Better productivity starts with a healthy workplace

Alan Walsh

Reporter:

Alan Walsh

Better productivity starts with a healthy workplace

Mr Barry Dempsey, Minister Corcoran Kennedy, TD, Minister for Health Promotion, Dr Kate McGarry and Ms Janis Morrissey.

Employers who encourage and promote a healthy workplace can improve productivity, cut down on absenteeism through sickness and help combat the growth of obesity in Irish people.

Through workplace initiatives such as the Irish Heart Foundation’s Healthy Eating and Active@Work Awards, Irish businesses are fighting back against the World Health Organisation’s prediction that by 2030 Ireland will be the most obese nation in Europe.

President of the Irish Heart Foundation Dr Kate McGarry said: “Serious health problems face us as a nation and yet both obesity and cardiovascular disease are largely preventable.

“Creating a supportive environment to empower individuals where they work or live is essential and it is extremely heartening to see so many companies across the country receiving our Healthy Eating and Active@Work Awards and contributing greatly to the effort.

“It is through initiatives like these that we will be able to reverse the trend of obesity in Ireland and help people live fuller, healthier lives.”

As the national charity fighting heart disease and stroke, the Irish Heart Foundation believes that healthy workplace practices can play key roles in fostering an obesity prevention environment whereby individuals, families and communities are empowered to make healthier choices and promote healthier lifestyles.

Alarmingly, in the past two decades, levels of overweight and obesity in Ireland have doubled. Now only 40% of adults have a healthy weight (Healthy Ireland 2016- 2025) and in terms of scale, this represents one of the biggest public health challenges Ireland is facing today. Additionally, according to a recent survey conducted by the Irish Heart Foundation, the cost of obesity could more than quadruple within the next 15 years to a total of €1,175 a year for every man woman and child in the State unless more is done to tackle the problem.

Companies can actively tackle Ireland’s growing obesity problem by promoting healthier behaviours in their workplaces and through their Awards programme, the Irish Heart Foundation annually recognises companies who are actively promoting measures designed to encourage their employees to pursue healthier lifestyles.

Presenting the Awards, Minister of State for Health Promotion Deputy Marcella Kennedy Corcoran, TD said, “I am delighted to present the Irish Heart Foundation Awards for Healthy Eating and Active@Work. Making our workplaces healthier is one of the important elements of our work in my Department under Healthy Ireland.

“We are working on developing a National Framework for Healthy Workplaces across both public and private sectors to encourage and support the creation of health and wellbeing programmes. We aim to support employers to develop individual, practical plans to protect and promote the physical, mental and social wellbeing of their employees.

“We are also developing the Health and Wellbeing (Calorie Posting and Workplace Wellbeing) Bill. The Bill will require all public sector workplaces to have and to report on a healthy workplace policy.”

Speaking at the awards, Sarah O’Brien HSE national lead for Health Eating and Active Living programme said, “Sometimes, when we hear the figures and statistics about how many people are overweight, obese and living with heart disease or have lifestyles that significantly increase their chances of experiencing a heart attack or stroke – the scale of change needed to turn this round can seem daunting. 

“One small way we can reverse this behaviour trend is to create and support a network of  workplace ‘champions’ who make changes within their work area to collectively support our individual efforts. This is why the HSE continues to support the work of organisations like the Irish Heart Foundation and why initiatives like Happy Heart@Work and Active@Work are so important in supporting workplace communities to make the healthier choice an easier choice for everyone.” 

In total, 47 companies were certified this year by the Irish Heart Foundation under their Healthy Eating Awards to provide and promote healthy meal options in their restaurants. Since the programme began up to 450 companies have been certified benefiting 400,000 employees nationwide.

Meanwhile the newer Active@Work Award, founded in 2013, was presented to 25 companies in recognition of efforts to boost employee physical activity levels at work. Promoting an active workforce has the potential to reduce sick days by as much as 27% and drive down absenteeism by up to 20%.

The Healthy Eating Award is valid for two years and the Active@Work for one year and the new graded system of gold, silver and bronze is designed to encourage companies to set their targets high, continue to promote healthy living and strive for the Gold medal standard.