Successful Winter Health Event on 16 November
It was no ordinary working day for hundreds of employees at the City of Rotterdam on 16 November 2017. That Thursday afternoon was devoted to the Winter Health Event. It was a day intended to make the civil servants fitter and help them feel less stressed. Unsurprisingly, the event was held during the Work Stress Week.
The Event was in three parts: talks by BrainFood, the Health MOT and the Winter Health Festival Living Lab, and Move More’s sports activities. All of this happened on the 21st and 22nd floor of De Rotterdam, with a spectacular view of the Erasmus Bridge shrouded in mist.
To mark the opening of the event at 12 noon, Olger van Griensven, policy manager for Health, Welfare and Participation, addressed the gathering of civil servants. He told them that the municipality was working hard to make its residents fitter. ‘The City of Rotterdam is keen for its residents to be healthy, and so it’s a good idea to start with yourself.’
After that, it was the turn of Abigail Norville, HJC Director at the City of Rotterdam, to say a few words. But first, the audience sang happy birthday to her, since it was her 40th birthday that day. Norville began her speech with her phone in her hand. She did so to make a statement: ‘The phone is a symbol of how we work nowadays. Contact with family and friends is important, but your health is still the most crucial of all.’ Staying away from that phone can save you a lot of stress. If Abigail had her way, the municipality would not send its employees any more messages out of office hours.
Marlies Kamp, Advisor on innovation and healthcare reform at the Dutch Ministry of Health, Welfare and Sport (VWS) was the final speaker at the opening. Her colleagues spend a lot of time writing policy documents on matters such as vitality and fitness. But Kamp has seen that spending the whole day writing HR policy and suchlike can in fact kill vitality. Luckily, VWS has adjustable desks so that there are opportunities to sit on an exercise ball or use a “bicycle desk” while you work. VWS even has its own gym, and they hand out pedometers.
Long queues for the Health MOT
Long queues began to form at the Health Checks on the 22nd floor as soon as the event opened at 12 noon. That was where the civil servants could have their cholesterol, glucose and blood pressure checked and get their BMI calculated. One of them was Merel van Gruijthuijsen, who works for the department Bestuur- en Concernondersteuning (Management Support). This legal affairs assistant turned out to be in perfect health, but thought that it might be an eye-opener for some colleagues. She keeps fit by playing a lot of sports and being mindful of what she eats: ‘I eat fish twice a week.’
When she had her cholesterol checked, it was a little high, but that is due to a genetic predisposition. Van Gruijthuijsen is pleased that she was able to check it at work: ‘That saves me a trip to my GP.’ Barbara Dankelman agreed. She works for the HR department and is glad that her colleagues organise this kind of events. ‘It’s very accessible. Usually, you would only see your GP when something is wrong, but not now. It’s a great initiative.’ She does think that people themselves also have a part to play when it comes to their health: ‘Everyone is obviously still responsible for their own health.’
Inspiring talks at BrainFood
The talks had already started in the library. A number of experts spoke on the topic of fitness and work stress. Michiel Hobbelt of de Geluk Centrale started the ball rolling: he talked about happiness at work and of its importance to both employees and employers. He invited his audience to talk to each other about what made them happy at work. It was soon obvious that we mainly should seek that happiness in “genuine contact”, “freedom” and “humour”. Hobbelt emphasised that ‘happiness at work is not the same as satisfaction’ and that ‘employers ought to principally look at the former, because employees who experience real pleasure at work get sick less often.’
Jean-Marc Bilderbeek of Kaderloos took over. The former IT professional chose a completely different approach to achieving happiness: he had started his own smoothie company after overcoming epilepsy by drinking vegetable juices. Bilderbeek claims that they are the reason he has not needed medication for many years. He campaigns against our Western mentality that food only has to taste good and he has a clear idea about how to become fitter: ‘Drink between half a litre and a litre of vegetable smoothies every morning and you’ll notice the difference immediately.’
Dancing was on the go one floor below. That was where Ghislaine Kaper was holding her salsa course. Although the civil servants felt a bit uncomfortable at first, since it was the middle of their working day, they were soon wiggling their hips to the rhythm of the music.
