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Stay sharp: Jeremy Rolleston on the imperative of wellness at work

April 17, 2018
Business strategy

While pursing a successful corporate finance career, Jeremy Rolleston was a high-profile sportsman – including professional rugby, representing Australia in the bobsleigh at two Winter Olympics, and world titles in surf lifesaving. Rolleston has recently founded Active8Me. He spoke to Julian Lorkin for BusinessThink.

An edited transcript of the conversation follows.

BusinessThink: What does Active8Me actually do?

Jeremy Rolleston: Active8Me is a digital fitness and health platform. It's a mobile app on your phone and it helps people keep active and healthy. We have a range of programs across workouts, nutrition, mindset. We connect with wearable technology and put it all together in one convenient app for people so that they can live a healthy, active life.

BusinessThink: And why is wellness so important for business?

Rolleston: I think we all know what it's like in our different ways, shapes and forms. I mean, we're under more pressure – downsized workforces. For us as people, we know we want to keep fit and well. That's why we keep making New Year's resolutions every year to do it.

From a corporate perspective [management] should want to care, and they increasingly care, because that has bottom-line impacts around productivity, absenteeism, around turnover. So the business of wellness and fitness, health and wellness, is really, really important, both from the personal perspective as well as the corporate perspective. And then there are other stakeholders such as insurers and governments that increasingly care about it.

'Wellness is mental wellness as well. Wellness is purpose and a sense of internal thriving'

– JEREMY ROLLESTON

BusinessThink: So, what practical tips do you have for somebody who is working and wants to remain mentally and physically fit?

Rolleston: For me, when I was doing my Olympics, I was always doing that while I was working. It was never separate. So certainly not on that level of training, but for me now, as a 44-year-old just trying to keep fit and well, I think there's a few things.

I always talk about the Monday momentum rule: if you start something off on the Monday, generally you've started the week off well and you're more likely to continue it, whereas if you haven't done something on Monday, you're like, "Ah, you know, I could get into it on Tuesday". So that is a really simple tip, the Monday momentum rule.

I think the biggest changes we can make is to our nutrition. It's super easy. It's not that difficult to eat well. Whether that's just not going for the munchies at 3pm and just having an apple, that's something, or a bunch of nuts. I mean, that's something simple, and then just having a healthy breakfast. These things aren't really that advanced. But again, just putting it practically into everyday life is more difficult.

And I think another one, if we think about what wellness is, we shouldn't just define it as physical health. Wellness is mental wellness as well. Wellness is purpose and a sense of internal thriving. Do you have purpose and meaning in your life? Do you have time for yourself? Do you have time for the things that you care about? Or is it all work, all routine, all emails, all calendar? You know, that's not wellness.

BusinessThink: The health and wellbeing industry is really booming at the moment. But it seems sometimes it's just a bit of a buzzword. Is there a disconnect between what people are saying and what they're doing in business?

Rolleston: Now, that is the key question, isn't it? I think the practicalities are yes, it's definitely growing. Since 2010 it's grown massively. If you include wellness to include a spa market, to include alternative medicine, we're talking about a US$3.7 trillion [global] industry, three times the size of the global pharmaceutical industry.

So that's more than buzz. If we think about the journey, is it buzz?  Well, different people are at different stages of that spectrum as to whether or not it's just the buzzword, like innovation is, as to whether it's being implemented in a workplace. And again, [different] people are on a different end of the spectrum.

I can speak for myself as CEO of Active8Me that corporates are increasingly understanding that this isn't a side thing, that this is an investment in their most important asset, which is their people. The challenge then for them is how do they implement that as part of an actual culture as opposed to it just being an initiative?

'...corporates are increasingly understanding that this isn’t a side thing, that this is an investment in their most important asset, which is their people'

– JEREMY ROLLESTON

If we talk about insurers, we're seeing people and insurers engage their members around health and wellness. I would say at the moment most of it is just customer engagement, so in that sense it is a little bit of a buzzword in engaging their members around what they know their members care about. But if I said, does it actually affect health outcomes in terms of the initiatives? I would say that we're at early stages of that.

So again, there's a spectrum, I think, between government, insurers, corporates. Certainly from a personal perspective, at least in Australia and increasingly in other bits of the world led by the US and Europe, people definitely care about health and wellness and they understand that health is more than physical, and there's this greater appreciation for balance.

BusinessThink: You're an Olympian. What has that taught you?

Rolleston: I think they're sort of separate. In one sense, as an Olympian, you have some really defined sporting goals and it teaches you a whole lot of things around discipline, perseverance, everything that it takes to get to be an Olympian. I mean, it's fostered my love for this amazing body that we have.

I think one thing it has taught me, though, more generally around health and wellness, is that a lot of people take health for granted. And when I think about how my body could move and what I could do, I never want to take that for granted.

And a lot of people in life think that they can buy their health back later in life. So, it's like, "I work really hard, work really hard". At 45, things aren't going as well as they used to and it's like, "Right. Now, how do I get my health back?" It's now high on the priority list.

And that's almost a psyche that we see, and I see that in Asia to an even greater degree, where people take their health for granted and think they can buy it back later in life. So, set in one line, the biggest thing that I learnt as an Olympian is to embrace this amazing body that we have and to not take health and wellness for granted.

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