Building a culture of care in a hybrid workplace: podcast with Dr Martin McNamara

CEO of the Sax Institute Dr Martin McNamara is the featured guest of The Caring CEO podcast, speaking on the challenges and rewards of building a culture of care in a hybrid workplace.

The podcast interviews CEOs who prioritise the wellbeing of employees as essential to their organisation’s growth.

Dr McNamara, who became CEO of the Sax Institute in January 2023 after serving as Deputy CEO for several years, shares how the Institute has rebuilt connection and collaboration since the pandemic hit.

“For me, it starts with having a high degree of trust and rapport with my staff. I understand how they’re travelling, and how to get the best out of them and out of the organisation,” Dr McNamara says.

The Institute doesn’t have mandated office time but has built guidelines around connecting with peers. Staff are encouraged to share their ideas and questions in regular town hall meetings, and they also provide structured feedback in surveys.

“It’s still a work in progress,” Dr McNamara says. “Hybrid working has great benefits to our staff, like flexibility and autonomy. We want to keep those benefits while working on connectivity.”

A recent engagement survey shows the success of this approach, with 86% of staff saying they know what they need to do to be successful in their role and 91% say they are proud to work for the Institute.

Other topics covered in the episode include:

  • Improving the health of Australians with the Institute’s work. Dr McNamara is the chief investigator of the Sax Institute’s 45 and Up Study, which has tracked the health of more than 250,000 Australians since 2005. He explains how the 45 and Up Study, and the other programs of the Institute, has promoted the use of evidence in developing better health policies.
  • Why a CEO needs to be fearless. Dr McNamara shares what he learnt from working with other CEOs earlier in his career, and how that has shaped his approach to tackling big problems and changing direction when needed.
  • How taking stock of our skills and values helps us cope with uncertainty. Dr McNamara discusses how an early career crisis taught him to value his own strengths, and why it’s so important to say yes to opportunities, even if you don’t know immediately where they’ll lead.

The Caring CEO podcast is hosted by Graeme Cowan and is available on all major podcast platforms. The full interview with Dr McNamara is available here.