The latest gadgets and old-fashioned healthy dietary advice
A large number of companies were represented in the Living Lab in the auditorium at the Winter Health Festival. People were able to check the mobility of their necks in this ‘healthcare laboratory’ by means of the Corpus VR virtual reality method, or get a personal dietary pattern by means of an analysis of their DNA. It might sound futuristic, but it isn’t really, says Henry Cheung of Omnigen, which conducted the DNA tests: ‘Your DNA is unique. We only need a tiny sample to be able to provide you with personal advice on your work and your diet. About any nutrients you need in larger amounts, for example.’
Five complete DNA checks will be given away among the people who enter their contact details on our website! If you haven’t already done so, do it now at www.healthevents.nl/16november.
Dietary coach Jacqueline Tetteroo helps people to become fitter by minding their diet. Apart from telling us to eat fruit and vegetables, she also recommends regularly adding fish and unsalted nuts to our diet. Now that there are so many different products available in supermarkets, Tetteroo has noticed that people are even more in need of dietary information: ‘When I was 10, I only ever saw products from the food pyramid on the table. People need to realise that the same healthy food still exists.’
People who remain active as they age can continue to live by themselves and in their own homes for longer. That is exactly the municipality’s strategic priority, and it is also an element in the policy of the new Dutch government. People who gradually start having more problems staying active can make use of home automation: technical gadgets that can help elderly people to stay safe. An example of this was demonstrated at the event in the form of a remote-controlled window opener in a mini house. Such gadgets help to prevent falls when opening windows. There was also a letterbox which catches the post at hip height. Elderly people will no longer have to bend down to pick up their post.
Combat stress by holding meetings while walking, taking part in sport and with music
In the meantime, Wim Tinke from Zitwerk was in the library, talking about stress at work. A smartphone quiz showed him how many people suffer from stress at work. The situation among municipality employees is not too bad, although the participants did say that they were often exhausted by the time they got home. According to Tinke, it is up to the organisation to do something about that type of stress, by providing a platform where people can express their concerns and by enabling them to exercise more. His tip for becoming fitter: ‘Hold meetings walking around or outside. People always work sitting down; we need to do something about that.’
All kinds of things were being done about that at the Event. At 3 pm, for example, a stair-climbing marathon took place. A group of brave civil servants sprinted up to the top floor of De Rotterdam – the glass giant has 40 floors. Perhaps unsurprisingly, it was the youngest participant who reached the top first. With sweat on his brow, Sander van Nielen, 24, a trainee in the engineering department, explained how he has become so fit. ‘I often go running, and if the lift takes too long to arrive, I just walk up and down between the 22nd and the 32nd floor.’ But even if you don’t like running, you can still stay fit, Sander says: ‘Just do some exercise! There’s a fun sport for everyone.’
A few floors from the top, activities were going on which demanded a little less effort. In glass-walled meeting rooms in between the desks, workshops were being given to help civil servants on another important aspect of getting fit: relaxing. One of the workshops was on ‘binaural beats’, where the participants were able to take a power nap induced by two tones of slightly different pitch, one in each ear. These tones help people to fall asleep and to wake up again later. Martin Hanegraaf of Stadsbeheer (Urban Management) took the workshop and was enthusiastic: ‘So relaxing!’ Hanegraaf was pleased that the municipality is organising this type of events. ‘They take you out of your day-to-day routine.’
Energetic at work
The health insurer IZA was another contributor to the Winter Health Event. It is an important party for the municipality when it comes to jointly looking at employees’ health. Some 70% are insured through IZA. The municipality and IZA are great advocates of Machteld Huber’s Positive Health Model and want to use it to raise awareness among employees. IZA has also made a health app available to all employees regardless of whether they are insured with the company. IZA had a body scanner at its stand on the market and over 100 employees tried it.
The City of Rotterdam’s Arboteam (occupational health and safety team) and Fysergo (company physiotherapists) put in a lot of effort during the event by visiting people on 33 floors to help them customise their workstations. They adjusted monitors, chairs and the height of tables for over 1,200 civil servants to prevent them from developing back problems.
There were even activities outside the building: civil servants could go walking with Ton Legerstee, and there were various workshops on yoga and body sweeping. There was also the “easy work-out”, where Edward Breve and Arun Vernooij held a bootcamp outside which, although it involved exercise, could easily be done in jeans. The employees who took part were able to go straight into a meeting after the work-out.
Fysergo’s workshop “energetic at work” introduced different ways of ensuring that you can be fit at work every day. It helps if you make yourself feel enthusiastic, and a healthy diet, mindfulness, recognising your own talents and sleeping well are also important for working energetically.
