Mood and food: Improved productivity through a healthier workforce, an industry case study.
Presented by: Elizabeth Borgo, nutritionist for Nutrition Australia Queensland's Healthy at Work program and Brian Godwin, Group Manager HSEQ and Training for CV Services Group.
Run time: 37:18
Download a copy of this podcast (MP3, 21 MB)
Construction work health forum podcast
Presented by: Brian Godwin and Liz Borgo
START OF TRANSCRIPT
Good morning everybody. Thank you very much for taking the time to come and listen to me waffle on here. As I was introduced, I'm just a tradie that has gone on to do other things over the last 30 odd years. My son's now a tradie, so he does all the work around the house for me. Yes, my title is – it's a long title, but it's basically about systems processes, safety, etcetera in our business. Part of that is our recognition of the health and wellness sector; getting that in as well not just as an add on, something that you tack on at the end of the day. Because that will all just fall off. But it's integrated within our systems. How I'm going to approach today is I'm just going to give you a brief run down of what our company is, what we do so you can understand the sort of challenges that we've come up against over the last number of years.
So CV Services Group itself. [Long pause] about 12 years ago, the owners bought a signage company. It was called Cox Visuals. That's where the CV came from. From there, eight years ago, they then bought electrical contracting company, John Love Electrical, which became CVSG Electrical Construction. They bought Nathan Electrical at the same time, which is now our asset services. Since then, we've built up another couple of businesses; a median design and we also developed an electrical infrastructure business. So basically, most of what we do – about 75%, 80% of what we do is electrical around the traps.
So commercial residential construction. We do over 800 houses a year, electrically speaking. We do upwards of 800 to 900 units. We do commercial projects. Electrical infrastructure. We do a lot of urban development, highways, byways, street lights, intelligent traffic management systems on roads. Our asset services business looks after places like the airports, hospitals, Port of Brisbane, air force and army bases. On our signage side, we manufacture and install signs right around Australia. Large business; around about 450 people in the business at this point in time.
So where do we do all of this? Mostly around southeast Queensland. That's our big concentration. As you can see, we've got offices in Maroochydore, Toowoomba, Brisbane. We're also up at Townsville and we're down in Melbourne and Sydney as well. Most of our workforce is scattered around southeast Queensland. That's in anything from pairs of two people up to groups of ten or 15 at a time. So we don't have a nice building where we've got 450 people that, every morning, we can go and talk to them. It doesn't work like that, unfortunately. Amongst those ±373, 380 tradesmen or workers out on site, we now have just over 100 apprentices. Any of you that listened to Mark this morning; those are those 20 to 24 year olds that give us that challenge. Okay.
Bit of a safety journey we've had. Obviously taking on these existing businesses that had been running for ±25 to 30 years, we had three quite large businesses. Three very diverse cultures, diverse ways of doing things. So over about the last six, seven years ago, we identified we had to do something to get rid of the silos and bring everything back in together. Make it one culture, one business. We looked at that – team engagement was one of the main things we looked at. That just had to happen. Without people being engaged in what we wanted or what we had a vision, we weren't going to move forward. We had to improve our safety culture. At the end of the day, we were having all sorts of incidents around the place because people from each business were doing things slightly different. So there was no consistency.
We had to make it real, as you heard Mark earlier with the four Rs. That was one of ours. It had to be real. People had to understand it. We had to make it measurable. Like anything in business, I suppose because I've been in contracting for over 35 years, it's only the last four or five years that I've been involved in the safety side of things as a group manager. Before that, I was a general manager and owner of businesses. To me, it's what works and what doesn't work. If you want it to work, you have to be able to measure it. So we got a bit of a commercial spin to our back of house structure that we've got in our group at the moment.
