Case Study: Customs

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Jacqui Francis thrives off the energy of others.

She knows too that her mindset influences that of everyone around her, so she strives to bring the best version of herself into all manner of situations.

“Your mood and your mental being is reflected in who you are but also you can change other people in an instant.”

As Senior Advisor in Customer Focus, Business Improvement and Innovation for New Zealand Customs, she is focused on providing enriching and fulfilling experiences.

“A lot of it is understanding that people do have their own issues in life and things that can affect their mental wellbeing. It’s about walking in their shoes and actually understanding what they are dealing with on a day-to-day basis.”

In the context of New Zealand Customs, it means taking into consideration the feelings of passengers as they prepare for travel, including excitement, nerves, stress or sadness.

“It’s also about being aware of that and the changes of emotion,” says Jacqui.

If there is one thing she does without fail each day, it is practise mindfulness on her drive home from work. The exercise helps her to control her emotions, so she brings only positivity home. Her time behind the wheel is a time to reflect on the interactions she has had during her working day, and identify the positive in each.

Arriving home “in a really good place” is important to Jacqui, who acknowledges it isn’t always easy to leave work and stressful days at the door.

“I think your mental wellbeing reflects on the way that you act in any given day. Take for instance if I’ve had a really great morning and everything has gone right, then I’m personally going to be in a great space. So I’m more productive, I have greater patience, I can listen to people, I can help them if they’ve got some problems in the workplace and I’ve got a more positive attitude.”

“So my mindset is in a better place.”

“Wellbeing for me is about - not just the physical. I think a lot of people look at it and we talk about sports - the doing part - but for me it’s about the mental health of others as well.”

Mindfulness is not something Jacqui ever imagined herself doing, until she completed a six-week course. She now urges everyone to give it a go.

Jacqui is tasked with bringing the customer into the business, so she is well aware that it is of the utmost importance for Customs staff to be healthy and well.

“When they’re dealing with external customers, it’s important we reflect a professional approach but also it’s about working with each other.”

To do her part to help maintain the health and wellbeing of staff, Jacqui sends out the Healthy Christchurch newsletter every Friday, in a deliberate move to keep staff in the know and aware of events on in their community.

“If you can imagine how cool that could be for someone on shift work or someone who might have a day off and hears that they’ve got a community event on in their local area. Or there’s a walk and a meeting of bakers or a book club.”

Morning teas are another big part of the organisation, and get staff away from their computer screens for a break and a chat.

“We love to celebrate success in Customs,” says Jacqui.

“It might be that we have a morning tea to celebrate someone new coming in to the workplace.”

Diversity in the workplace is another area the organisation strives to address - be it through cultural acknowledgement or the Women’s Network Jacqui is helping to initiate.

“Wellbeing to me is also having the freedom to express myself without fear of being criticised.”

Various awards are also offered to celebrate staff achievements, and long-serving members of the organisation.

“I’ve been here for 25 years and have received awards. I think it’s fantastic because it gives you that real lift and that feeling of ‘you’re doing your best’ as a professional.”

“It makes you feel valued and it also inspires others.”

For Jacqui, socialising with those around her is a great way to break up her day, which is very desk-orientated.

“I’m more a catch up with people, have a chat, a coffee or a yarn kind of person.”

On the weekend she takes time out to hit the mountain bike tracks around Christchurch with a group of colleagues.