Making a healthy connection with staff

Article image - Making a healthy connection with staff East Gippsland Shire Council CEO Gary Gaffney and Sustainability Officer Rebecca Lamble at the launch of the Bike Fleet.

East Gippsland Shire Council understands the link between an employee’s wellbeing, engagement, happiness and workplace performance, and has introduced a range of initiatives to encourage a healthy culture.

Council’s Manager Organisation Development Rebecca Aston said results of Health Checks conducted in 2016 indicated employees are at risk in the areas of high blood pressure, cholesterol and excess weight.

“We have a Health and Wellbeing Committee, comprising staff from a range of business areas and management. The committee has a budget and can develop and implement ideas that will benefit staff’s physical and emotional wellbeing,” Ms Aston said.

“Our council covers a large geographic area, and our staff, even office based, are spread across the whole region. For example, staff in our Bairnsdale and Mallacoota offices are a 3.5 hour drive from each other. This can make implementing initiatives difficult, as we want to involve all our staff.

“Fresh Fruit Wednesday is one of the popular initiatives. We have a variety of seasonal fruit delivered to each of our sites, on a ratio of one piece of fruit per staff member based at the site.

Ms Aston said the program suits an organisation with multiple sites, as it only requires a shop that can supply fruit.

“In larger towns we may use a greengrocer, and in smaller towns we can source fruit from the supermarket. It’s not a program that requires resources travelling from site to site; each area is essentially self-sufficient. The fruit is funded through the Health and Wellbeing Committee’s budget,” Ms Aston said.

Council also recently created a bicycle fleet as a means of both providing exercise and a car-free option for short trips within Bairnsdale. Staff who want to use the fleet first need to complete an induction. The bikes can also be used by staff during their lunch break.

Other initiatives to encourage staff to be more physically actively include a Virtual Walking Challenge, and treadmill desks.

The walking challenge has been held for the past two years; 21 teams competed last year walking a total of 22,500 kilometres over four weeks. Teams also logged their water, fruit and vegetable intake over the four weeks.

Council purchased two treadmill desks. These are booked out using an Outlook calendar, similar to booking other resources. The treadmill desks have proven especially popular amongst staff who find it difficult to go for a walk or exercise at lunchtime/before work/after work. They can bring their own tablet or use the tablet and monitor hooked up to the treadmill and work and exercise at the same time.

“The Health and Wellbeing Committee also takes advantage of quick, cheap ways to promote healthy choices, such as putting up posters in staff bathrooms and kitchens. These are rotated every two months and cover topics such as being Sun Smart and the sugar content of drinks,” Ms Aston said.