chang­ing work­place cul­ture

Wangaratta Chronicle - North East Regional Extra - - Front Page - by KYLIE WIL­SON

WE spend a large per­cent­age of our lives at work, but it can also be where many of our plans for a healthy life­style can be de­railed.

From the food in the tea­room, to sources of stress and de­mand­ing work­loads that can cause you to skip lunch, there are many things that can in­ter­fere with main­tain­ing your health and well­be­ing.

For the past few years, work­ers at Gate­way Health, other re­gional health providers and North East business have been at­tempt­ing to ad­dress that is­sue through the Achieve­ment Pro­gram, in the hopes of chang­ing work­place cul­tures in the North East for the bet­ter.

Es­tab­lished in con­junc­tion with the Vic­to­rian Gov­ern­ment and Cancer Coun­cil Vic­to­ria, the pro­gram sup­ports, and pro­vides a frame­work for, the devel­op­ment of healthy work­places.

About 1000 work­places statewide take part in the pro­gram, and around 30 of those are in the North East.

Felic­ity Kennedy, a health pro­mo­tion coordinator from Gate­way Health who has been work­ing on the project for about two years, said ap­proaches to cre­at­ing health­ier work­places have to en­com­pass the whole business.

“It’s im­por­tant to have rep­re­sen­ta­tion from the whole or­gan­i­sa­tion.

“Work­places of­ten see the value in sup­port­ing their staff.”

Felic­ity said the ben­e­fits of cre­at­ing a health­ier work­place en­vi­ron­ment are many and var­ied, in­clud­ing re­ceiv­ing a bet­ter re­turn on in­vest­ment, em­ploy­ees us­ing less sick leave, and a re­duc­tion in staff turnover.

“When em­ploy­ees feel that their or­gan­i­sa­tion is in­vest­ing in their health, they feel val­ued,” she said.

Felic­ity added that cre­at­ing change in the work­place is a grad­ual but wor­thy process, and Gate­way Health it­self is also work­ing to­wards health­ier goals, from stand­ing desks to staff yoga, and hav­ing a shared pro­duce bas­ket in the staff kitchen.

“Each or­gan­i­sa­tion can do it at their own pace,” she said.

“The changes aren’t a quick fix, they’re a long term change.”

Felic­ity said over time, she has tried her best to im­ple­ment health­ier work­place changes in her own life, and it has im­proved her health and well­be­ing.

She has taken part in staff ac­tiv­i­ties such as cy­cling and play­ing touch foot­ball in the park, and said be­ing in­volved in such ac­tiv­i­ties has also helped her con­nect with her col­leagues.

Felic­ity said the or­gan­i­sa­tion is also work­ing to­wards cre­at­ing a guide to healthy cater­ing that busi­nesses through­out the area can use for pro­vid­ing food for meet­ings, lunches and spe­cial events.

Fel­low health pro­mo­tion coordinator Monique Hil­lenaar said she main­tained health by eat­ing a healthy bal­anced diet, get­ting plenty of sleep and un­der­tak­ing stress re­duc­tion strate­gies such as yoga, just to name a few.

Felic­ity added that there are many ways busi­nesses can cre­ate a health­ier work­place, in­clud­ing tak­ing part in group chal­lenges, hold­ing walk­ing meet­ings, giv­ing work­ers the op­tion of stand­ing desks, and more.

Alpine Health is one of the work­places in the re­gion work­ing to­wards a health­ier cul­ture, hav­ing car­ried out a health and well­be­ing au­dit in 2015 and set up a com­mit­tee to ad­dress the is­sue soon af­ter.

Since then, the changes they’ve made have in­cluded the cre­ation of a health and well­be­ing pol­icy, the be­gin­ning of a walk­ing group, a news­let­ter high­light­ing health achieve­ments, us­ing the or­gan­i­sa­tion’s so­cial me­dia to high­light key men­tal health days such as RUOK Day, and ALERT train­ing to in­crease aware­ness and un­der­stand­ing of de­pres­sion, anx­i­ety and sui­cide.

Alpine Health’s Maureen Ry­land said it has been a great per­sonal ex­pe­ri­ence to work for the or­gan­i­sa­tion and wit­ness the will­ing­ness to sup­port staff wher­ever the ser­vice can.

“Staff have felt in­cluded by be­ing part of the de­ci­sion mak­ing process,” she said, not­ing the many ben­e­fits to im­prov­ing work­place cul­ture.

“The health in­dus­try is an emo­tion­ally dif­fi­cult area to work in and our poli­cies sup­port staff who are part of our com­mu­nity and their fam­i­lies for greater health out­comes,” Maureen said.

She said main­tain­ing good health was very im­por­tant to her, in­clud­ing “look­ing at all as­pects of health as a com­bi­na­tion of the mind, body and spirit”.

“I also look at what I eat and al­low­ing a bal­anced diet which in­cludes some treats, in­cor­po­rat­ing phys­i­cal ac­tiv­ity mod­er­ate and vig­or­ous but re­mem­ber­ing a walk or con­scious de­ci­sion to move more is great for me,” Maureen said.

“Emo­tion­ally and spir­i­tu­ally I try and look at how I am re­lat­ing to the world and in­cor­po­rate some mind­ful­ness prac­tices in­clud­ing med­i­ta­tion and be­ing aware of my sur­round­ings, so I can be more aware of the peo­ple I con­nect with ei­ther per­son­ally or pro­fes­sion­ally.”

To find out more about the pro­gram, con­tact the Gate­way Health team on (03) 5723 2000.

PHOTO: Kylie Wil­son

EN­COUR­AG­ING HEALTH: Gate­way Health’s Monique Hil­lenaar and Felic­ity Kennedy, are pas­sion­ate about cre­at­ing a more healthy cul­ture in North East work­places.

OUT AND ABOUT: En­joy­ing ac­tiv­ity and fresh air as part of the Myrtle­ford Walk­ing Group at Alpine Health are (from left) Roma Vac­caro, Mar­got Vil­lella and Maureen Ry­land.

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