Some businesses are trying innovative ways to ensure their staff are healthy and have work-life balance. But does it make staff happier and more productive? Zoe Hunter reports.
Four-day weeks, six-hour days, every second Friday off - Tauranga businesses are trialling ways to improve wellbeing in the workplace.
Some businesses close every Friday morning and others offer paid lunch breaks each week to encourage their staff to exercise.
Business owners say they have found promoting wellbeing in the workplace has increased staff productivity.
Recruiters say it is also becoming more common to see employers advertise wellbeing benefits in a job description.
Latest Stats NZ data found just 25 per cent of Bay of Plenty employees were very satisfied with their jobs - a 7 per cent drop in job satisfaction since 2016.
However, 51.3 per cent of people were simply satisfied with their jobs last year, 13.3 per cent had no feeling either way and 10 per cent were dissatisfied or very dissatisfied.
The compressed working fortnight
One Tauranga company is bucking the trend of traditional office structure and has undergone a six-month trial of an innovative model for working hours.
Kirk Roberts consulting engineers have introduced what they call a Compressed Working Fortnight, meaning staff work 80 hours over nine working days and have every second Friday off.
The about 30 employees are split into two groups so there is always staff in the office on Fridays.
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Regional manager Craig Manssen says the aim is to find a system that ensures less pressure on staff, increased health and wellbeing and a healthy work-life balance.
As part of its investigation, the company has also explored options including alternative working weeks and four-day weeks or 10-hour days.
However, Manssen says these options aren't achievable for the industry and would ultimately lead to tiredness and more stress.
Although they do not have any facts on whether the introduction of a Compressed Working Fortnight has increased productivity, Manssen says productivity has not decreased and staff are happier.
"Times are changing. People need their rest and recreation. They live life differently to what they did 20 years ago. Now, there is a strong belief there is more to life than working 9-to-5," he said.
"Staff are key to the success of any business and it is important we look after their health and wellbeing."
Operations manager Aimee Fitzjohn says enabling staff to have every second Friday off frees up time for them to attend health and wellbeing appointments they normally may not have the time for.
Staff, says Fitzjohn, have also occasionally used the time off to work out together or catch up outside work hours, which benefits work culture.
The company had not yet decided whether it would adopt the initiative permanently until after it had assessed operational, cultural and financial reports and considered staff and client feedback.
The six-hour work day
Chartered accountants Business Results Group in Te Puke implemented a six-hour work day in October last year.
Company director Trudi Ballantyne said employees work six hours a day and still get paid for the full 7.5 hours, allowing staff to finish by 3pm.
Ballantyne said staff work in three-hour blocks without a break and take their half-hour unpaid break before they work a second three-hour block.
"At the end of that you are free to go home," she said.
Working in three-hour blocks meant staff can focus on specific tasks without being distracted.
"It is teaching people more efficient ways of working," she said.
Ballantyne said she was inspired to trial the six-hour day after reading a book about the benefits of working shorter days last Christmas.
"We are well ahead on work this year compared to last year. We have also been able to attract really good quality staff by doing this," she said.
"When you are at work, you are inundated with emails and requests etc. The reality is you can only concentrate for so long. You want to be able to get up and not dread going to work. It is a big part of our lives."
It had also been a good opportunity to question how staff spent their time at work, including how often and how long it took to do odd jobs such as trips to the post office, she said.
They have also adapted to change.
"Morning tea used to be a social thing for staff. That was a big part of our culture that we didn't want to lose," she said.
So Ballantyne said the business introduced a team activity after work every second Tuesday to keep the company culture.
Exercise every Friday
Moana Radio station shuts down every Friday for the staff to do a different workout every week.
Station manager Takiri Butler said staff have done everything from walking up Mauao in gumboots for Gumboot Friday, stand-up paddleboarding, a waka ama paddle, boxing, muay thai, rock climbing and more.
Inside the workplace, Butler said she had banned fizzy drinks and the organisation was also aiming to be smoke-free.
"As a Māori organisation, we don't want to be seen as a stereotype of bad health," she said. "As media, we talk about bad health statistics so we have to be able to walk the talk."
Butler said staff have also been able to overcome personal fears, which has drawn the team closer together.
"It has opened our eyes to the strengths and weaknesses among ourselves," she said.
Paid lunch breaks
Mount Maunganui's Lysaght Consultants offers staff two paid 90-minute lunch breaks a week to raise their heart rates.
The company also offers weekly boot camps, yoga sessions, and covers the entry fee for a number of multisport races every year.
Fiona and Bruce Lysaght founded the firm 25 years ago and Fiona said Bruce found his way of dealing with stress was to stay fit.
"He would often down tools at lunchtime and go for a run or a paddle or whatever he was training for at that time," she said.
Now, lunchtime exercise is just part of the company culture and Fiona said staff were happier, energised and more productive.
A lifestyle change
But managing director of Trevelyan's James Trevelyan said there was more to workplace wellbeing than working one day less in the week.
"A day off a week is mostly just sticky tape," he said. "We are asking people to change their lifestyles."
Trevelyan said the packhouse and coolstore in Te Puke had implemented workplace wellbeing for the past six or seven years.
The company started by employing nurses to do health checks on staff every once in a while and then came yoga, tai chi, kickboxing classes. But not everyone joined in.
They then teamed up with All Blacks strength and conditioning coach Nic Gill and started subsidising sessions with him.
