Scania’s sporting facilities keep workers on their toes

Built in the middle of a green pasture a half-hour's drive from Stockholm, Scania's Health Care Centre fans out over 4,400 square metres, offering employees everything they could ever need to get in shape.

The main recreation centre is available for the heavy truck manufacturer’s 9,000 employees in Soedertälje to use free of charge seven days a week, as well as the neighbouring football pitch and ice hockey rink.

Inside they have access to a gym, pool, boxing ring, aerobics and spinning rooms. Families also have access to the facilities for just 300 kronor ($50) a year.

“For me, it’s perfect. I have three children aged one, five and seven. When I leave the office I have no time at all for me so to have the opportunity to work out during my lunchtime … is a luxury,” says Petra Larsson, a 38-year-old who works in the engineering department.

“It’s also a benefit for the company,” she says as she continues a set of sit-ups.

“We not only feel better and … are more efficient after a good workout but we (also) meet colleagues here so the relationships become more intimate, more friendly. When we go back to work we are all more relaxed,” she adds.

A few steps away, a group of five people is getting ready for a power walk in the surrounding forest with a professional coach. “It’s good for motivation,” says Peter Karlsson, 23.

It’s 12:30 pm and employees are arriving in droves from Scania’s various sites on free shuttle buses.

“Sorry I have no time to talk, I have to go to the swimming pool for my water aerobics,” says a slender blonde woman as she rushes past.

Lisa Sandebera, a 28-year-old health coach, explains that the sporting centre itself employs some 60 people and also offers a health training programme to four groups a year for a six-week session.

The aim is to encourage employees who are on part- or full-time sick leave to return to work with the help of doctors and a psychologist.

Scania says it takes its employees’ health and well-being seriously, with the head of human resources Stefan Persson going so far as to call it a “philosophy.”

Employees are pampered in a bid to keep them healthy, which in turn reduces sick leave — which in Sweden is almost twice that of the European average — and thereby increases the company’s productivity.

Persson says there is no doubt that taking care of employees’ health reduces absenteeism.

In 1990, Scania’s absenteeism rate hovered around 10 percent and staff turnover was around 20 to 25 percent. Today, those figures are 4.1 percent and 5 to 7 percent respectively.

“We don’t talk about sickness or absenteeism but healthy attendance. This is a much more positive approach,” he says, adding that Scania’s target was 97 percent attendance.

Scania is also trying out new concepts, offering classes with life coaches and music therapy among others.

Masseurs are even brought into the workplace to help employees with neck and back pain or other muscle complaints, and while employees have to pay the relatively low price of 380 kronor ($62) some do get reimbursed if the treatment is approved by their manager.

AFP’s Delphine Touitou

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