Leading into that; how do we engage the employees? Now if you engage people, things will improve. That's just the bottom line. There is no two ways about it. But you have to lead by example. Now I've got a couple of photographs up there. That's Andrew and Ed, our CEO and COO. That's Andrew and Ed. That's Andrew and that's Andrew. Now these pictures are taken at toolbox talks. That's at 6 o'clock in the morning. Cooking the burgers for the guys when they come in for their toolbox talk. Okay, that's not the apprentice cooking it. That's the CEO of the company cooking it. He's there, in their face, delivering the message. That over there – that's an apprentice's Friday afternoon meeting. There's three apprentices. They're sitting in the meeting with the apprentices doing their life skills training that we do with them. There we had the spinal institute of Australia – we had a program which I'll show you later on. Andrew introduced every single one of those meetings. Every single one of our employees saw that presentation. Andrew introduced every single one of them. The one that he's least proud of – I happened to walk past the reception one day and he was sitting at the receptionist's desk. The phone had rung; he sat down, answered the call and did what he had to do. He says he is waving at me. But because his hand is blurred, I have my doubts as to what he was actually showing me at that time when I took the photograph.
But it just goes to show that you've got to get involved. As Mark said earlier on; if your senior guys aren't involved, nothing happens. I suppose all of you have different restraints around budgets and timing and what you can and can't do. Your decision-making sort of level in your business. A lot of you have to go back to somebody and say look, we need to initiate this. Well, how much is it going to cost? No, we're not going to do it. If the guys at the top aren't pushing it down all the time, it will not work. So probably your hardest job is sometimes not getting the message to the people in the field. It's getting the message to the people up at the top. Get the buy in from them. So that's a very big lesson. If you take nothing else from today, that's a bit one that you've got to have on your mind to work on.
Then also just show that you care. Get to know your team. That's what these guys do. That's what we do. The monthly toolbox talks – they're out there. They're looking at the guys face to face. They ask them how's your wife. I know she was sick last week, last month, whatever. Is she better? So-and-so – we've got guys who've got kids playing sport and all the rest of it. They ask those questions. I would imagine, off the top of my head, between the two of those guys, they probably know every single name of every single one of the 450 employees in the business. They do business inductions face to face with every new employee at least on a monthly basis. So every single person gets that message and it's consistent.
The trick of making it real – and this is where it really started about five, six years ago. [Long pause] we make no excuses in plagiarising some of workplace health and safety's logos and things. As I said, you do what you have to do to get the message across. So originally, there was the Work safe, stay safe. We took that as just getting the basics right. If you work safe, you stay safe. It's a pretty simple message. We then adopted – their change word was the Work Safe. Home Safe. So it was making that message more emotive. Why are you working safe? We ran competitions through the business sending photographs of why you want to go home safe. We had pictures of dogs chewing lounges. We had all sorts of things. That's why people wanted to go home safe.
We then think that our business has evolved since then over the last couple of years. We've come up with our own in house, which is Think Safe, Act Safe. Because the Work Safe. Home Safe – we actually worked out that more tradies get killed at home than they do at work. So you don't want to switch off when you go home. To us, it's a 24/7, 365 days a year Think Safe, Act Safe. Just have it embedded in your psyche. That's automatically what you do. You get up; that's what you do. You don't try and put your pants on both legs at the same time. You do it one at a time. You think about it. Okay, everything has a process people.
Then we also had to think about getting the balance right. We wanted to say well yes, it's fine just doing the safety thing. But how do we get the health and wellness involved? We came up with our stay fit badging. Now with that, initially it was obviously the education side of things is to push something into the mix and get it out to people. But what we did – and I think it was pretty clever – we did it through a number of different initiatives. The original get fit badging that we are looking at was all about injuries to backs. It wasn't a health thing; it was a wellness thing. Close on 400 people out in the field in high risk activity – manual handling's a major thing. We had a lot of back injuries, etcetera. So what we looked at was the Back Fit Stay Fit. We pushed that.
Then we though hold on a second; we can then play on that. We did the Eat Fit Stay Fit, the Think Fit Stay Fit and the Be Fit Stay Fit. You can actually put programs in place. That's what we did. This has now been running for two-and-a-half years. We started off with the Back Fit with the spinal institute of Australia. Their seed presenters, which is the – I forget the exact acronym. But it's the guys that come out and present. So these are people who have had genuine – they've had accidents, either vehicle or work. We had a guy come out, Paul; he was an electrical fitter mechanic and he had a switchboard dropped on him off the back of a truck. Okay? He ended up in a wheelchair. He went to work and he went home about nine months later. He came and presented and it was a real, in your face presentation of this is where things go pear-shaped and things go wrong. It really hit home with the guys. They understood. That's part of that making it real.
