Skip to content
This is a trial site. Please help us improve Mentally Healthy Workplaces by exploring this site and giving us your feedback.

Staying safe while working from home: The Victorian Women’s Trust  

Discover how the Victorian Women’s Trust hybrid work model supports worker mental health.  

Victorian Women's Trust
  • During COVID-19 lockdowns, Victorian Women’s Trust workers had to quickly adapt to working from home.   
  • Concerned about the wellbeing of workers, the Trust contracted an ergonomic firm to address the points of concern in workers’ at-home workspaces.  
  • The Trust has continued its successful hybrid work model, ensuring it was “not just a random structural response but a deliberate effort to bolster health and wellbeing”.   

The Victorian Women’s Trust was already moving towards a hybrid working model before 2020, giving staff the flexibility to work from home. COVID-19 lockdowns accelerated this change. Like many other organisations, the Trust had to move out of Melbourne’s CBD, and workers had to quickly adapt to working from home.   

Executive Director, Mary Crooks AO, describes the work culture at the Trust as positive, collegial and values driven. Victorian Women’s Trust is passionate about gender equality and inclusivity and it was the first organisation in Australia to introduce menstrual leave in 2017.   

When its team was restricted to working from home, the Trust took steps to support wellbeing. An ergonomic company conducted site visits at each worker’s home as part of a genuine effort to promote wellbeing of staff. Ergonomic experts suggested changes to workspaces and equipment such as swapping out a chair for a more suitable height for the desk and adding an external mouse and keyboard so that a laptop screen can be raised to reduce neck strain.  

If the ergonomic consultant could not make the necessary changes while at a person’s house, they made recommendations to the Trust for better supports. The Trust implemented all recommendations, including, for example, buying an ergonomic desk.   

Of the 12 staff at the Trust, 3 home offices needed changes, including Ms Crooks’ own workspace. Of particular concern was a young worker, who lived in a shared household and was working on their bed. They needed a bigger space for a desk but would not commandeer a common space in the house. The Trust looked at renting a temporary workspace—a hot spot—but the worker negotiated with their household to find a dedicated and safe ergonomic space.   

During 2020 and 2021, the Trust also organised a consultation session each quarter between managers and a retired psychologist. The aim was to give managers more confidence in spotting signs of poor mental health among workers.   

To address isolation and connection concerns while working from home, the Trust restructured internal meetings to include a personal aspect: each week a selected worker had 7 minutes to discuss a passion. This was a great way to connect and learn more about workmates. The Trust also implemented check-in meetings, allowing workers to raise any mental health concerns in confidential chats. And it continued to encourage staff to access its existing private and confidential Employment Assistance Program.  

The Trust continues with the hybrid work model. This deliberate effort bolstered health and benefited staff in terms of people’s productivity and wellbeing. The Trust has also benefited from rising productivity and having a mentally healthy team.   

  • Health Care and Social Assistance
  • VIC
  • Published 25 Jul 2023
  • Updated 25 Jul 2023