An enthusiastic approach to physical exercise
Best-Hall Ltd is an enterprise that manufactures industrial steel framework halls at Keski-Pohjanmaa in western Finland. For over ten years, the enterprise has offered physical recreation opportunities for its employees. A decrease in sickness absences is one obvious outcome of this long-term activity which has been acknowledged also nationally.
In 2013 Best-Hall won the title of ‘Finland’s Most Active Workplace’. This is the most important award in Finland for the promotion of employees’ physical activity. The enterprise takes pride in this achievement, because earlier winners have been large well known enterprises such as Post Corp., Sampo Bank, the Defence Forces, and HUS – the Hospital District of Helsinki and Uusimaa.
– We have 120 employees, which is a small number compared to many previous winners. We are happy that our long-term efforts in promoting our workers’ physical activity were noted, says Riitta Takalo-Mattila, who is responsible for personnel administration and planning and organizing of physical activities.
The initiative for participating in the national contest came from the Keski-Pohjanmaa sports organization. They had noticed our enthusiasm in the systematic planning and implementation of sports and physical activities for our workers.
– We were surprised when we heard about our victory, but soon it turned into pride on behalf of our active and enthusiastic employees, says Takalo-Mattila.
Free choice for everyone
Takalo-Mattila’s work pair in organizing physical activities at Best-Hall is Esko Viitasaari, workplace trustee, and a sports enthusiast himself. Now physical activities are offered all year round, and the variety of activities is great. The employees are given sports/culture vouchers that can be used for sports or cultural activities. For instance, the employees can participate in ice swimming, skiing, cycling, the Kokkola City Run event, geocatching, swamp soccer, track and field, bowling, hiking, orientation, floor ball, badminton, and volleyball.
– We have always tried to include some new and interesting events. About ten years ago, we were surprised to see how many different things we were offering. Then we started to write down our plans for the next year, so we could take into consideration the registration times of different competitions and events, Viitasaari says.
Spending time together during leisure hours is good for the team spirit of the work community.
Physical activities during leisure time
Most of the physical activities take place during the employees’ leisure time, and we try to take their wishes and suggestions into account, if at all possible. The aim is to find coaches and leaders from among our own staff for as many activities as possible. Trying out various new sports has given a spark to some persons to get involved in an entirely new sport, such as clay pigeon shooting or ice swimming.
The management hasn’t tried to dampen this enthusiasm, and in fact encourages the workers to engage in sports. People can collect points from the organized exercises and events as well as from their weekly personal exercises. At the end of the year those with a high number of points are rewarded with 50- or 100-euro baskets of delicacies.
Sickness absences have decreased
Arto Kykyri, occupational safety delegate of Best-Hall Ltd. is also keen on sports. Earlier an active cyclist, he believes that the joint sports events of the enterprise are important from the viewpoint of physical as well as mental well-being. Sickness absences have decreased as a result of the physical recreation, and social events with work-mates during leisure time have strengthened the feeling of togetherness.
– Although the sports events aren’t meant to be serious competitions, many find the competitive spark in themselves during the contest. Even minor mishaps just raise the team spirit, Kykyri laughs. Afterwards, humorous debates often take place in the coffee room.
Kykyri works as a welder and has felt the benefits of versatile physical activity also in his own job. Good physical fitness helps a person to handle physically heavy tasks.
– Maintaining your physical fitness also brings added value to the enterprise. Better endurance and a higher energy level make working much more meaningful, Kykyri says. Peter Corin, supervisor, agrees. He is the leader of the ice swimming group.
– It’s always nice for the leader of a sports group to see that someone gets excited about a new sport and starts to carry on by themselves. Ice swimming improves your resistance to many diseases, and this in part lessens sickness absences, Corin says.
In addition to better physical fitness, mental well-being has also improved.
Also men take part in ‘stick exercises’
Office staff as well as blue-collar workers take part in a ‘stick exercise’ group organized twice a week at Best-Hall. Exercising with a stick helps to relax the neck and shoulder region, and it’s easier to go back to work when your muscles aren’t tense.
– Most of the employees are men, so it’s good that also they have understood the benefits of stick exercises in maintaining physical well-being. Because many of them do heavy piecework, their physique is at times put to trial, Viitasaari says.
Corin points out that those who in spite of everything don’t get interested in physical activities, can use the sports/culture vouchers as they please. For instance, they can go the movies or the theatre.
– The important thing is that everyone finds a recreation or hobby which makes them feel good, and helps them to relax, Corin adds.
Also Takalo-Matila emphasizes that the joint events at the workplace have improved mental well-being, in addition to maintaining physical fitness.