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Wellbeing a top business objective at Tumu Timbers

Tumu Timbers in Hastings takes a very broad view of workplace wellbeing – it wants the best for its employees, whānau and community.

The company manufactures timber bins, crates, pallets, packaging, and offers timber processing services based in Hastings. It has included workplace wellbeing as one of its business objectives since 2015. The objective states Tumu aims to “promote and improve the health and wellbeing of all Tumu Timbers’ employees and their whānau, resulting in a healthier workforce."

That’s partly about positioning the company to be an employer of choice, and it’s also very much about helping its current workforce and their families.

“Once the business objective was written down and launched we saw more awareness around health and wellbeing and how we as a company can improve it,” says Kylie Truman, the company’s compliance co-ordinator and health and wellbeing committee chair.

“For a start it led to our committee being set up, after which we got to work deciding our focus topics,” says Melanie Gettins, the management accountant and committee secretary. 

At the committee’s inception they devised an employee health and wellbeing survey. “Some of the responses were contradictory but the information was still valuable, especially around mental health and stress,” says Melanie.

“Some of the things staff raised were easy to tick off, such as more water coolers, replacing the snack bar with a free fruit bowl, and switching to non-sugary drinks in the vending machine. This gave us a starting point, then we concentrated on the more time-consuming and/or costly things.”

Health and wellbeing is a very large subject so the committee decided to focus on six key areas to make their new mountain achievable: physical, mental, wellness, nutrition, addictions and networking. 

“We focused on what was manageable for our workers and the committee, and would most improve health and wellbeing,” says Kylie. “We have 150 people in our workforce, mostly men, and 50% are Māori and Pasifika. Many of our people don't have a lot of excess money for health and wellbeing so we try to offer services they might not usually have access to." 

Promoting mental health

Recognising the need to create a culture that accepts and encourages talking about mental health issues and personal feelings – and seeking to help a workforce shaken by an employee’s suicide – the committee implemented Mates in Construction with the help of Impact Health and Hawkes Bay District Health Board (HBDHB).

“We’ve renamed the programme ‘Mates in Manufacturing’ to better suit our industry,” says Kylie. “The programme has given us the confidence to talk and know we’re using the right words to ask if someone’s okay.

“I now feel I can ask the big question straight out – ‘Are you thinking of suicide?' I've used it confidentially in my personal life as well as my work life.

"There's a lot more awareness now. When we re-ran our Health and Wellbeing Survey, instead of just 'stress' being the answer to the question 'what does mental health mean to you?' we got a variety of responses. So I do feel like we're making headway on mental health." 

Providing health insurance

As part of Tumu Timbers’ aim to provide services their workforce wouldn’t necessarily access, the company offers subsidised health insurance. It also allows employees to pay to extend their cover to whānau, or upgrade to another plan.

“Our employees don’t often go to visit a doctor, so we carry out health checks onsite with a contracted nurse. Then, if anything is discovered during annual health checks, we can link them to a health provider and they may be able to use their health insurance to get further help without cost and delay,” says Kylie.

The health checks cover lung function, hearing and vision testing, and can include blood pressure, smoking cessation and general health advice.

“Several people have had serious issues uncovered during health checks. This includes two with very serious ear conditions, one of which could have become seriously ill if it wasn’t picked up when it was. And it wouldn’t have been picked up without our health checks.”

Eating well

The committee also encourages workers to bring their own healthy lunch to work or take up the organised Subway, Pita Pit and Sushi deliveries, rather than buy from a food truck that pulls up twice a day.

“It’s too far to travel from work to buy food so we try to make it easy to buy healthy options. We also have a dietitian come to our workplace to present healthy and easy meal ideas,” says Melanie.

“At a recent healthy eating presentation, one employee said he was spending $130 a week at the food truck. We challenged him to bring healthy meals from home, with supermarket vouchers as a reward if he stopped for a month. He did it and was very proud, saying he couldn’t believe the difference the $130 a week makes in his bank account!” says Kylie.  

Supporting the community

Tumu Timbers also makes a point of supporting the families and community that supports its business. 

“Our workforce is very male dominated, so if they’re not getting the support at home to action some of the stuff we talk about at work it becomes another barrier. For example, they can’t cook a nutritious lunch for themselves if the right food isn’t being bought, so we try to include families where practical,” says Kylie.

“We are also big on giving back to the community, including by raising money for several local and national causes. For example, we raised money for Balloon Day, supporting Asthma Hawkes Bay. Our people dressed up in blue – while still complying with safety rules, of course! We had a blue-themed morning tea and staff made donations,” says Melanie. The image above shows the team in their blue for Balloon Day.

Encouraging a smokefree workforce

A major aspiration for Tumu’s health and wellbeing committee is to achieve a smokefree workforce. About 30% of its staff currently smoke.

“We can’t declare a smokefree workplace as we have a 100kph road outside our business, so it’s not safe to tell people to go off-site to smoke. Instead we’re concentrating on developing a smokefree workforce,” said Kylie.

“We offer quit incentives and run smokefree programmes with the local DHB smokefree team and Impact Health,” says Melanie.

Kylie says they include a section in their employment forms asking new employees if they smoke and, if so, would they like help to quit? “If they say ‘yes’ we pass their contact details onto Hawke's Bay DHB's smokefree team."


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