Healthstyle’s Manfred Wolscher talks about the importance of wellbeing

Brendan: welcome to Episode 11 of the Health and Safety Business Podcast. I’m Brendan Torazzi, the director of OHS.com.au and also your host of the show. Today, I’m here with Manfred Wolscher from HealthStyle. Good day, Manfred. How’s it going?

Manfred: really well. Thank you. Thanks for having me.

Brendan: it’s great to have you on the show. Tell me a little bit about what HealthStyle does?

Manfred: we’re a workplace health provider helping and assisting companies around the country to achieve better health for the people or in other words help them to thrive in their lives.

Brendan: so it’s a wellbeing company?

Manfred: it’s a wellbeing, workplace heart. What incorporates that we help organizations in devising their wellbeing strategy first and foremost. We’ve got a whole range of health improvement programs. They range from health checks, health education, we do e-learning programs as well as healthy media.

Brendan: wellbeing a few years ago is a bit of a dirty word. Has that changed over the last, how has the industry changed? I was a little bit involved in the sort of the mid-forties with wellbeing and it was a really tough product to sell. How has it changed over the last 10 to 15 years?

Manfred: it’s a good question. I don’t think it has changed a lot in terms of selling prevention. It is still very difficult although where we look at the safety where you come from is they’re certainly a development and a move in the right direction. Thinking about 20 years back where manual handling was a dirty word and now it’s just part and parcel of business as usual basically. Safety is integrated. Everybody understands it and compliance is good yet we have got a bit coming back to that wellbeing is a bit of disconnect here between safety and wellbeing. What people understand about wellbeing is perhaps not how we try to educate people. It’s an interesting thing. Wellbeing, everybody thrives with wellbeing aren’t, for wellbeing, feeling good, feeling energetic, feeling mentally like positive and so forth but wellbeing is a much broader, much more global sort of expression. It’s interesting.

Brendan: does that mean when you’re going to see clients you don’t use the wellbeing word? What is the trigger for, tell me about a typical client and why they would jump on and embrace your program. What are the trigger points?

Manfred: the trigger points initially is that companies ask themselves why do we want to have a healthier workforce basically. The why is critical. Often it’s not the case because companies, management or the board and saying like yes, we need to do something because company X ask something. We look good and tick the box yet I think when it comes down to really working out where they want to go, how does it align with the business objectives then it becomes interesting. Wellbeing, they go like we just thought we do mental health, look at employment assistant program. That is not really what they need at the end of the day. That is when we come into play and assist them, better understand where they see themselves in five years, 10 years’ time.

Brendan: how do companies typically dip their toe in the water so to speak? What would be a typical program for a company that has nothing? Where could they start? What are some easy wins?

Manfred: I think the first one would be identifying the why as I have just indicated before. That is important. It might be just that they go you know what? We need to reduce our workers compensation claims. That could be one. Another one could be general absenteeism costs are just too high. How do we reduce that? Looking at those objectives where to start is creating a health risk profile for the organization. That is what we like to see first stop. There is no guess work. What is going on? How healthy is our workforce? How well is our environment playing a role in supporting our workforce? What is in terms from the organizational risk what are the guidelines to allow people to live healthier lives? Coming back again a health risk profile would be the first step.

Brendan: that therefore creates a baseline for an organization and then at a latter point you’re able to go back in and measure again to see what differences the program has made.

Manfred: initially it might be a health risk profile. You can combine it to go like you know what? We provide health assessments for our people, health checks. They create a baseline profile itself. Maybe we do the same thing in a year’s time. In the meantime we’re looking at the data and may identify issues around mental health, issues around people just not move enough, issues around leadership. It does not have to be always directly related to just wellbeing but at the end it is isn’t it.