Going on from that, to get it out, we – it's like parenting 101. You know with your child, when they're two years old or one year old and they start talking. Every time they nag you, you say what's the magic word? What's the magic word? Eventually, after about two or three years or 18 or 19 years, they come up with the pleases and the thankyous. But it's consistent. Most parents, you'll see, they don't just give. What's the magic word? It's automatic. You're consistent. Get the message across. No disrespect meant, but when it comes to business principles, sometimes it is like that. It is just being absolutely consistent and being non-negotiable with the message that you send.
So we went straight down to the team. As has been pointed out in a number of presentations so far today, the main thing was the consultation. Because we decided well, if the team gives us the answer to what the problem is, how can they not then go and use it? It was their solution. Yes, I'm an electrician. These hands haven't touched tools for about 20 years. Okay? They're nice and soft now. So yes, I've got the principles behind it down pat and I've got the regulations down pat. But I'm not much good in going to wire up that power point because the apprentice will laugh at my speed and the fact that I can't get down to it.
So what have we done so far? Back Fit Stay Fit. As I said, the seed, the spinal education the awareness team presentation. We've had a physiotherapist come in and give us – we've got an exercise that the guys do; a reset of your back. We have toolbox talks about all the safety tips around your back. We also have preventing back and shoulder pain toolbox talks. We have a library built up in our business.
We're going onto the Think Fit Stay Fit leader group training. That's important. We've just had a bit session on Friday with 50 of our guys right from around the country all coming together. The big thing there is on the Think Fit Stay Fit with the mind; it's more about recognising and reacting appropriately when you see something in the workplace. Recognising is it somebody with a mental illness or just a mental issue [long pause] or they just don't want to be there that day? Okay, we're not counsellors. We want them to be able to recognise it and put their hand up and we can put the appropriate help in place.
On the Eat Fit Stay Fit, we've done quite a bit on this. We just started with understanding the basics. Addressing the issues in the work, finding out from the guys what is it? What will work? What won't work? What do you guys want? We did a whole lot of surveys just to find out the SNAPO. We found that smoking wasn't a real issue in our business. Because of the type of work, obesity wasn't because they're all fit, young blokes, mostly. So we did concentrate on the nutrition and mental wellbeing. The biggest thing we identified was the tradie breakfast. I know Liz is going to talk about that more later on. There's that V and the pie at 6 o'clock in the morning and the V and the pie at 10 o'clock in the morning.
Funnily enough, just as an aside; if you want to go and have a look at construction industry and do a bit of a data scan around injuries. Everybody thinks it will be at the end of the day when they're fatigued. No. It's half past 8 to half past 9 and it's half past 11 to half past 12. That's where probably 40% to 50% of the injuries happen. Because that's when the sugar high disappears and they come crashing down and they've got absolutely no concentration. Okay. That's a fact. I've actually – you want the data; I'll email it to you.
Then we also commenced a lot of education. Okay? We did hydration, heat stress; we did [a] toolbox about the whole lot. We introduced it at our yearly team brief where we have everybody in the company in one place. We do the things like the fruit bowls in offices. We supply breakfast at our manufacturing facility, those sort of things. You know, just the cereals and whatnot. We introduced what we call our little wallet nutrition card. Now that's up there. It's a bit blurred on that, but basically all it is – it's a very simple thing. Went and googled a whole lot of information, printed it up, laminated it, handed it out at a toolbox talk. All it is is you have a look a few items there. Per 100g, those are the best, that's okay and stay away from those. So when the guys are in the shop, they just pick it up and look at something on the shelf and, in ten seconds, they can make a little bit of an educated decision.
Obviously with us, we've got a digital company so we have digital media signs around the place, on our websites, etcetera. Our internal intranet, we have all sorts of stats and things flowing all the time to educate the people. We have our own red rocket barbeque trailer. So that goes out to the big toolbox talks every month. That was a picture of what the guys were cooking on earlier on. Coming up, we've got a tips and recipes competition over the next couple of months. We're also looking at branding a cooler box with our Think Safe Act Safe and our Eat Fit Stay Fit logos to hand out to the guys. There's competition winners and maybe we'll just hand them out as well and pay part of the cost of those.
