changing workplace culture
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.
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.