Sport and sleep
At another Fysergo workshop on a different floor, a small group learned how they could sleep better. The civil servants took copious notes as the methods were discussed. The tips related to the three essential pillars of healthy sleeping behaviour: hormones, biorhythm and body temperature. It is not a good idea, for example, to actively exercise just before going to bed, because that will heat up your body and it needs to be cool for a good sleep. That is why it is better not to have a hot shower just before going to bed either. So the advice is: time your run so that you can be back an hour before you go to bed, and take a hot shower no less than half an hour before going to sleep!
Sleep was the last thing people on the 21st floor had on their minds that afternoon. They were at the ‘Move More’ part of the Winter Health Event. As much money as possible was being raised for the Dutch Heart Foundation in the space of two hours by means of a spinning marathon and other activities. When the participants got off their bikes after two hours, they were tired but satisfied.
Jeroen Fennema and Cora Thijssen from the Information Management department were among the participants. Cora joins a spinning class three times a week. Jeroen, who described himself as ‘pretty unfit’, found it harder going. ‘It was exhausting, but fantastic fun.’ He thinks that the municipality should organise sports events more often: ‘Get rid of a department and put in a gym.’ After the marathon, Rutger Haandrikman from the Dutch Heart Foundation thanked all those who had taken part. ‘At the Dutch Heart Foundation, we consider a healthy lifestyle to be very important, and we always encourage people to take more exercise.’
Dance yourself fit!
The last talks were underway upstairs. In Yme Gorter’s workshop, participants were put in front of a screen. His company, Waai, specialises in ‘healing sound experiences’: films with a meditative effect. Participants’ prime response was that they became very calm. Gorter says that although ‘relaxing doesn’t have to be calming’, he wants to use his films to help patients in hospital waiting rooms to relax.
Tess Wouda Kuipers of The Organizing Firm was busy helping those present in the Living Lab with something that dominates many employees’ lives: email. A full inbox leads to more stress, since it makes them think of little else than the emails they still need to answer. After opening your inbox, it takes at least a minute to get back into your working pattern, Wouda maintains. And those emails constitute a major problem for civil servants: many of them still had a thousand marked unread, and in an extreme case, one person even had 13,000.
At 4.30 pm, it was time to bring the day to a close. Rutger Haandrikman from the Dutch Heart Foundation spoke about how he thinks people can keep fit. Four things are important to him: ‘Don’t smoke, take lots of exercise, eat a healthy diet and: less stress.’ He thinks that the last item is the one people often forget. ‘But combating stress is very important when it comes to preventing cardiovascular disease.’ He was delighted to receive the proceeds of the spinning marathon.
Winfried Houtman of the City of Rotterdam spoke too. He joked that even the RET, Rotterdam’s main public transport operator, had contributed to the event ‘because all the escalators at the station were out of order’. He was delighted with the high turnout and once again emphasised the importance for employees of being fit. He told them that in addition to the activities on the 21st and 22nd floor, ‘a team of occupational health and safety specialists and physiotherapists had helped about 1000 people to reorganise their workstations’. After Houtman had finished speaking, the music was turned up and the day was concluded with dancing. Dance yourself fit!
We would like to thank Chanella Mackay-Zandvliet, Pjer Vriens, Anita Olsthoorn, Abigail Norville, Olger van Griensven, Michiel Hobbelt, Jean-Marc Bilderbeek, Wim Tinke, Anita Olsthoorn, Tess Wouda Kuipers, Jelte Tempelaars, Bas Gerritsen, Luuk Simons, Ralph Touwslager, Victor Fu, Yme Gorter, Gaston Remmers, Winfried Houtman, Rutger Haandrikman, the Erasmus MC, Omnigen, Runningmates, Yolanda Swart and Jacqueline Tetteroo, Omega Wave, Anja Kuiper, Blockbusters, the Public Health Service, Sense Health, VGZ/IZA, Corpus VR, Centrum voor Vitaliteit, Reflaxme, Edward Breve and Arun Vernooij, Ton Legerstee, Fysergo, Ghislaine Kaper, Esther Ruis-Odenkirchen, Chantal Tuinier, Merlijn Snijders and Brechje Scheiffes, Bea Hagenaar, Erwin Swaab, Lyn van den Boom, Hanneke Hartigh and the City of Rotterdam for all their efforts at the Winter Health Event!