So making it measurable. There's some of the obvious measures that you look at. Why did we do all of this? Well, one of the things. Just over the last five or six years, it's pretty impressive. Injuries have decreased by 92%. Yes, there's a whole range of things. But just the fact that people's head are in the game and they're understanding what they're doing helps with this. Severity of injuries has decreased by 80%. So the five stitches are now a cut. The cut is now just a scratch. It's quite unbelievable. Return to work 100%. [Long pause] the hours worked – we have almost doubled the size of the business. We've gone from about 400,000 to 750,000 hours in the last five or six years. Why? Because we've got a good workforce that know what they're doing. Also LTIs, which is a big one when any of you get involved in tendering. Everybody wants to know that because they kick out if you've got too many LTIs. We went for 1.2 million hours without an LTI, Lost Time Injury. One of our construction businesses has now gone for over four years.
I'll wrap up in a minute. How do we know it works? Well our people are happier. Our staff surveys – the percentages are up in the mid 80% in satisfaction. We have external recognition. We don't do it for the recognition, but hell, it sure warms your heart when you do get that little tick. So we've had a couple over the last few years.
The last thing is how do we justify the costs? I've added this in as a last minute, just to give you guys something to take back to the people that make the decisions in your businesses. I've taken the dollar figures out for obvious reasons. That is our actual margin and our margin trending. Our gross margin over the last five or six years has gone up by about 6%. That is a lot of money. So take that back to your board of directors. Because if they haven't bought in what I've said before, that's going to kick them in.
So what's next? The way to get started, to quit talking and begin doing. Walt Disney said that many, many years ago. That's the call to action. Lastly, identify, communicate, engage, implement and measure. That's how you do all this. It's just how it worked for us. Maybe you can get something out of it.
A couple of little catch phrases and a couple of our clowns doing the CV there. I thank you very much for your time.
Thank you for the opportunity to present today. Following on from Brian's presentation, I'd like to focus specifically on nutrition and how food choices can effect an employees' mood, productivity and safety when on site. We'll also explore ways that organisations can help support healthy food choices; looking at physical, cultural and policy changes to the environment as well.
So good nutrition is one of the foundations of healthy and safe workers. However, too often, employee nutrition is a nice to have. It's seen as something that's a bit of an afterthought in some circumstances. This really is a missed opportunity to increase productivity and boost morale amongst staff members. Improving the nutrition of staff in the construction industry is increasingly important because it is dangerous at times. The work is physically demanding. If you have workers that are not keeping on top of their nutrition [and] hydration, chances are, at some point, they're going to feel this through their performance.
What we can see here on this slide is how poor nutrition can lead to links to mood and safety. So poor nutrition leads to inadequate fuel low blood glucose levels throughout the day and the energy dip that can follow with this. Hunger, if not eating the right combinations or skipping meals. Dehydration; and we know with that, just at 1%, we see a decrease in mood, attention, memory span. At 2%, we can have gross motor issues, short term memory losses. Over the long term, eating poorly, deficiencies. You know, not enough fruit and veg, key vitamins and nutrients missing. We know when we're stressed B vitamins are what we burn through. If you're not replacing that with fresh fruit and vegetables, lean proteins, then you can find that you're not coping with stress properly.
So overall, this can lead to poor decision-making abilities, loss of focus. So here we have errors, mistakes, loss of materials, time lost, delays. Irritability [long pause]. If you see me on a day when I'm hungry, I can be angry too. Hungry, angry people, irritable, poor working relationships when you're distracted. Fatigue, which is going to reduce alertness and decrease coordination. So overall, poor nutrition can lead to lower productivity and increase injury rates, as Brian saw earlier. What we know is that workers in the construction industry are prematurely exiting the workforce. With that, you're losing skills and knowledge capital as well. There's an increased risk of chronic disease down the track. But just generally, day to day, these are the sorts of things that eating not so well can do.