Brendan: I would imagine when you’re first going into some organizations there may be a degree of skepticism from I don’t know, from workers or maybe management or what are the types of things, what are the easy wins that you have to do first up to get I guess the call phase on board because I would imagine you need participation. When you have participation and then…

Manfred: I think that divides from our competitors. We always aim for high participation. How to achieve that? There’s a number of things we’re trying to get right. It’s not always working for a number of reasons but the first process when we engage with an organization is the access process, to looking at organizational risks, to look at capability of the organization, very important. That is that everybody is onboard from management to the supervisors, to the HR department as well as WHS and so forth. Another one is the environment. We’re looking at the environment. What sort of role does the environment play allowing a wellbeing program to flourish, to be successful? These are important parts and then the next one is the planning phase. We’re looking at the same things again and how we can assist to build better procedures and guidelines around the organizational guidelines. We look at health and to build capabilities, internal capabilities. Our biggest goal for a company’s system in the long run is to build internal capabilities so down the track, in the five years’ time know what they’re doing. That is the objective and that has proven with companies as Mars Australia. They know what they’re doing. We still assist them. We still come up with ideas because it’s an ongoing integrated process.

The next phase will be then helping the organization to collect some data, to get some idea where everything stands, where the workforce sits. We tried to leveraged up those points of influence which is the organizational part, which is the environment part but also the personal. If we get all those three avenues of influence correct, the program sets itself up to be very successful. Of course then you roll out, you implement the programs in the next stage. As ongoing stages evaluation, we evaluate the program’s feedback for a number of reasons. For looking at their return of investment situation so build a case study to have further programs implemented in the near future.

Brendan: how long has HealthStyle been going for?

Manfred: we founded HealthStyle in the end of 2012. We’re a relatively young company. Coming back in particular Andrew Pitkin who pretty much is the brain child of these of programs. There’s a whole range of programs which we’re very proud of we have created and developed and achieved award winning programs. That came originally from years back with Greatest Asset. We worked together and became good friends and just made it a passion of ours to help companies and people achieve better health.

Brendan: I guess there’s a lot of workers out there that if they’re not given that assistance is like having a coach. If they don’t have access to the coach then maybe they don’t have a chance to get healthier.

Manfred: exactly right and often when you look at programs chosen by companies it’s courses for courses. Sometimes certain things work. Sometimes not. To keep a workforce healthy in a long-term it has to be ongoing.

Brendan: it’s not like you can do one thing and then you can be healthy forever.

Manfred: you know Brendan if you want to lose weight if you don’t have the support from your wife, from your family, from your peers and build an environment at home allows you to do your exercises, eat well it’s not going to happen but often those to take them to the next stage and become yes, I’m buying some shoes now. That is the first step. Once you have got the shoes I start to walk and then eventually to run and then eat better and so forth.

Brendan: when you’re turning around I guess a habit it’s a series of little wins really isn’t it? Like that is what gets the momentum starting to happen.

Manfred: exactly right. I think that is key because we’re inundated in our society now with all those quick fixes in terms of diets, in terms of exercise programs. Guess what? It’s basically in the long run very little chance to succeed because it’s not sustainable. It has to be sustainable and it has to be fun, joy, that you go out there. This is cool and get those wins as you say it before like the small wins and get up in the morning, more energized. Don’t push them too hard to the next level, just enjoy the moment. Once they understand learn how to feel good again then you take them to the next stage, next level.

Brendan: are these programs actually done in the workplace or are they is it like coaching systems that they do outside of the workplace or is it a combination of both of those things?

Manfred: it’s a little bit of combination of both of them. When you look at manual handling we do as well. The platforms that we use is the one on one like have the group there sitting down and do a workshop. Work with them hands on but there’s other ways we do it on the e-learning platform where people use that as a competency based education based program which is effective. It’s quick. They can do it at their own time, on the mobile phone, on iPads, etc. there’s a number of ways you can educate people and run programs. Ideally when we look at the workplace health programs ownership is critical. You do it yourself. Everybody should be taken on a journey. That is important. The ownership has to come from within the organization. They have to run the show basically. We can’t do it. Other providers can’t do it because the support and the commitment is just simply not there. If it’s not there other business priorities would take over and then it ran slowly into the sand but if this becomes part and parcel that is who we are, that is our culture. In all regards it will be quite successful and I can assure that we see that over and over again with a lot of positive and great feedbacks and great stories.

Brendan: are there any particular sectors that are more open to these kinds of programs than others. Where does HealthStyle play typically?

Manfred: we’ve got a whole range of programs or clients and partners in the manufacturing industry and energy sector and the corporate sector right across. I don’t think you really can’t pinpoint certain industries are more likely to run meaningful programs. It’s more like how the board, management, what their objectives are. It always comes down I would think to the CEO of an organization. If there’s a vision there then it goes and it runs. It’s a top down approach. Later on it’s a top down, bottom up. It’s where you take everybody on board.

