Staying healthy and happy at Whitehouse – Putting what we have learnt from clients in the food, health and sports sectors into practice
Happy World Health Day! Brought to life by the World Health Organisation (WHO) in 1950, World Health Day is designed to raise awareness of the importance of health and promote health priorities across the world.
This year, the theme of World Health Day is “Building a fairer, healthier world for everyone”, and will be used by the WHO to call for the elimination of health inequalities, which have become ever more visible during the coronavirus pandemic. At Whitehouse, we have used this opportunity to look at our journey since the coronavirus pandemic hit Europe and how we have tried to support our team overcome the challenges posed by the pandemic and focus on their mental and physical health – not just on World Health Day.
Applying our food, health and sports sectors expertise to the workplace
The pandemic has undoubtedly changed how most individuals understand health and the importance they assign to it. This extends to the workplace, where employee health and well-being became more important than ever: not only were businesses faced with the challenge to create workplaces that withstand the spread of a deadly virus, but employees also had to adapt to new work realities, often at the expense of their health. As a recent public health study on the impact of the coronavirus on workplace health shows, many employees witnessed a deterioration of their mental and physical health due to the sudden change to work from home arrangements.
As an agency that has operated in the healthcare, food and sports sectors for over two decades, the Whitehouse team has built a great deal of expertise on the importance on living healthy, active lifestyles. Since the start of the pandemic, we have supported our clients finding their voice when it comes to public health issues. For instance, we have released a guide to home-based sports nutrition for the European Specialists Sports Nutrition Alliance (ESSNA) and a held webinar on Obesity, nutritional status and COVID-19 for Total Diet & Meal Replacements Europe (TDMR Europe), the European trade body for diet and meal replacement producers and distributors.
It seemed natural for our team to apply this expert insight and know-how to our (now virtual) workplace by emphasising the importance of living a healthy and active lifestyle, both within and outside work hours.
Supporting physical & mental health
The sudden change to a home-working environment posed a challenge to the physical health of many, due to the absence of physical activity as part of a daily commute or a lack of sufficient space and equipment to work from home.
As an agency that has worked with clients in the sports and nutrition sector since its early days, for instance with the British Olympic Association, we had to reverse the trend. To maintain staff morale and encourage staff to get out, we launched the Whitehouse 80 days, to see how far around the world the Whitehouse team could walk, run, cycle or swim in 80 days. After 80 days, the team achieved a total combined distance of 3,281.4 kilometres (the distance between London and Cyprus!) and is now planning on hosting a themed party in celebration of the team’s activity.
A study recently found that 18% more of people who ride a bike every day consider their life happy compared to those who do not. Due to the positive correlation between cycling and the reduction of stress, Whitehouse has also recently relaunched its cycling to work scheme, which does an excellent job in keeping employees fit and active.
Not only physical health and activity gained importance in times in which a “stay at home” policy dominated our lives. The sudden change to a remote working environment coupled with restrictions on social interactions have also posed a challenge to emotional and mental well-being.
A study conducted by the University of Kent found that the key negative aspect of working from home was missing interactions with colleagues. Since our private homes have transformed into offices, over 60% of employees also criticise a blur of boundaries between work and home. Finding a healthy work-life balance has indeed become a balancing act, which is problematic insofar as a lack of balance between private and professional life can exacerbate stress, the feeling of being over-worked, and lead to overall poor job quality.
To counteract such sentiments, Whitehouse offers each of its employees a subscription to a wellness app. To avoid days filled with calls and interruptions wherever possible, some teams have introduced fortnightly focus days. As a day kept free of meetings and other distractions, the focus day encourages the team to concentrate on priorities and work more efficiently. To help draw a line between private and professional life, e-mail correspondences after 6:30 pm and meetings over lunchtime are also advised against.
The remote working situation has posed a challenge to both employers and staff, but fostering employee health and well-being is the only way forward. We are all still learning along the way, but feel very fortunate to be able to apply our client’s expertise to our own workplace.
The Whitehouse team are expert political consultants providing public relations and public affairs advice and political analysis to a wide range of clients, not only in the United Kingdom, but also across the Member States of the European Union and beyond. We work in a number of sectors including human rights and equalities. For more information, please contact our Chair, Chris Whitehouse, at firstname.lastname@example.org.