So every work environment is unique, that's for sure. Each has the potential to impact nutrition in both positive and negative ways. Often, there's a strong perception that a food somebody chooses to eat is solely their choice. You know, it doesn't matter – if everything's going right, they should be able to eat healthy. If everything's going wrong and their access to food's not there, they should still be able to eat healthy. But really, there are factors unique to the construction industry that make it difficult for the average person to eat well every day of the week. These are the ones that you can see on the slide here.
So the nature of the work. It's physically demanding. We know not for all roles. Some are sedentary. But in some, yes, there are physical demands on the body. With that can come the perception that employees can eat whatever they like. It doesn't matter if it's a pie and Coke and Maccas for lunch and a couple of energy drinks throughout the day. They're burning it off. But that's something that really education can help to fix and help to realign those thoughts.
Also the long working hours. Long commutes to work as well. In a long day, there's going to be an early start time. Early mornings? May miss breakfast. May not have time to pack lunch or snacks to keep you going throughout the day. So that can mean less prep time for that. When you're starting early – let's say it's 4:00am, 5:00am to get to work on time. It means your sleep quality's not going to be quite there. You're going to be worried about what time you're going to get up. If you've got kids and other family stressors, you might not be getting to be early enough. That impacts your appetite throughout the day. When we're not sleeping well, we crave high sugar, high fat, high salt foods and that comes conveniently packaged as a fast food meal or a quick bag of chips from the vending machine or whatever's available.
We've also got tight targets and timeframes in the construction industry. Sometimes, length of meal breaks might be slightly shortened because of what's going on on site. They can be delayed. Nobody really makes healthy food choices if they're really rushed. It's difficult. It's difficult when you're time poor to do that.
The food choices that are available on site are sometimes limited. Yep, there might be the pie truck, pie van. There might be the local Subway. There might be fast food. Vending machines that don't have a lot of healthy food choices. So it's difficult if you're not bringing your own from home.
Also site facilities to reheat food, to cook food, to store food safely. They may be there on site, but are they close to where the workers are actually doing their work? Will it take them ten minutes to walk there? Will there be a line ten men long to heat up their lunch? Is it really worth it or is it easier just to grab something quick on the run?
Also the culture. Every workplace is different. Every workplace culture is at probably a different stage. As we saw in Brian's presentation, it's pretty good. You know, right there now. They built that up over the course of a number of years. So cultures in workplaces are really maybe quite negative to healthy eating and to those sorts of messages, where others are more supportive. So it's good to know.
Let's consider the case for Liam. He works as a concreter. This is an imaginary Liam, so nobody will be implicated here. But it might be something – you know, a similar pattern of food and drink intake that you would see in workers or potentially in yourselves some days. So an early morning start for Liam; 4:30am wake up. It's a long commute to work, so no time to cook up two eggs and toast or something healthy for breakfast. So instead grabs and energy drink on the way in to get a little bit of get up and go. That lasts him through to a late smoko. They've been finishing a concrete pour, so that means it's when the job's done. So once a job's done – starving by now. Grabs a takeaway meal. Drink, large fries, hamburger. That meal is heavy. It's filling, yes; but mood levels straight back down after eating that while your body takes time to redirect energy to process that meal. So a few hours later, feeling really tired and sluggish and slumped over and still more work to get through. So he grabs a 600ml cola from the vending machine. That's great. Get a quick burst of energy as that sugar hits the system. But what goes up must come down, which we'll see soon. Then on the way home after the days end, to grab an Ice Break with that bit of caffeine in it, more sugar to get through that journey. Alcohol to wind down at night; a few beers after dinner.
So that can be a habit that some of our workers get into day in, day out. The issue with this is that if it's a regular occurrence, yep, not meeting nutrient needs. High risk of burnout as well. Because you're not giving your body the correct nutrition that it needs to get through a physically demanding day with activity. With other stressors as well.