Brendan: are you able to share with us a program, I mean you don’t have to name the client but tell us a little bit of how the organization changed and how long it took and did it make a change on financial like a bottomline level?

Manfred: yes. Perhaps a good showcase story is Mars Australia. We’re looking at 3000 people. There’s all different business centers. You’re all aware of Mars has got Mars Food, Mars Petcare and so forth, a whole range of manufacturing places around the country. It’s worldwide. It’s a privately owned company. I think that is perhaps a little bit advantage because they can put their own personal standpoint as they like it. Years ago, maybe five, six years ago when we got in contact, even longer with Greatest Asset we did already some work. There was nothing. They had no structure, no wellbeing idea and objective and slowly we just did a pilot project, just a small piece and demonstrated it works. Engagement was so so but as it evolved the second pilot project then suddenly there was a lot more engagement. The company learned how to find those champions to run the show so to speak and then build a wellbeing committee who was or is responsible for any rollout of that sort of initiatives.

When you look at that company now it’s amazing. As I have pointed out before they’ve got their internal capabilities. They know what they want. It’s fantastic to see. Participation rate is 75%, 80% in whatever initiative we do. They’re ready. They know their outcomes. Their return on investment is an absolute no brainer. Right across the board when you look fruit vegetable consumption has increased significantly. The incidents slips and falls, alertness is totally different. They’re factory settings. This is just a high risk sort of environment. That went hand in hand then with the safety procedures and the safety requirements and wellbeing, fatigue management programs etc. where it was needed. The cost have decreased and so has workers compensation.

People are just a lot more aware and quite competitive. We have business centers in there that love it. We have a health check which is a high performance health check and people love it. These whole departments they’re all on board and they want to beat each other. It’s competitive. It’s fun. Yes, their return on investment is they just go on and on every year so it’s fantastic.

Brendan: I’m going to wrap up the session now. I just have some quick questions for you. How old are you Manfred?

Manfred: 54.

Brendan: you must be doing your own program mate, you’re looking great for 54. Second question is what do you do to keep fit?

Manfred: it’s a good question. I have changed a little bit. My approach, I understand in my age you don’t recover as quickly anymore. That is not really a problem for me. I do perhaps three sessions a week but very short 10, 15 minutes two sessions. A CrossFit type session or a hit program on a circuit basis and one centering run like number of runs of course. That keeps me fit. I think I’m as fit as I was 20 years ago.

Brendan: how many hours of sleep are you getting on average per night?

Manfred: definitely eight hours. I need minimum of eight hours.

Brendan: you’re prioritizing your sleep.

Manfred: absolutely.

Brendan: do you have any personal goals that you’re looking to achieve in the next 12 months?

Manfred: not really. Perhaps in terms of our business that we want to take to the next level because we’re passionate about it. We love what we do. Otherwise I’m perhaps in my happiest phase in my life.

Brendan: there is nothing more you want for.

Manfred: one thing there is, I plan a heli-skiing sort of holiday in a few years’ time so I need to keep fit and stay fit and take my boys to heli-skiing.

Brendan: what business achievement do you think you’d like to be most remembered for?

Manfred: just what we do, the lives we changed. I will not take one example. There’s hundreds of examples where people pat you on the shoulder and go like, thank you so much. You actually saved my life. That is powerful. Just a few weeks ago I was in Albury at one of the factories. We did some health checks and that person said, you perhaps not aware of. I would not be alive if HealthStyle wasn’t involved. That was powerful. I don’t want to go in detail but it’s true. We get this over and over again. It’s just there at the right time.

Brendan: great work.

Manfred: thank you.

Brendan: if people want to find a little bit more about HealthStyle how can they find you online?

Manfred: it’s http://www.HealthStyle.net.au. You’ll find information on there. We are on LinkedIn and Facebook as well and Twitter. You can find HealthStyle.net.au. You can find us.

Brendan: thanks very much for coming in Manfred and if you have been enjoying the podcast don’t forget to subscribe and leave us a review and also share it around with your friends. See you next time.

Manfred: thank you.

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