The importance of Face-2-Face Connection

By NZISM Secretary


Kia ora koutou members and supporters of NZISM. Last week I was fortunate enough to attend the HASANZ conference in Wellington. It was a few years in the making and it was a fantastic event. There were so many excellent presentations over the two days I am confident that everyone in attendance went away with some gems to think about, particularly in terms of how to embed what they learnt into their individual ‘business as usual’ and how to support their organisations to grow...

However, one of the poignant aspects of the conference was that it was the first time, in a long time, that many of us have had the opportunity to get together in such a large group, to network, mingle and catch up in person. We are extremely fortunate that we have the technology to facilitate remote group activity in a cost-effective and efficient manner, and it definitely has its place in the modern work environment. That said, there is something really beneficial about a face-to-face connection.

We know that there is a strong relationship between wellbeing and connection. This is evidenced in:

the Mental Health Foundation of New Zealand ‘Five Ways to Wellbeing’ which focuses on building strong relationships and keeping in touch with people to share experiences; in MSD’s 2018 literature review of Social connectedness and wellbeing; and we are beginning to see this come through in contemporary research like Breetzke and Wild’s study ‘Social connections at work and mental health during the first wave of the COVID-19 pandemic: Evidence from employees in Germany.’ (Protecting mental wellbeing at work from the Business Leaders’ Health & Safety Forum is also a worthy read.)

I know this from personal experience also. I was chatting to someone at the conference and they mentioned (and I paraphrase) that being with other health and safety people really “filled up their cup”. This highlighted to me that networking supports the social connectedness required to reduce isolation, particularly if you are the only health and safety person in the organisation or work remotely. It gives us the opportunity to form communities of practice, share experiences and innovative solutions, brainstorm ideas, commiserate losses, and celebrate achievements. And especially, it can create a sense of belonging within the wider industry when you spend time with people that just 'get it'.

It is absolutely essential for us to maintain networks – both formal and informal – not just to ensure our practices are up-to-date, but also to protect our own wellbeing. So you can chat through the challenges of contractor management, or awesome use of projected signage in warehouses with people that actually understand what you are talking about and appreciate the nuance of the work. It is also an excellent way to look out for your colleagues, some of whom have struggled these past two years.

I know I came away feeling rejuvenated and enthused, even if I did forget a few names, and I’ll be back in 2024!

Ngā mihi

Robyn Bennett

President, NZISM