So when it comes to some of these patterns that we just saw – skipping meals. We know that no breakfast – skipping breakfast is common for workers on site. This becomes a habit. The same way eating breakfast becomes a habit too. If you're used to skipping breakfast, it means you'll probably get used to not feeling hungry in the morning. That's one of the biggest things I hear when I talk to people. They say I just don't feel hungry. But what we often find is yep, you skip breakfast. But then later in the day, you overcompensate and eat a large meal late at night. Then come in the morning? Well you've just eaten a large meal, so you don't feel hungry again. So it becomes a little bit of a cycle. But what that does to your body, if you do miss breakfast or if you really only, I guess, put the majority of your food intake to later in the day, is that you'll have lower energy levels midmorning. Fatigue early as well. Because there's nothing to keep your body going. That results in poor concentration. So those factors there don't make for an overly safe work site if we have lots of workers engaging in this behaviour.
Poor quality food choices. That's another big one. All the foods that you see there up on the screen and many, many more are easy to access. High sugar, high fat, high salt. Offering little to no fruit and vegetables. Other quick choices we often go for. These sorts of foods? They really do promote stress hormones. Cortisol release. The adrenal functioning from eating these sorts of foods day in, day out is not good. They're also addictive. So we know the effects of sugar and salt, what they do to our palate, is that they tend to make us crave more. So it can become a bit of a cycle.
But what's really interesting is what these foods can do to your blood sugar levels throughout the day. That's what you see on the graph here on the screen. In the red line there, we're showing – let's pick the McDonald's meal that you see right on the end there; burger, chips and Coke. Take that drink and meal in, you'll get a quick raise in your sugar levels. Right up high and then crashing down low before two hours. So that raise that you see there – you'll be feeling pretty good as you go up. Maybe a bit erratic as that sugar from the Coke hits your system. But then followed by that fall is when you get fatigue, where you get low mood. That's that unstable blood glucose pattern. The yellow line is a more controlled energy release. It's not as high and that gives you sustained energy, mental clarity, focus as well.
What we see here on the slide is what happens over the course of a day if you're eating foods that are high in the glucose response that they give you. Starting the day before 8:00am – let's say that's 6:00am there – with an Ice Break. We know Ice Break coffees are high in caffeine and high in carbohydrate. That carbohydrate comes from sugar; about 17 teaspoons of sugar in an Ice Break coffee. With a pie. So tradie's breakfast. Great. Get that in. That 17 teaspoons just hits your sugar levels right up there and feeling nice and erratic and just a little bit jumpy and all over the place. That might happen on the drive in to work. So good. Feeling slightly focussed.
But then when you get to work, it's that decline that we see there where concentration is falling. Come 9:30, as Brian mentioned, that's often a period where the energy slumps occur and injuries and accidents are occurring also. So 9:30, this worker here grabs a Coke or something from the vending machine, because water doesn't quite cut it at that hour. Gets another sugar high. Another nine to ten teaspoons of sugar from the average sized can. Gets their energy levels back up there, but really quickly. Followed again by fatigue, because there's nothing in a can of Coke that's going to keep you going. There's no protein, no fat, no fibre. They come crashing back down there again at lunchtime.
If we can see there, towards the end, we have the blood glucose response of eating a chicken salad wrap and an orange. What do you see about that? [Long pause] more sustained. Exactly. Slower. More controlled. You're not getting that up and down. Concentration will be better and less chance of early fatigue. So a day that would be completely different would be if we started with something like eggs on toast. Which I know is difficult for those that are getting up early. So it's about considering can we be doing things or encouraging workers to make smoothies the night before and they can take that for lunch? Can they be putting oats in their milk, yoghurt, fruit? Something that's wholesome and good that doesn't give you that really huge high and low. Talking to them about healthy lunch choices, educating them that way. Or having a think about whether the site design and what foods are available on site, like breakfast staples, which we'll talk through soon, can help them in the morning instead of having all these peaks and troughs.
Another big one is caffeine intake. I've been speaking to some of you outside at the Nutrition Australia stand there. You said energy drinks were a big one. Workers are having energy drinks and that is because yes, they contain caffeine. The drinks that you see up there on the screen; they all contain roughly the same 200mg to 250mg of caffeine a day. Just for your reference, 300mg to 400mg is the healthy, safe maximum out there. So one energy drink has 250mg of caffeine. It also has guarana, which has the same chemical structure as caffeine, but is not regulated in the amount that needs to go into a drink. So really, there could be any amount of guarana. So we've got high caffeine, high guarana and sugar. So about 13 teaspoons in a large energy drink. Which are marketed towards men.
