Health & Safety

Keeping your core asset in shape

By Gian Schiava

July 2019

An efficient warehouse needs fit warehouse workers

Modern materials handling plays an ever-growing role within logistics operations, which in turn are essential for company profitability. Warehouses are being upgraded and modernised to meet delivery deadlines and keep the business competitive, but let’s not overlook one particularly vital element. Gian Schiava finds out how some companies look beyond equipment, process and procedural efficiency to focus also on keeping their core asset in top shape: their employees.

To be frank, companies have ample opportunity to give their forklift users or warehouse employees equipment that offers great ergonomics. Drivers in the yard can be more productive thanks to fully enclosed cabins, protecting them from weather conditions, and effort-free controls like fingertip levers. But inside there are even more operator-friendly developments available.

Order picker trucks minimise the necessity of bending, reaching or climbing with, for example, rising platforms. Highly automated facilities even bring goods to the picker and practically eliminate those endless walks through the warehouse. Futuristic aids like augmented reality glasses and exoskeletons (read Eureka 24) are set to help us even further.

Whilst equipment has made great progress in minimising effort, the market and consumer behaviour have done exactly the opposite. Pressure in the warehouse is higher than ever before, and smart managers are now having to make sure they do more than just create the right environment for their people. They are developing methods and incentive programmes to keep everybody fit, happy and healthy. We have  found a few great examples from which to gain inspiration and we have even discovered a real warehouse workers’ diet!


Care for employees must go beyond providing good working conditions.

The chocolate challenge

Tony’s Chocolonely has become, in just a few decades, one of the world’s most renowned brands in chocolate. The company has a very explicit aim for its product (to be100 % slave free and support fair trade), along with a mission statement that sounds very promising: ‘Crazy about chocolate, serious about people’. The business does more than most to offer its employees a stimulating and supporting environment.

However, the company also pays a lot of attention to the vitality of employees. Given that the company’s chocolate product is not exactly the healthiest of foods, and that a lot of it is eaten by staff, Tony’s Chocolonely has come up with a Stay on Weight Bonus. If an employee’s weight has not increased in a year, he or she will receive a small, symbolic bonus. The incentive is completely based on trust: people don’t have to stand on scales as proof.

It is designed as a signal that it’s important to pay attention to your health. In addition, employees can participate in weekly boot camps, as well as yoga classes, and they can even claim expenses for their sport sneakers once a year.

According to Kristel Moedt, Head of People and Culture, “We also think it is important that employees relax. We make sure that everyone takes at least 28 vacation days a year. And more is certainly allowed.” (source: PW)


Crazy about chocolate - serious about people. Image credit: ©2019 Tony’s Chocolonely Ltd

Planking for better care

If hospital employees are healthier, they are better able to offer optimal patient care. With this in mind, the Reinier de Graaf Hospital in Delft, the Netherlands, organised a Planking Challenge earlier this year. It challenged staff to do this fitness exercise every day for two weeks, preferably with as many colleagues as possible per team or department.

To keep the initiative in people’s minds, workers could upload original planking photos digitally. They did this massively; they even shared pictures when they were on holidays. “The Planking Challenge not only ensures vitality among employees, but also builds team spirit,” according the hospital. (source: Logistiek)

An array of health services at logistics providers

It is quite common to find well-structured health programmes at companies where logistics are at the core: the 3PL logistics services providers. PKT Logistics Group, for example, offers yoga classes, gym programme discounts, Zumba lessons and weight loss programmes. Employees can declare their workout hours to enjoy benefits like dedicated parking spaces or monthly meal allowances!

Nike offers its workers at the European Logistics Campus a gym, an indoor court, an outdoor football pitch, tennis, volleyball and basketball courts, and an athletics track. Employees can also make use of an on-site personal trainer. These are just two examples, but many other 3PL companies understand that top performance in logistics requires healthy workers. So why not follow their example?

The warehouse workers’ diet

Randstad, a global leader in the HR services industry, recognises that warehouse employees are now working in a fast-paced environment. This employer believes it’s important for warehouse workers who do physical jobs to eat well. It lists four areas to focus on when developing a healthier diet:

1. Breakfast of champions. Randstad suggests starting with cereals for the fibre and eating a peanut butter and jelly sandwich or mixing yogurt with granola or fruit.

2. Think logistics. Here the magic words are meal prepping and bringing along ready-to-go items like bananas, salads in Tupperware boxes, hard-boiled eggs, yogurts or diced fruits.

3. Hydration. Hard work makes you sweat, so you obviously need to stay hydrated. Consider sport drinks with minerals like sodium, calcium, chloride, magnesium, phosphorus and potassium, or just stick to… water.

4. Avoid added sugars. (Source: Randstad USA)


A good diet is essential to performance and vitality.

Retention becomes key

The boom in e-commerce has led many companies to augment, optimise or strengthen their logistics activity. The other side of that coin is that in many European countries it is becoming increasingly difficult to find qualified employees. The increased digitalisation also means that existing workers have to upgrade their IT skills.

For quite a while now, there has been a battle for talent. Along with the usual compensations, like paid holidays, a decent wage and health insurance, companies must become creative in augmenting their attractiveness. For sure, training and talent development are important, but now those should be topped up with ‘happiness-enhancing’ programmes. Besides, if you offer great fitness programmes, you also save on sickness expenses – which is a double gain.


Workers need relief from the fast pace and high pressure of today’s warehouses.

A healthy mind in a healthy body

Cat® Lift Trucks is part of a large global family whose members work in different countries with different cultures. Something they all have in common is that each person has just one body and one mind – and they need to take good care of it. The organisation is keen to help employees develop and maintain healthy lifestyles – and drop any unhealthy or risky habits.

In the Netherlands, for instance, initiatives include health awareness training, weekly stretching and meditation sessions, and coaching for keen runners. Workers at Rocla Solutions, Finland’s Cat lift truck dealer, are provided with a gym for use during breaks, after work and at weekends, with exercise advice from a professional trainer. Body composition analysis is available to encourage staff to monitor and reduce their fat levels. A wellbeing pilot programme is studying the effects of a tailored exercise and diet programme on three participants – with amazing results so far.