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Eine Frau und ein Mann sitzen gut gelaunt an einem Bürotisch.
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Jason Goodman/Unsplash

Corporate Health: So that the job doesn't make you sick

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Are sporadic sporting events or the infamous table football game enough for a company to offer good corporate health management? "No", says the World Health Organization (WHO). It calls for comprehensive initiatives for satisfying work and a healthy environment. The DHL Group is a pioneer in the sense of the WHO. At the global logistics company, not only the approximately 594,000 employees, but also customers, the Group and investors benefit from holistic health promotion.

Logistics is a tough job. Every shipment has to arrive on time - around the clock, around the globe. Physical exertion and stress are part of everyday life: whether at the wheel of a truck or in the cockpit of a cargo plane, whether on the night shift in a mail or parcel hub or in order picking in a supply chain warehouse, whether in one of the three global IT data centers or in management at the headquarters in Bonn. The DHL Group has drawn up a Health & Well-Being Policy to ensure that employees' health does not fall by the wayside. The Group's voluntary commitment recently won the German Corporate Health Award 2023, with the jury praising, among other things, excellent structures and processes in occupational health and safety and occupational medicine, health communication, demographic management and target group-specific offers.

Corporate health means risk prevention

For DHL, however, health management is not an end in itself. On the contrary. It contributes to risk management, which the Group uses to protect itself against risks to its business operations. "Health issues are among the biggest risks worldwide," says Dr. Andreas Tautz, Chief Medical Officer of DHL Group. These can be pandemics, such as the recent coronavirus. But even more so, everyday aches and pains can reduce economic success. After all, it is not possible to provide a good quality of service if there is a massive sickness rate, a lack of productivity among the workforce or a high number of accidents. The issue is so important at DHL that Dr. Tautz reports regularly to the Executive Board.

Health as a success factor

"We connect people and improve lives with our services. The business is a people business. Our Group lives from its many employees," says Dr. Tautz. Health is a success factor - especially for a global company that defines itself as a quality leader in the tough logistics competition. This is also increasingly true in the battle for the best specialists. A top employer today needs exemplary health management in order to score points with young talent and retain older employees.

Exercise for a healthy back: prevention is an important element of health promotion at DHL Group.
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Well-being for body, mind and social life

But what does health include? As the Group's Chief Medical Officer, Dr. Andreas Tautz believes that DHL Group is on the same wavelength as the WHO: it defines health as a state of comprehensive physical, mental and social well-being - and not just the absence of illness. The workplace, where we spend a large part of our day and therefore our lives, plays a very important role in this. Satisfying work and a well-designed workplace are important factors for everyone to stay healthy. Conversely, poor working conditions are a risk. "The workplace is one of the biggest prevention platforms. After all, this is where we reach 60 percent of the population," says the Chief Medical Officer.

Dr. Andreas Tautz, Chief Medical Officer of the DHL Group
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In focus: mental health and sleep

The challenges for occupational physicians are changing. In logistics with a lot of physical work, diseases of the musculoskeletal system are common, as are chronic civilization diseases of the cardiovascular system, metabolism and infections. However, mental health and topics such as healthy sleep are increasingly coming into focus. Researchers have shown that mental stress, including burnout, can significantly impair a company's productivity.

Satisfaction makes you more productive

"The secrets of team productivity have long been decoded," says the occupational physician. "The main factors are a meaningful, achievable task and a strong team in which the members can be authentic, trust each other, develop a high level of self-esteem and experience respect and appreciation from managers and the company." Any company that wants to cover up a deficiency in the crucial feel-good factors with technical safety measures or superficial health and sports programs alone is acting counterproductively and will fail. This is scientifically proven.

Genuine team spirit and meaningful tasks promote productivity - scientifically proven.
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Speaking of science: DHL Group cooperates with the WHO, the World Economic Forum, universities, research institutions, experts and other partners from the health sector in order to generate objective decision-making criteria and keep its finger on the pulse in the area of corporate health, explains Dr. Andreas Tautz. He himself is a board member of the Scientific Society of Occupational Medicine and Environmental Medicine.

Special programs reach blue collar teams

While office employees are usually more open to health communication, people from the operational level tend to react skeptically to offers of support. The DHL Group has therefore carried out projects to evaluate how blue collar teams, as the largest part of the workforce, can be successfully addressed.

Two examples:

  • Training programs: With its Certified program, DHL qualifies employees without educational or vocational qualifications who do a good job in their operational tasks. By 2025, 80 percent of all employees worldwide are to complete this training, obtain their certificate, receive recognition and be able to perform their tasks to a better standard.
  • Mediation: In Germany, company doctors have coached teams whose quality performance was well below average. What is disruptive, what is a burden? Trust was built up in intensive discussions, all problems were gradually brought to the table in emotional debates, solutions were developed and implemented. After this intervention, quality improved significantly, employees were off sick less often and staff turnover and dismissals fell.

Whether Germany or China: the health issues are similar

Health management has a long tradition in the German DHL organization. As early as 1835, the first doctor was employed by Deutsche Post in Germany, which developed into today's DHL Group with the Post & Parcel division. Deutsche Post has had a health management system in place since 1997, which was rolled out internationally as the Group grew in 2005 and supplemented by many good initiatives from the merged companies. Today, in Germany alone, 200 doctors and medical assistants in 35 company medical practices provide over 110,000 health measures for 220,000 employees every year.

Internationally, the DHL Group, which is active in 220 countries and territories around the world, adapts its health and occupational safety programs to the respective country standards - and in some cases sets local priorities. For example, there has long been a focus on HIV prevention in individual countries. When many pregnancy complications arose in Brazil, a program was developed to support expectant mothers. In Turkey, a welcome-back program was set up for young mothers and fathers. However, the differences are smaller than generally assumed, explains Dr. Andreas Tautz: "If we just look at Germany and China, the priorities for health issues are very similar." At DHL in China, for example, aspects such as mental health and restful sleep were also addressed at a very early stage.

Digitalization creates movement

Healthy eating, relaxation and sleep, sport and exercise in everyday life - health management topics like these are credibly received by employees. Also because the DHL Group does not shy away from digital offers. "Many people are simply enthusiastic about sport," says Dr. Andreas Tautz. That's why the Group has launched a fitness app in German and English that promotes exercise under professional guidance. The Chief Medical Officer takes this recipe to heart himself. Whenever he has an appointment, Andreas Tautz jogs from his practice to the Group headquarters and back. And since team sports were not possible during Corona, DHL quickly rolled out an online program that brought jogging, hiking or cycling individuals together to form a motivating sports community. Another app offered guided meditations and music on the topics of stress reduction, health, sleep promotion, productivity and relaxation. Such digital services are to be expanded further.

Working together promotes the feel-good factor: at DHL Volunteer Day, DHL teams get involved in social or ecological projects.
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Local sports initiatives around the world

Of all the local sports initiatives throughout the DHL world that have been established to complement health management, one can be identified as the leader: the Deutsche Post Fan Club. For almost 15 years, this program between Corporate Health and Employer Branding has been bringing together teams in soccer, running, hiking and cycling, including both ambitious athletes and hobbyists. In addition to healthy exercise, the focus is on team building and fun - especially as more and more offers are being made outside of traditional sports activities, such as soapbox building or healthy cooking as well as eSports and virtual sports. "I've been supporting FC for many years, I play soccer and also take part in one or two events. It's great to meet colleagues outside of work and be active as a team," says Jürgen Finger from the Nuremberg Operations branch, raving about the fan club. "The mix of activities is special. For example, the soccer tournament is firmly established here. But we also try out new formats such as on-site fitness workouts together with our colleagues."