance* subsidy to all Christchurch staff, their partners and children (previously only senior leaders had access to it).
“I feel lucky that the leadership team has given me the support for everything we do in the wellbeing space,” she says. “Our budget is not huge but having that support and that confidence to go out and organise stuff does make a big difference.”
One of the judges, NZME chief digital and publishing officer Carolyn Luey, said Winchester’s global programme and strategic themes were “quite unique”.
“The thing about this award is it’s actually about influence. This is about an individual with influence within an organisation where it wasn’t 100 per cent of their job to champion and drive health and wellbeing.”
*Dynamic Controls subsidises the Southern Cross Health Insurance RegularCare plan for its employees and their family.
This article was first published in New Zealand Herald.

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Southern Cross Health Insurance Wayfinder Awards