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 next installment, we connect with our Chairperson, Gary Smith.
What is it about Healthy Workplaces that drew you to get involved?
I’ve been involved with Tour de Office for seven years. I was there right from the start long before it became Healthy Workplaces. Tudor (Marsden-Huggins, Founder) was wanting to establish a board to oversee the charity. He knew me, I was a company director and I was Chairman of Flight Centre Travel Group, so I was already chairman of a large public organisation. I think he felt I had the technical skills to chair the board. But I also was a keen cyclist. And I loved the whole concept of Tour de Office when he ran it past me, so I bought in right from the start, and I’ve been there ever since.
As a board member, what key area of expertise do you bring to Healthy Workplaces? Tell us a little about your career background.
So I think I brought a number of things. I brought my professional qualification as a chartered accountant and a current member of the Institute of Company Directors. As an experienced company director, which you need in an organisation like this, you need to make sure you comply with all the rules and regulations around charities. I had the skills to assist in doing the proper governance for the organisation. I was also reasonably well connected in the Brisbane business sector and was able to help source some corporate leads to do the activity and assist, as well as PR and growing the event, particularly within the Queensland marketplace.
Then beyond that, I was a keen cyclist. So that’s kind of the main things I would have brought to the board as well as a creative mind in terms of… How do we grow this? How do we expand it into new markets? How do we make it better? How do we make it more profitable?
What positive results have you seen organisations achieve by participating in events like Tour de Office and Step Forward?
I’ve been there on the journey to raising more than a million dollars for charity from Healthy Workplaces itself. So we, in our own right, have been successful in achieving quite a significant goal by raising that amount of money.
There was one organisation I could probably think of which was News Corporation, who is a major international corporation, and the mainstream media was undergoing an enormous amount of change, with the growth in alternative channels of media and social media.
They had just undertaken a significant restructure of the Queensland workforce, so a lot of people lost their jobs. They restructured within the business, people have moved to different roles and there was a lot of disquiet within that organisation in Queensland around what was happening in their workplace and what was happening in their lives as a result of that.
So the head of News Corp in Queensland was pitched the idea around this and we ran an event out there, which really helped bring their office together. Everyone got involved in the event, which was actually staged in the main body of the reception area of the News Corp offices, and I don’t know how many people work here, but it was a lot of people, so it helped engage them. They got very competitive amongst themselves and had teams that were chasing each other in terms of times on the bike and the amount of money raised, and it just just helped that workplace recover from a pretty traumatic period of change.
I’ve seen similar in other organisations, such as Deloitte, Optus, Commonwealth Bank… major corporations where they’ve taken the opportunity to do an office event with two bikes and compete against other organisations. So for example, Deloitte challenged Flight Centre to a competition, and I was part of the Flight Centre team. (And of course, we won it!) It helped engender a good spirit between the client, Flight Centre and their professional advisor, Deloitte. And we’ve seen that quite a bit through the years with Tour de Office. I would hope with Step Forward, we will get the same sort of thing happening.
What do you hope participants gain by getting involved? (E.g. Better health outcomes, more energy, or increased enjoyment for physical activity)
I guess there’s a couple of things. The main one is that if it’s someone that is not particularly physically active, that might lead them on a journey to becoming more physically active. They get on the bike, or they do the Step Forward challenge, and they start to feel better about themselves, and they think, “Oh, this is something I should do beyond this event.” And they get into a lifetime of healthy living. So I’d like to think that would happen.
I know through the pandemic, particularly when communities have been in lockdown, a lot of people got into doing more exercise because it was something they were allowed to do, and they had the time. I’d like to think that the same thing happens after being involved in the likes of a Healthy Workplace activity, that it leads them to a better life of physical activity.
The other point I’d make is, we would hope that they get behind the event and the raising of money for their individual charities, and that becomes a bit of a passion for them as well, and helping people through the process, which is a great thing.
How do you keep active during the work day?
Walking and cycling, a bit of running. I tend to do my activity first up in the morning, because I find once I get to work, sometimes it’s a bit hard to squeeze things in. I keep very active during the week. I live close to the city, so I tend to now walk around a lot rather than hopping in a car.
Just before Christmas, we got a little baby golden retriever puppy, so she now keeps us very active as well. She’s now five months, nearly six months old. And that forces you to get out and take her for a walk. So that’s a good thing. And plus, it’s a lot of fun.