The ‘Meet the Board’ series gives our readers an opportunity to learn more about the dedicated people who sit on the Healthy Workplaces board. In our first installment, we connect with our newest board member, Tanya Cavanagh. 

What is it about Healthy Workplaces that drew you to get involved? 

I think it’s the combination of my passion for sports, health and events, and the ability to use these in a positive manner, for good, so to speak. Really, the multi-pronged approach that Healthy Workplaces is able to offer to influence a number of worthwhile agendas. Tour de Office offers the ability to motivate individuals who may not usually participate in events, because it’s right there in the office. They think, “Well, let me give this a try. Actually, hopping on a static bike isn’t so difficult after all. Maybe I should think about joining a gym or a sports club, or an exercise group or something.” I think the ability to try new things has a really positive impact on many people.  For organisations, it offers the ability to really engage with their staff. From the CEO sitting next to a junior, being able to have a conversation about how things are going,  some advice, some insights he or she may gain from that discussion, its all very positive. And then obviously, from a Healthy Workplaces perspective, in terms of driving that awareness around, the negative impact of sedentary lifestyles – sitting too long, and the need to get up and move and exercise. I believe that we are such a good enabler for other charities, in terms of the fundraising component. I had a great discussion with a friend in the voluntary sector, and she says that one of their key challenges is often not being able to offer their sponsors anything per se, whereas, with our products… Tour de Office and Step Forward provide a phenomenal conduit to being able to offer and raise money for other charities. 

As a board member, what key area of expertise do you bring to Healthy Workplaces? Tell us a little about your career background. 

My background is in sports administration and major events. If I go back to school days, I was always passionate about sport. I’ve been blessed to live and work in six countries around the world. My tertiary education was in South Africa, studying Travel and Tourism, and then on to Sports Management. When I moved to the UK, I sort of got my teeth stuck into the sports administration world, working in tennis and football. I then started to get some exposure to the major events world commencing with Rugby World Cup 99. I have been blessed to have worked for the Organising Committee of the London 2012 Olympics and Paralympics Games,.  Being able to see an organisation of that magnitude grow from 50 people to then expand to 6000 full-time employees and contractors and 70,000 volunteers by the time the games came… Not many people get to experience that. 

What positive results have you seen organisations achieve by participating in events like Tour de Office and Step Forward? 

It’s been interesting to watch the positive messaging of the engagement piece, and the camaraderie built by co-workers getting involved.  Hopefully, it spurred some of them into further action,. Breaking down barriers is another one – people that you might not naturally gravitate towards, suddenly you’re sat chatting to, and you find that there’s a commonality and you get involved in discussions outside of office politics and work, etc. 

What do you hope participants gain by getting involved? (E.g. Better health outcomes, more energy, or increased enjoyment for physical activity)

The ability for awareness to be raised around other areas, not just the physical aspect of exercise, but also nutrition and mental health. We’re not experts in this field, but some of those conversations might come up as to people in an organisation on the bike having a bit of a chat, but that facilitation process of, you know, “How are you going? How are you tracking?” So I think there is an opportunity around some of the mental health side of things. Certainly, men’s mental health, in particular, is something that more people are becoming more aware of, and is an important aspect, because men don’t tend to speak up as much as we do. I recently did a talk on innovation around work/life balance, and it was quite interesting for some of the people in the room who just work 60 or 70 hour weeks. It kind of made them sit back and think about important factors in their life. Too often people go down a certain route and they don’t step back and look at the big picture of what really is meaningful and important in life. 

How do you keep active during the workday? 

So I belong to a lovely group of swimmers, called the Flipper Girls. We do pool swimming in the winter, but in the summer, we swim in the ocean and it’s just a great group, and we always look forward to the coffee and chat afterward. I’ve also gotten back into hockey now, so it’s been interesting picking up a hockey stick after a few years out and my body is certainly sore for it but I’m on the field. Besides that, I enjoy doing a bit of gym and then cycling, and swimming with my kids in the pool after school.

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