So the effect of that, you can imagine. Jittery because caffeine is a stimulant drug. So acts on your central nervous system, heightens your brain and your heart. Heart palpitations for some. Then we've got guarana, which is doing who knows what. And we've got B vitamins, which is great, but they're added. You know, you can get more B vitamins eating a healthy meal than you will your energy drink. But this is something that they're having throughout the day and having huge ups and downs in their energy levels.
Another big one is pre-workout drinks. That is quite popular for your younger groups that are often used before going to the gym. But that is another unregulated product that you can have a shot or mixed in with water or with juice. As you can see, 350mg of caffeine. So pretty much one hit of that is more than what you would need. So the effects on mood; they can be erratic. More agitated, restless, shaky. Again, not great for safety or productivity.
Alcohol. Can be something that, for some workers, is a daily part of what they're doing. So when it comes to alcohol, the effect; low energy levels, low mood because alcohol is a depressant drug, and poor reaction times on the work site. What's really interesting is that alcohol affects our sleep. That's something that workers don't often understand. It can help you drop off to sleep, but the way that it effects your rapid eye movement sleep cycles is really quite extreme. So normally in the average night, we'll get six to seven cycles of rapid eye movement sleep. That is when we refresh and recharge the brain. But when you're drinking alcohol – and only a moderate amount; two to three glasses a night. You only get one to two cycles. So you go from being really refreshed down to really not much at all.
So if you've got workers that are drinking the night before, waking up, not eating breakfast, then hitting the energy drinks, then having a meal that's going to make them feel sluggish. You can really see that, overall, it's not going to be great for them day to day.
This is just something for your interest as well, because alcohol does also contain excess calories or energy with no nutrient benefit. We show this a lot to employees when we do nutrition education at Nutrition Australia. So just showing the energy amounts there. Same for spirits and cola. Just how that can equal fast food options as well.
So what can you do about it? It's well known that investing in workplace wellbeing is going to give you gains through increased productivity, reduced absenteeism, presenteeism and all of that. But I think, like Brian said, the big one is management support. If you have that and if you can get it, that is going to help. Getting senior managers actively involved, being there, present at education sessions or with barbeques and that sort of thing. But also realising that culture change is going to take time. It's not going to happen overnight. It might not happen within the six months that you start to roll out a program. But it will happen. It's a slow process. Building the culture where it's acceptable for staff to have a meal or water break, to have that time to have something healthy instead of being rushed, pushed for time, pushed for time, where they have to make the choices that aren't great for their health.
Some of the environmental strategies that you can put into place are really important too. If you were at the session earlier, before the break, with Rebecca Loudoun; she was talking about the food environment audit tool that's going to be available soon. That's really fantastic for how to assess whether your site is promoting healthy food and drink behaviours. Before setting that one up. You can also consider, because we know fruit and vegetable intake is low; can you offer fruit boxes in crib rooms? Can you offer breakfast staples there as well to make sure that staff are starting the day with something? Vending machines; what are you putting into them? Are they drinks? Is there healthy and not so healthy choices there so that the choice can be made? You know, not cutting out everything that's not the best for us, but giving employees the choice. Considering what's going on at breakfast barbeques as well.
Then there are your individual strategies. Now these are things like guest speakers on nutrition. On site health checks, dietician health checks. Health challenges. They're all great, but they don't work on their own. Just being thrown in there, maybe once a year we'll get a dietician in to do a toolbox talk. They really need to be part of an overall strategy where we look at the environmental factors and have management support in there.
So at Nutrition Australia, we do a lot of your individual strategies. We can talk. We can cook for your staff. We can offer one-on-one diet consultations. We can also help you implement and plan those environmental strategies and management support there. We also have a range of resources that are available online. I have a stand right down the end today. If you would like me to email these to you, I can as well. But it's important to think if you're going to put up posters and fact sheets; where are you putting them? Have they been changed in the last three years or have they just been the same ones there that people just don't even look at anymore? So hopefully we can provide you with some inspiration for that. I know that Di's team at the Healthy Works Initiative are fantastic for helping with implementing these sorts of wellness programs. So thank you very much.
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