The majority of employers do not worry if their employees live unhealthily.
When a company provides healthcare, and creates the conditions for a healthy diet as well as the opportunities for sport and recreation activities, then that company may be considered a healthy workplace. Over the last few days the American Chamber of Commerce has awarded its prizes for “healthiest workplaces”.
Imagine a gym, swimming pool, sauna, canoeing, yoga classes, company excursions, ergonomic office equipment; these facilities are almost unimaginable for most employees, yet there are companies even in Hungary that provide all these to their staff simply as additional extras, so that their employees are happy to go to work, feel good there, and never think they are the most hard-done-by workers in the world.
”In terms of legal provisions, Hungary fulfils all the requirements for labour safety defined by the European Union,” says Gábor Galgóczy, director and chief physician of the National Institute of Occupational Health. “Yet the degree to which different organizations follow the law varies greatly, and it is not possible to monitor all 800 thousand economic organizations in the country”, he added. Therefore, even if there is a legal requirement to provide comfortable chairs for office workers, or optimal lighting, or to ensure appropriate noise levels, many employers neglect to take these details into account. And they pay even less attention to what is not laid down in the law. They show no concern about employees who are overweight, depressed, take little or no exercise, or chain-smoke.
And yet there is hope, because slowly gaining ground in Hungary is the Western-European and American view, which says that, when a company takes care of its employees, the employees become more loyal, fall sick less frequently, there is a decline in staff turnover, and the public image of the company improves.
In fact, the Healthy Workplace Programme initiative of the American Chamber of Commerce in Hungary (AmCham), begun in 2002, has helped Hungary to come out of the dark ages. According to the Chamber, preserving the health of Hungarian workers is imperative in increasing the competitiveness of the country and of its companies. It thus elaborated a programme containing suggestions and practical methods in such issues as healthcare, healthy diet, promotion of physical exercise and training, reduction of smoking in the workplace and mental hygiene. So far 60 members of the organization have joined the initiative.
It was the second time that AmCham had awarded the Healthy Workplace title and its prizes. ALCOA-Köfém Ltd. won in the large corporation category, ATEL Csepel Business, and Colgate-Palmolive Hungary Ltd. in the medium-sized enterprise category, and Kürt Computer Rendszerház Rt. in the small enterprise category. “Thanks to the AmCham initiative, the Ministry of Health added the need to provide employees with a healthy working life and environment to its National Healthcare Program,” said Gábor Galgóczy. The Ministry also invited tender applications in this field. For example, money could be given toward training programmes that help to reduce stress or that help people give up smoking. Support could also be given to local governments or enterprises that help their employees organise and utilize their time to maximum advantage. There have been public health institutions that purchased machines to lift patients, in order to save their nurses’ backs, and also made considerable efforts to avoid burn-out in their staff.
The management of one of the winners of the AmCham award, Kürt Rt., an information technology company known for the data recovery division of their business, even chose the location of their headquarters so as to provide the proper environment for their employees. The office building not only has its own sauna and swimming pool, there are also facilities for employees to play table tennis or table football. Twice a year the staff goes canoeing on the Danube, and football championships allow them to relax and let off steam. Family programmes, company excursions and family weekends are also part of the business culture. The company offers membership of yoga and aerobics classes, while mental sport is provided in the chess and bridge competitions organised by the company. As almost all Kürt employees sit in front of a computer, low radiation, high frequency monitors are used; swivel chairs and notebook shelves help to maintain correct body posture while wrist pads fixed to notebooks make long working hours more comfortable. In the office building of Kürt Rt. table football is just one of the many recreational opportunities available.