October Newsletter

The final quarter of 2019 is here and the official start of Summer is just 5 weeks away! Many of our clients are currently taking time to review their occupational safety policies and procedures in anticipation of the warmer months ahead, while making a start on their planning for (gasp!) 2020. That’s why, this month, we’re providing some timely expert advice on the importance of reducing your team’s risk of heat stress, and tips on supporting your team to increase their activity levels in the ongoing fight against obesity.

Read our October newsletter online for full details.

Health & Wellness Initiatives to Combat Obesity in the Workplace

The World Health Organization describes the prevalence of obesity as an epidemic – and New Zealanders are taking out the Bronze medal in the ongoing race to be the world’s heaviest nation.

Obesity is associated with a wide range of health risks – and it can also have a significant negative impact for businesses. Learn more about obesity in the workplace in New Zealand, and the Dos and Don’ts of supporting health and wellness at work.

What is Obesity?

Obesity is defined as an excessively high amount of body fat in relation to lean body mass. 

Obesity Health Impacts & Risks

Obesity is associated with a long list of health conditions including, but not limited to:

  • Type 2 diabetes
  • Ischaemic heart disease (IHD)
  • Stroke
  • Several Common Cancers
  • Osteoarthritis
  • Sleep apnoea
  • Reproductive abnormalities

As obesity also puts added strain on joints, the number of New Zealanders needing knee replacements is expected to skyrocket over the next 20 years – with researchers noting much of this is to do with the country’s alarming obesity rates.

Obesity in New Zealand

New Zealand has the third highest adult obesity rate in the OECD (Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development), behind only the United States and Mexico.

Obesity rates in New Zealand continue to rise, with around one in three adult Kiwis (over 15 years) being classified as obese, and one in ten children. In 2015, 1.1 million New Zealanders were considered clinically obese but by 2038 that could be two million.

A 2018 Otago University report published in the Australian and New Zealand Journal of Public Health showed the average Body Mass Index (BMI) of New Zealanders increased from 26.4 in 1997 to 28.3 in 2015. The report estimates that, if this trend continues, New Zealand’s averageBMI would exceed the obesity threshold of 30 by the early 2030s.

Researcher Dr Ross Wilson from the University of Otago’s Centre for Musculoskeletal Outcomes Research at the Dunedin School of Medicine stated that high BMI has now “overtaken tobacco as the greatest contributor to health loss in New Zealand”, which emphasises the public health importance of the research findings.

The Impact of Obesity on Businesses

Numerous studies have been conducted globally to quantify the impact of obesity in the workplace. Key findings show:

Obese employees will often need to take more time off work – both short and long term – because of associated health conditions.

Obesity can affect the productivity of a workplace. Because an obese employee’s health may be worse, and they may be more likely to suffer from issues such as back problems or sleep apnoea – meaning that, even if they aren’t taking time off work, ‘presenteeism’ can be an issue, as their health conditions may affect their ability to perform productively.

Both absenteeism and presenteeism can cause significant workplace costs for businesses. One study concluded that an organisation with more than 1000 staff members could expect to face upwards of $245,000 annually in lost productivity due to employee obesity.

Obesity & the Workplace

While it’s all well and good for employers to bemoan the negative impacts of obesity on their bottom line, it’s important to note that the relationship between obesity and work is complex. Routines and behaviours at work – particularly given that much of modern work is sedentary – can have a substantial impact on lifestyle and wellbeing.

It’s clearly not the job of employers to make judgements or pass comment on the size and weight of employees – especially when work can often play a major part in influencing eating and exercise habits.

Instead, encouraging exercise and healthy eating among staff members should form part of a far broader initiative to promote staff health and wellbeing. Employers can do this in many ways – from introducing walking meetings and cycle-to-work schemes, to offering discounted gym memberships or providing only healthy foods onsite in cafeterias and vending machines.

Supporting Health & Wellness at Work

While it can be uncomfortable talking to employees about topics such as obesity, studies show that wellness initiatives can boost morale, productivity and performance at work. Developing a well-rounded ‘wellness strategy’ in the workplace facilitates these kinds of conversations without making employees feel uncomfortable, or employers and HR teams feel as though they’re finger-wagging.

Want to help your workforce make better choices and move into sustainably healthy routines? Consider ways in which your organisation can provide opportunities for staff to (a) eat a healthy diet, through accessibility, promotion and incentivised cost, and (b) get more exercise throughout the workday.

In developing your organisation’s plan to push people towards better health and wellness outcomes, it’s vital to take care not to alienate, discourage or even harm employees by following the simple Dosand Don’tsoutlined below.

DO Encourage Healthy Choices & Physical Activity

Your employees spend most of their time at work – so it’s important to foster a workplace culture and environment that encourages healthy behaviours. This may include offering healthy food choices, or simply encouraging employees to get up and walk around at regular intervals – which studies show can actually increase their productivity as well as their physical fitness. 

