Anna Geary is a national ambassador for Ireland’s first Workplace Wellbeing Day taking place on Friday, 27th March. She’s urging employers and employees to get involved in the wellbeing initiative targeting better nutrition and physical activity in workplaces around Ireland. Visit www.nhfireland/wellbeing to sign up.
How important is workplace wellbeing day?
This is the first National Workplace Wellbeing Day to take place in Ireland, so it’s an initiative for companies of all sizes to get involved in. The workplace provides an ideal opportunity to support and promote positive health to a large portion of the population. Initiatives like this can be easily be implemented by companies and further strengthened by peer support from colleagues. National Workplace Wellbeing Day is about creating awareness and encouraging companies of all sizes and sectors to get involved. If small changes are introduced it can have a significant and powerful impact on workers wellbeing and their attitudes.
Do you think wellbeing in the workplace is taken seriously enough in Ireland?
We spend most of our days in our workplaces, so the environment we are working in can directly affect our health and wellbeing. Workplace wellbeing is something that every organisation can undertake in some format. I always maintain it’s not about changing you but rather being the best possible version of yourself. In relation to wellbeing, companies can take a more proactive role in helping their workers improve, some already are. It does not have to be cost a lot.
As part of National Workplace Wellbeing Day, companies ranging from small sized indigenous companies to multi-national organisations are doing extensive work in the area of health promotion.
They provide really simple and easily adaptable examples of wellbeing in the workplace with initiatives that include health screenings, healthy eating promotions, training plans for group walks and runs etc. Other companies can introduce similar measures in their own environments. Knowing your organisation is supporting you outside of your day to day role will make a difference.
Where can we improve?
The website www.nhfireland.ie/wellbeing has loads of practical examples of how companies, no matter what size can get involved in to take part in the day and make small steps to improving the wellbeing of their staff. We need to get active during our days; sedentary lifestyles are not good for our health. It’s just about being aware of our health and looking for simple ways to improve it.
How would you suggest incorporating physical activity into a 9-5 office environment?
Sometimes I don’t want to train, everyone is the same. But when I struggle to find the motivation I think about how I will feel after I train/ go to the gym. The thinking about something is always worse than the actual doing. Go for a walk at lunch time or perhaps take part in a lunch time class at a nearby gym – they cater for those with limited time. If you have the availability, then exercise in the morning before work so your evenings are free. Even small things like taking the stairs rather than the lift can help improve your physical activity. Another popular way to incorporate exercise into your work life is to set up walking clubs or 5-a-side soccer tournaments with your colleagues. That way you can motivate each other.
How have you mastered your work-life balance?
When I am in the thick of the Camogie season I could be training 4/5 times a week with my club and county teams. Then on top of that I would have core, strength and conditioning work to follow. When I can, I like to practice Bikram Yoga too. That partnered, with a full time job and part time college can lead to a hectic life but it’s all about planning. At the start of every week I sit down and plan the days ahead. Then when I have clashing events I decide on my priorities. Sometimes I may have to arrive late to training if I have an important task to complete at work. Other days in the lead up to a big game I might start work earlier to make sure I can leave on time. Make sure to factor in downtime in your weekly routine too. Mental health is just as important is physical health.
What’s the greatest lesson you’ve learned on your path towards workplace wellbeing?
Sometimes a change is as good as a rest. If you generally do nothing during your lunchtimes, get active instead, especially as the summer is approaching. You will feel great afterwards and then you have an extra few hours free in the evenings. The important thing to remember is that everyone is different. Just because someone goes for a 5k run in the mornings before work doesn’t mean you have to. Perhaps for your and your lifestyle a brisk walk at lunchtime is sufficient. I think colleagues needs to be more vocal with other about what they do to balance exercise with their 9/5 job. Swap tips and make suggestions to your manager.
Talk us through your average day, how does it begin and end etc?
It depends on what I am doing. If I am going to the gym before work then 6.30am otherwise about 7am. At the weekends, if I am not training I like to sleep in. You need to give your body time to rest too and a lazy morning in bed every so often can recharge the batteries. Finding the time is the problem!
I always start the day with porridge, blueberries, some sesame seeds and honey. At the weekends I might have some toasted homemade brown bread- compliments of my mam with turkey rashers and tea.
My dinner can vary depending on what I am doing that evening. I would make a dinner if I am at home like a chicken and vegetable stir fry with brown rice or spaghetti bolognaise otherwise I will small meals during the day leading up to training.
I inherited my Dad genes so I am a total night owl! Thankfully I still try to get 7 hours sleep a night, but I have to force myself to go to bed. I go to the gym some mornings; it’s the only way I can make myself go to bed a little earlier.
I always carry water with me and try to drink 2-3litres a day .I always have nuts, fruit, dark chocolate in my drawer at work in case I get hungry between meals. Snacking in between meals is actually important as it keeps your metabolism going at a steady rate. Just watch what you have as your snack.
Can you describe your role as Marketing Executive with Dell?
My role at Dell Cork is based in an office and I sit at a desk most days. I have regular meetings and calls which means I am sitting down a lot. That is why sometimes I like to exercise at lunchtime, or go outside in the fresh air to clear my head. When I exercise in the mornings before work I have an abundance of energy for the day ahead. I typically work 8.30- 5pm which means I can have regular lunches and we have a canteen with a fridge and microwave so that I can store my lunch and heat it. We get regular consignments of fruit into the office for the staff to snack on which certainly helps.
What suggestions do you have for business this coming workplace wellbeing day? How should we get involved?
The main aim is to encourage employers and employees to get involved in the wellbeing initiative, targeting better nutrition and physical activity in workplaces around Ireland.
Some simple ways for companies to get involved include:
- Offer new healthy options on canteen menus and in vending machines
- Host healthy meetings
- Organise special employee health screenings on the day
- Promote lunchtime walks & runs – identify local routes of varying length and difficulty
- Invite a local gym or personal trainer in to host special exercise classes in your premises
- Arrange healthy cooking demonstrations in the canteen
Give us your top three tips for workplace wellbeing.
Even taking 5-10 minutes to walk around your office or go outside makes a difference. Exercise and healthy eating help with stress. You may not be able to control what is happening to cause the stress but you can control your exercise and eating.
Sometimes your life will not allow to eat well all the time (if you are travelling) or go to the gym if you’re working a long day for example. So make small changes- always carry fruit and nuts and take the stairs where possible. These little changes will kick-start the cycle.
Every change counts for example basic ideas like a setting up a walking group at lunch or having fruit available in workplaces or for larger companies creating their own events e.g. 5-as side football games / 5K running group etc.
This Friday, make it happen!