COVID CASE STUDY – GMHBA
Industry: Private health insurance and healthcare provider
Location: Head office Geelong. Multiple branches, retail outlets and healthcare practices located throughout Geelong and regional Victoria.
When the COVID-19 pandemic hit, GMHBA was one of the countless local businesses to quickly implement working from home for many of their staff. The staff health and wellness program, known as Healthier Together + Us, was quickly adapted and continued to thrive despite the challenges. Active Geelong talks to GMHBA’s Staff Health and Wellbeing Coordinator Claire Walker, to find out what kept GMHBA staff moving during the pandemic.
Healthier Together + Us: the GMHBA staff health and wellness program
GMHBA’s staff health and wellness program has been running for nine years. In 2017 it officially became Healthier Together + Us.
“It’s about GMHBA giving back and supporting our people to be healthier,” said Claire. “In the spirit of togetherness, our program isn’t just about individuals. That’s why we are aiming to be Healthier Together”.
Underpinning Healthier Together is AIA Vitality, a personalised, science-backed health and wellbeing program. The program supports and incentivises staff to make healthier lifestyle choices such as meeting daily step targets, being proactive with learning about their health and being rewarded from engaging in the program.
It also supports other aspects of health such as mental health, healthy eating and good sleep routines.
“AIA Vitality is our primary staff health and wellness tool. However, we also facilitate opportunities to keep staff active at work such as walking meetings, standing desks, taking the stairs and walking groups. Our staff can access several corporate gym discounts and we have funded entry into fun runs and promote other free activities,” said Claire.
But transitioning to a remote workforce meant Claire had to think on her feet, get creative and adapt – fast.
How to be healthier at home
“Very early on we realised that people needed connection – to each other and to the organisation,” Claire reflected.
“But we weren’t sure how often they wanted to hear from us and what tools they needed to help them keep healthy. So much information and online activities were being created, we didn’t want to overlap,” Claire said.
A simple survey took the guesswork away and provided Claire with a definitive list of what health topics people wanted to hear about, in what format and how often.
Usually distributed monthly, the “Healthier Together + Us e-newsletter” became a much anticipated fortnightly communication with staff. It was a useful way to share free online physical activities, health information and promote the newly developed staff health webinars.
“Based on the survey responses we were able to quickly arrange fortnightly staff health webinars. We would record these and save them to our intranet for people to view later,” Claire reported.
Presenters and topics ranged from “Creating simple and healthy snacks” by Melinda Bald, of The Passionate Nutritionist, to “Motivation hacks for keeping active at home” by Bree Filippone of The Finishr.
“The attendance at the webinars, combined with people who watched the saved versions later, far exceeded the attendance at our usual face to face “Lunch & Learn” sessions. This was a positive side effect of remote working”.
The survey also revealed that staff were already utilising online exercise programs as well as using home exercise equipment, walking and running to keep active.
“There was no need for us to create online physical activity options, staff had either found their own or could access the AIA Vitality Healthier at Home online classes” Claire reflected.
Other activities Claire shared included:
- The Active Geelong home exercise program and Active Family Challenge
- GMHBA physiotherapy: desk stretches and mobility
- Gentle home exercise video series
- The Life! Program
While GMHBA may be well known as a local health insurance provider, they also successfully run multiple health care practices including dentistry, optometry, physiotherapy and general practice.
“One of the challenges was remembering that we had a proportion of staff whose day to day lives didn’t really change. Depending on the restrictions at the time, our healthcare staff were still practicing in the usual way. So, we had to be mindful when we were communicating and planning. It wasn’t all ‘working from home’”.
Whether on the frontline or working from home, many people were working long hours under stressful conditions.
Claire was a key part of new sub-committee formed to holistically address staff wellbeing during the pandemic.
“GMHBA has always valued staff health and wellbeing. However, having focussed attention on staff wellbeing meant we could quickly implement initiatives. For example, we formalised time for our lunch break between 12 – 1pm so those who could, were encouraged to take a break and get active,” Claire said.
Claire’s top three staff health tips
Having worked in staff health and wellbeing for almost 10 years, Claire is a humble source of knowledge. Her top three tips for running a successful program are:
- Ask: There’s no point implementing initiatives that no one is interested in. Ask your staff what they’re interested in, what their health goals are and how often they want information or activities.
- Work smart: You don’t need to create everything from scratch. Find the free initiatives, align with health events, collaborate with like businesses and use the skills of your staff.
- Celebrate: It’s important to highlight all the staff health and wellbeing activities from the past year. People forget what has been offered or don’t connect the dots to staff health. Seeing it in one big list is satisfying and surprising.
You can contact Claire Walker at GMHBA via firstname.lastname@example.org
Do you know of an active workplace in Geelong? If so, we would love to hear from you – contact us at email@example.com so we can spotlight more organisations who are joining our region’s growing movement movement.