A small construction company is aiming to tackle Tasmania’s high rates of obesity and cardiovascular disease by starting to change people’s attitudes to exercise and healthy eating in the workplace.
Ronald Young & Co Builders in Hobart have been constructing homes in southern Tasmania for more than 40 years. Husband and wife duo Lisa and Paul Burnell purchased the business in 2011 and immediately recognised the importance of implementing a successful health and wellbeing program.
Speaking to SmartCompany, Lisa Burnell said research shows healthy workers are nearly three times more productive than unhealthy workers. In addition, they have fewer sick days and workers compensation claims.
“The benefits to our business have been that it’s been enhanced teamwork and workplace morale,” she said. “It demonstrates that we value a positive work environment.”
As part of the program, the company’s 10 permanent employees receive free health checks on site – such as blood pressure monitoring – and are encouraged to eat healthy and exercise.
“I’m a registered nurse so I have found it easy to incorporate this into our business,” Burnell said when describing the program. “I also develop an annual calendar of events and other initiatives – men’s health, prostate awareness, cardiovascular disease. There’s a lot of information out there.”
The business’s actions have not only improved their brand image but also their involvement in the local community.
“Tasmania has one of the highest rates of obesity,” she said. “Construction workers are blue collar workers and alcohol and smoking is high. So for me with my background it’s good to be able to try to initiate some health improvements.”
Burnell points out while a lot of SMEs don’t have the time or resources to implement a health and wellbeing program as extensive as theirs, if you are a business owner it is still worth putting health and safety high up on your list of priorities.
“The return on investment is high,” she said. “It’s not only our legislative obligations – and I think a lot of businesses are aware it’s good business.”
Burnell said if other small enterprises wanted to follow suit, then her top tips would be to include health and wellbeing in the business’s core values and to get staff involved.
“Do a needs assessment,” she said. “See what your health needs are in your workplace. Start off small and network with other businesses.”