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Cockburn company EES Shipping installs play space to boost staff’s mental health

A decked-out recreational area with gaming consoles, a rowing machine, TVs and couches sounds like a kid’s dream school holiday set-up but it is what a freight handling company has created to help improve employees’ mental health.

In a move more associated with big tech companies, Cockburn-based EES Shipping recently set up a space for staff to de-stress during the ongoing global shipping congestion.

The space includes exercise equipment, a Wii Fit, gaming consoles and TVs.

Director EES Shipping Brian Hack on an in-office exercise bike.
Camera IconDirector EES Shipping Brian Hack on an in-office exercise bike. Credit: Andrew Ritchie/Perth Now

“We have around 20 employees in the business and we’re still in the process of encouraging staff to actually get away from their desks and use the space more,” Company director Brian Hack told PerthNow said.

“We don’t want the team to sit at their desks and eat lunch, we want them to take a genuine break and switch off from work for a bit.

“Hopefully in coming weeks and months we won’t have to remind staff to take a break; they’ll just come in and out of the space naturally throughout the day as they need to.”

Curtin University’s workplace and future-of-work expert and Head of School of Management and Marketing Professor Julia Richardson said such examples signalled to workers that their employer took health and well-being seriously.

“Health and well-being is widely recognised as having a direct impact on employee performance so this really is a ‘win-win’ situation,” she said.

“It would also likely have a positive impact on organisational culture – again demonstrating that employers take well-being seriously and are willing to act on what they feel is a stressful situation for their employees.

“I think it could be an important initiative in re-introducing people back to the workplace – encouraging in particular them to socialise with one another at work, emphasising the importance of employee well-being and demonstrating very clearly from the organisation that they are committed to their employees’ well-being and are willing to invest time, money and space into it.”

Professor Richardson said while not all companies could have the space and budget available, recreating a positive organisational culture at work would be beneficial.

We recognise our staff are working hard, so we want to make sure they can disconnect

“Some may have a company gym or at a minimum a recreational area, perhaps a coffee shop or canteen which can be very helpful. But in larger cities they may not have the space – however, what some companies can do is subsidise gym membership or support other activities where possible,” she said.

UWA School of Human Sciences senior lecturer and accredited exercise physiologist Dr Bonnie Furzer told PerthNow workplaces had mental health challenges before the pandemic but the past 18 months had exacerbated the growing concern.

“We spend so much time in our workplace – the more that workplaces can be set up to allow incidental activity not only improves health but improves productivity,” Dr Furzer said.

“We know that brain breaks such as a short 10-minute walk actually improves productivity and brain function.”

Mr Hack agreed it was important to support employees’ mental health, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We hear anecdotally about more and more people in all kinds of industries needing to take time off for stress leave or mental health reasons, and we just want to make sure that we can support our staff,” he said.

“The pandemic and associated shipping delays mean our industry is busier than ever and we recognise our staff are working hard, so we want to make sure they can disconnect and take a break as often as they need to.

“It was important to us that we allowed children in the space too, as many of our workers are parents and it takes so much pressure off them if they know they can bring their kids in after school or on holidays or whatever.”

He said the business would work towards looking at other initiatives to improve overall staff well-being, such as extra days off a year or moving to a four-day working week.

EES Shipping employee Sandra Reyes said she had recently quit the gym and now could keep up her training in the office.

“I’m planning to arrive early and train before I start my day,” she said.

“Also, at lunchtime now I can go and relax, play and just laugh – it’s somewhere to distract you from the office day.”

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