"Some of the results have been inspiring," Trevelyan said.
Employees now share their journeys at the company's scheduled Wellness Weeks.
"We are trying to make exercise either part of your day or access to exercise easy," he said. "You cannot outrun a bad diet. It is a lifestyle change."
Zespri chief people officer Edith Sykes says the new headquarters in Mount Maunganui has a range of sustainable design features supported by sustainable practices.
E-bikes are available, as well as reusable containers to avoid disposable food packaging such as takeaway coffee cups, she says.
"We also encourage our people to exercise and lead active lifestyles."
Sykes says the company also has a range of social sports teams, social club events and global forums to help bring employees together and develop team culture.
"That's helped by the strong participation we get from our people in supporting charitable events like fun runs, Movember or initiatives like the Mt Everest Challenge."
What councils do
Tauranga City Council human resources manager Alison Crowe says providing wellbeing initiatives in the workplace was "the right thing to do and makes good business sense".
"People who feel valued are positive contributors, and more likely to stay with our organisation," she said.
The council, says Crowe, offers flexible working conditions, courses and workshops that develop mental wellbeing and resilience, free health checks and flu jabs and partially subsidised physical wellbeing activities, including physio and yoga.
Staff are also offered a free counselling service, team sport challenges and end-of-trip facilities to enable staff to walk, run or cycle to work.
The council also has a wellbeing working group made up of staff volunteers within the organisation who worked to deliver wellbeing programmes for their colleagues.
Crowe says although the council had not surveyed the results of productivity levels, anecdotal feedback is "very positive and participation rates are good".
"Our annual wellbeing budget is $14,000, which covers some of the initiatives mentioned as well as training and upskilling people delivering wellbeing initiatives."
Western Bay of Plenty District Council group manager of people and customer services, Jan Pedersen, says the council has had a wellness programme in place for years.
"The programme is about encouraging staff to have a healthy work-life balance, feel supported and be engaged with the organisation.''
Pedersen says the council also takes part in wellbeing activities such as Blue September, Pink Breakfast and Movember and has a sports team that participates in events outside of work hours.
How is wellbeing promoted in the health industry?
Bay of Plenty District Health Board health and safety manager, George Swanepoel, says working in healthcare is demanding and can be stressful.
"Work-life balance is very important to reduce stress, help to cope better with work demand, reduced sick leave and help keep our staff well in the workplace environment."
Health checks, an Employee Assistance Programme, training courses on mindfulness and self-care in healthcare, career development advice, annual flu vaccinations and wellness review meetings are free for staff.
The hospital also has a gym and massage service, as well as offering bike-to-work campaigns, several running and walking groups and bike storage, lockers and showers.
It also has quit-smoking campaigns and a nutrition programme to promote healthy living, which also includes "Meat-free Mondays" and no sugary drinks for sale.
Workplace Wellness training is also available to staff through Toi Te Ora Public Health and work-life balance and flexible working hours are also promoted where possible.
What people want
Kirsty Wynn, editor of job website Yudu, says when people look for work they look at more than just the pay rate.
"There is an increased awareness around mental health and wellbeing in our everyday lives and this is reflected in the job market," she said.
Job seekers, says Wynn, want to know prospective employers care about their wellbeing.
"Some employers offer boot camps, gym memberships, mentoring programmes and yoga mornings as wellbeing benefits," she said.
"Free and discounted counselling services with organisations such as Benestar are also becoming more common."
It is now more common to see employers advertise wellbeing benefits in a job description, Wynn says.
"Offering flexible hours, health insurance and fitness packages are attractive and seen as increasingly important," she said.
"Some of the benefits, such as coffee mornings or providing time to connect over afternoon tea, cost companies very little but do a lot to build workplace morale."
Wynn said New Zealand workplaces have a legal responsibility to look after their employee's mental wellbeing just like any other health and safety risk.
The importance of workplace wellbeing
Tauranga Chamber of Commerce chief executive Matt Cowley says stress is a necessary evil in business.
"Without stress, you're not challenging the status quo and you may get left behind," he says.
"But poorly managed stress impacts staff wellbeing. Poor staff wellbeing is a silent killer of business productivity. Stressed staff can make poor decisions, customer service can drop, and staff absenteeism skyrockets."
Cowley said those issues compound when even more pressure is put on staff to pick up the slack.
Wellbeing is more than having fit and healthy individuals, he says, and instead is about managers knowing how each team member deals with stress and managing that person.
"Staff need to know their boss and other team members have their back. They also require open communication from the leadership."
Tauranga counsellor and career consultant Gloria Selkirk understands the link between employee health and wellbeing and increasing people's capacity to work productively.
Selkirk says one of the main stressors affecting positive mental health and productivity in the workplace is bullying, particularly when ignored by management.
"It can occur in all levels of a company. Victims of bullying feel undermined; they lose confidence, motivation and they can become anxious and depressed. The environment is toxic for a victim of bullying," she says.
"Unless action is taken to remedy the situation, they usually leave the company."
Flexible working hours, she says, is a great asset for people with young families.
"When both parents were working, life can become a very busy juggling act," she says.
"When work and family are able to be reconciled through open-minded policies and practices, everyone benefits."
Efforts to create a caring and supportive workplace environment where employees feel appreciated will increase motivation and productivity, Selkirk said.
"If employees care about the company and one another they will go above and beyond the call of duty. When people are happy in their work, they are more likely to stay in their jobs."