To create a more activity-friendly workplace, consider installing standing desks and holding standing and walking meetings. Something as simple as moving water coolers, rubbish bins and printer stations away from desks helps encourage more movement. 

DO Think Like Your Marketing Team

Exercise and healthy eating can be a hard sell to employees, so communicate information about health and wellness initiatives in ways that encourage positive action. Place messaging about wellness in strategic areas like the foot of the stairs or on elevator doors to encourage exercise. Use gamification to challenge employees to a day without sugar or an activity scavenger hunt. 

DO Implement a Total Wellness Approach

Wellbeing is multidimensional – incorporating physical, social, emotional and financial factors – so it’s important that workplace programmes address multiple aspects of wellbeing. For example, a company touch football team can cater to employees’ social and physical needs. Look at the whole picture, and seek staff feedback to get a feel for what is going to engage them most and meet their needs best.

DON’T Make Broad Assumptions About Health

Health is not one-size-fits-all, so it’s important to remember that – although obesity can cause or exacerbate other health issues – some individuals may actually be “healthier” at higher weights.  

Encouraging staff to lose weight across the board, without considering their individual health profile, has the potential to lead to other health issues, so consider the unique needs of individuals.

DON’T Force Staff to Participate in Programmes 

There is still a great deal of stigma associated with obesity, so it’s vital that your organisation supports employees when they want to make healthy choices, without forcing them into programs they are unhappy about participating in. 

Demoralizing staff through enforced health programmes can impact productivity even more negatively than obesity, so take a gentle but inviting approach for best results and employee buy-in.

DON’T Focus Solely on Weight Loss

Competitions around weight loss can be dangerous, so avoid this kind of incentivising and gamification. Not only can these kinds of competitions alienate employees who really need support – they can foster unhealthy attitudes to food, nutrition and wellness, and have the opposite to the desire effect. Instead, as mentioned above, focus on a more holistic approach to wellness as whole. The goal should always be health and wellness, as opposed to kilograms or BMI.

Workplace Fundraising Ideas for Breast Cancer Awareness Month

October is breast cancer awareness month – an international health campaign founded in 1985 to increase awareness of the disease and to raise funds for research into its cause, prevention, diagnosis, treatment and cure.

This month is a particularly great time to get your team involved and do your bit to raise funds to support Breast Cancer Foundation New Zealand. If you’re like to get your team involved, we’ve got a complete A to Z list of ideas to inspire you!

Breast Cancer in New Zealand

Breast cancer is New Zealand’s third most common cancer – accounting for more than 600 deaths every year. In New Zealand, 9 women are diagnosed with breast cancer every day.

Breast cancer doesn’t only affect women. While more than 3300 New Zealand women will be diagnosed each year with breast cancer, so will 25 men. Globally, there were more than 2 million new cases of breast cancer in 2018, with New Zealand ranking 10thin the world in terms of the highest rates of breast cancers per 100,000 people.

About Breast Cancer Foundation New Zealand

Breast Cancer Foundation New Zealand is a not-for-profit charitable trust relying entirely on donations from the New Zealand public, including personal donations, fundraising events and corporate partnerships.

The Foundation is committed to raising awareness and educating the public about breast cancer, while supporting women diagnosed with the disease through counselling, cancer rehab classes, a breast nurse helpline and more. To date, Breast Cancer Foundation New Zealand has distributed more than $2million for breast cancer research and medical grants.

Each year – and especially throughout October – events are organised around New Zealand by groups, businesses and individuals in support of the Breast Cancer Foundation NZ. If you’re planning on hosting a fundraising event at work, you can pledge your donation online via their website. You can also find loads of great resources to share with your team.

A – Z Workplace Fundraising Ideas

Looking for inspiration for your workplace fundraising event? Here’s a complete A to Z of easy-peasy ideas to help you get started!

A is for Afternoon Tea
Organise a workplace afternoon tea, complete with healthy snacks, scones, jam and cream! Brew a pot or two of berry herbal tea, or swap tea for pink lemonade. 

B is for Bake Sale
Nominate your team’s most talented bakers, or ask everyone to try their hand at baking a treat to bring in. Set up a bake sale table that the team can peruse and purchase from throughout the day.

C is for Coconut Bra Competition
Here’s something a little different! Run a competition where your teammates offer a gold coin donation to create – and decorate – a coconut bra. Have a fun ‘boobie’ prize lined up for the winner!

D is for Dance Party
Gather the troops for an event outside the office and head to your local pub, club or bar to hit the D-floor. If an out-of-office event isn’t right for your team, celebrate with a mini dance party during lunch. Organise a prize for the best disco moves!

