What was the inspiration behind Tour de Office?
Tour de Office was the brainchild of Tudor Marsden-Huggins, MD of Employment Office – recruitment marketing organisation. Initially, Tudor simply wanted to create a team building and corporate social responsibility activity for his staff. I was thrilled to be tasked with getting the event off the ground and very quickly realised that there was a lot of interest in corporate wellness in other workplaces. We were definitely seeing a shift away from the traditional office environment where workers sit behind a desk for 8+ hours per day with a 30 minute break for lunch. As I learned, the health risks associated with this type of working day are really scary. It was apparent that there was a need for Tour de Office style events within businesses and it meant the event expanded rapidly in those first few years. Suddenly, we were using our learnings to educate employers and their employees about the importance of movement during the working day and how achievable it is. The benefits were tangible, by encouraging staff to engage in more activity there were less sick days, higher productivity, better engagement and retention.
Tudor is a very keen cyclist and it was his first preference for a fitness style event. It made a lot of sense as it is something anyone can participate in despite age or fitness levels. Cycling is definitely on trend, with more corporates entering cycling challenges than Golf tournaments. It had to be something that people could challenge themselves with so they could have fun and success with the fundraising side of the event also. But above all, it had to be fun.
What made you take the event indoors on stationary bikes?
We wanted to bring the event to the people. Have you ever been to a marathon or cycling event? Typically the experience involves getting up at 4am, driving, struggling to find a park and hiking to the start line. And all of this happens on a weekend where most people have other commitments. We wanted to remove any and all excuses and ensure everyone can have a go – we’ve even had a paraplegic cycle in the last few events using a hand cycle.
How has the event changed since it first launched in 2011?
We went from just the one organisation in 2011 and were joined by two more in 2012 – now we have over 20 organisations raising over $200K per year. The technology has come a long way too, we track everyone’s kms during their ride and stream it live to the event site so online audiences can see exactly what’s happening in real time. It means riders can be watched and supported by friends and family all over the world.
What sort of trends are we seeing in healthy workplaces today that weren’t common 5 years ago?
The focus definitely seems to be on breaking up the day and getting people away from sitting at a desk. We’ve seen stand-up desks become increasingly popular in offices all over Australia, with some companies even offering treadmill desks. Onsite gyms started popping up about a decade ago and were seen as a nice perk but with a renewed focus on corporate wellness, they are being better utilised today – we see these spaces used to host a range of activities from bootcamp challenges to yoga. More and more organisations are also offering healthy food choices, gone are the vending machines filled with chips and soft drink. It is common to see company teams entering a range of events from triathlons to obstacle challenges – the team bonding along with the training involved is great for health and engagement. Many companies now offer more flexible work options – hot desking and working from home can provide better work-life balance and by not commuting, staff can often fit more in their day, allowing them to exercise when and where it suits them.
How do you recommend participating organisations encourage staff participation?
They can really adapt the event to suit their company culture. If they want to go for themed days and offer prizes, or set up interdepartmental challenges, senior manager ride-offs, it’s all up to them. The event is very flexible and allows for different dates, timeslots, multiple bikes and individual or team performances. Typically each organisation nominates an event champion who recruits riders and is our contact onsite. We work with them and provide everything from email templates to fundraising coaching and marketing material. We recommend they introduce staff to the charity they are supporting via a Breakfast or similar event so they are aware of where the money raised will go.
Why add a fundraising component?
As we developed the event app from scratch, we were able to build into our technology the opportunity for Corporates to donate to a charity of their choice on a peer to peer basis. We liked the extra flexibility and incentive this offered participants and it allowed companies to meet philanthropy objectives at the same time.
Are you aligned with a particular charity or cause area being a health-related event?
It is really important to us to remain neutral. There are so many worthy and important causes out there and many corporates already have existing relationships with a charity they choose to support on a regular basis. We obviously want to encourage participation rather than creating obstacles for organisations to get involved. It’s a greater incentive for riders to have a go if you get to ride for a charity that you love and we know many of our corporates will let staff vote on the cause to support.
What goals are you hoping to achieve with Tour de Office in the future?
We have raised more than half a million dollars to date for a range of Australian charities and seen thousands of employees get out of their chairs and onto a bike. Each year we raise our targets and we are now hoping to crack the $Million raised. It would mean more effort, more riders, more people understanding the dangers of a sedentary lifestyle and more money raised for very worthy causes. We can’t say when, but we are confident we are not too far away from achieving that milestone and that will be amazing!