A healthy workplace is a productive one, and companies in Cork are leading the charge when it comes to facilitating heart healthy workplaces

Our Healthy Eating and Active@Work Awards have been boosting the health of more than 400 companies for over two decades by recognising the efforts of workplaces to improve healthy eating practices and physical activity among their staff.

This year, DePuy Synthes was awarded in both the Healthy Eating and Active@Work categories.

Colette Doonan, occupational health nurse and leader of the Live For Live Team at DePuy Synthes, which is responsible for health promotion and health activities on site, says that the awards are a signal that the team is doing well in terms of promoting a healthy workplace.

“Our parent company Johnson & Johnson is committed to become the healthiest workplace by 2020, and we are doing this by supporting healthier choices and lifestyles through a companywide culture of health.”

Doonan and her team have introduced a wide range of incentives and activities at the Ringaskiddy-based company to encourage a healthier lifestyle, ranging from Pilates classes to an onsite nutritionist.

“We carried out a massive health risk assessment on 600 people in 2015, which gave us an insight into the top three health issues that we needed to work on,” she explains.

“We found that unhealthy eating, a lack of movement and stress were our big flags, so we have tailored our health culture around dealing with these core problems.”

It is essential, maintains Doonan, to provide health facilities that are achievable and open to everyone.

Each January, DePuy run an in-house Operation Transformation along with the television show, complete with gym instructors and nutritional advisors.

The company offers high tech health solutions for their on-the-go employees in the form of apps that measure steps and offer fitness workouts that last seven minutes and can be done in a hotel room with no gym equipment. The result, according to the occupational health nurse, is one of all-inclusive health.

Celebrity visits from health influencers like Bressie and lunch and learn workshops ensure that the DePuy workforce can keep up to date on all the latest news from Planet Health.

Doonan is adamant that families be involved in the journey towards better health, and brought in a nutritionist to talk about healthy lunchboxes at the last company family day. These changes in culture lead to greater, more wide-reaching change, says the nurse.

Jackie Doody is the catering officer at the South Infirmary Victoria University Hospital, and has seen first-hand what positive changes can come about as a result of healthy eating.

“Research indicates that by providing a healthy workplace that employers report reduced staff sickness absence and turnover, increased productivity and employee satisfaction, and fewer accidents and injuries, and we’ve seen it ourselves,” she points out. “Staff enjoy improved wellbeing, and workplace health checks can even pick up on conditions before they become symptomatic.”

The South Infirmary Victoria University Hospital was one of the 15 establishments nationally that were awarded the gold standard for healthy eating.

“Winning this award was a tremendous achievement,” she says.

“It is tangible proof of our adherence to best practice in providing healthy options to our customers. The Healthy Eating award is one of a number of health promotion initiatives that are on offer in the South Infirmary Victoria University Hospital, including occupational health services, employee assistance programmes and a number of initiatives that promote a work-life balance.”

Doody says that there has been a cultural shift in food purchasing in the last number of years.

“People are a lot more health conscious these days and are looking for healthier options.

“They are more interested in how the food is sourced, cooked and served. Increases in popularity of television programmes like Operation Transformation and the increasing popularity of groups such as Slimming World have lead customers more towards healthy choices when eating out and cooking at home.”

Increasing the overall health of an organisation is no easy task, and both Jackie Doody and Colette Doonan advocate engaging with organisations like The Irish Heart Foundation and utilising the support they offer.

“The Irish Heart Foundation provides tremendous support to any organisation that is trying to improve staff health and well-being,” says Doody. Colette Doonan agrees. “The likes of the Irish Heart Foundation has amazing resources and information for anyone who is looking to improve their overall health.”

Of course, awards like the Irish Heart Foundation workplace awards boost morale at all of the companies receiving an accolade. At DePuy Synthes, the awards represent a shift in health and fitness culture, observes Doonan.

“It is very important for employees to know that they are a part of an organisation that cares about their health.

“Winning the Irish Heart Healthy Eating and Active@Work Awards has made our employees even more aware of the facilities we have to help them to make informed decisions around their health and fitness, and that is the most positive thing of all.”