E is for Eating Competition
Whether it’s hot dogs, dry Weet-bix or bar chocolate devoured with knives and forks (gloves optional!) a good old fashioned eating competition can be tons of fun. Take entry fees to donate to Breast Cancer Foundation NZ.

F is for Fancy Dress Film Night
Have a lot of film-buffs in the office? Organise a fancy dress film night – either at someone’s home or the local cinema, depending on the size of your team.

G is for Garage Sale
Have everyone bring in any books, toys, small appliances, clothing or other bits and bobs they no longer need and have a garage sale to raise funds for The Breast Cancer Foundation. You could keep it in-house, or open it up to the public.

H is for Halloween Party
October is also home to Halloween on the calendar, so tee up a spooktacular event at the office, or a venue after hours. Bonus points if you can theme the costume competition around boo-bs!

I is for Information Day
Host an information day (or an information morning) for your team, with local experts, workshops and take-home resources to raise awareness about breast health.

J is for Jazzercise Hour
Start the workday off with a team-wide Jazzercise class! Not only is this a great way to get some exercise into your day, but this 80s throwback workout is tons of fun.

K is for Karaoke Night
Head to the local Karaoke bar or hire a machine and set it up at the office. Take entry fee donations to raise funds. You could even grab a trophy to award to the best set of pipes in your team, and make it an annual event! 

L is for Ladies’ Day
Breast cancer predominantly affects women, so raise awareness in the workplace by holding a Ladies’ Day brunch, luncheon, or fun day. Get your male colleagues involved by inviting them to don a dress for a day of good-spirited fun!

M is for Marathon
A marathon is 42.195 kms – but you don’t have to do it all at once! Grab a bunch of pedometers, distribute them among your team, and have them collect sponsorship donations for every kilometre they walk in a week, with 42.195 being the goal!

N is for Nature Walk
In keeping with the walking theme, you could also give your team a collective day out of the office, workshop or worksite to take a hike, trek or nature walk together. Have everyone dress in pink to raise awareness.

O is for Office Olympics 
Set aside an afternoon for your team to participate in an Office Olympics tournament, with challenges set up around your worksite. Games could include an office chair relay, paper ball toss – anything you can (safely) do for fun at work!

P is for PINK Day!
What better way to show your support than by going PINK! Encourage everyone at work to bring in a donation and dress in pink for the day to help raise awareness.

Q is for Quiz Night
Quiz nights are heaps of fun, and a great way to raise funds for a worth cause! You can join an existing Quiz Night at a local venue, or nominate a Quizmaster and hold your own. Bonus points for boob-related questions!

R is for Raffle
A raffle is a great, simple way to raise donations for charity – all you need is a prize! Donate items your business creates, or reach out to other local businesses and ask for their support. Sell tickets to your team, your customers, and via your Facebook page.

S is for Sausage Sizzle
Sausage sizzles are the quintessential Kiwi fundraiser, so head down to the local butcher to stock up, then fire up the BBQ! Make a day of it, or run a sausage sizzle every Friday for the month of October. 

T is for Teddy Bear’s Picnic
Like the idea of a family-friendly event your staff can bring their kids to? A Teddy Bear’s Picnic is just the ticket! Set up at the local park, plan games for kiddos, and ask everyone brings a donation and a plate to share. Easy.

U is for Umbrella Challenge 
Have your colleagues make like Rihanna for a day with an umbrella challenge for charity! The rules are simple. Everyone keeps an umbrella on them all day, and you have a designated Challenge Master blow a whistle at random. Anyone not holding their umbrella when the whistle blows is out – the last team member standing gets a prize.

V is for Vacation Day Silent Auction
Think your team would be down to bid on a paid vacation day in a silent auction for charity?! Us to! If your business is willing to donate one day of paid leave, ask your team to bid for it by enclosing their name with a donation to charity. Highest bidder enjoys a day off!

W is for Cash Wash
The days are starting to warm up in October, so a car wash is a great opportunity for your team to get outdoors, have fun, and raise funds! Set up a car washing station at your premises, or a nearby school or gas station. All you need are some buckets, soapy water and some sponges!

X is for Xbox Tournament 
Whether your workforce is made up of Millennials, Gen Xers or a combination of both, everyone can get on board with an afternoon of gaming! Pick a classic game and take entry fees to be donated – the winner gets bragging rights!

Y is for Yoga Class
Get a local yoga instructor in for a one-off session, or invite them to hold classes onsite throughout the month! Sell tickets to staff to participate. Not only will you raise funds, you’ll also help staff discover a new way to de-stress and enhance their health.

Z is for Zoo Trip
Get in touch with your local zoo! Many will offer discounted rates for group or mid-week bookings – especially if the aim is to raise money for charity! Sell tickets to your staff, and invite them to bring their families.