Date of the interview
Photo credit: Hellmann
You were enrolled as the 35th student at Rhine-Waal University of Applied Sciences. What motivated you to study at the newly founded University?
Among the many motivating aspects, one of the greatest was the space of possibilities the newly founded University opened up to us, like a blank slate it allowed us to realize our own visions and ideas. My work as a student tutor and representative of the student body of my degree program gave me the opportunity to closely collaborate with my fellow students and actually make a difference. We were, for example, able to provide the preparatory legal and organizational work which eventually paved the way to establishing the Student Parliament and the General Students’ Committee (AStA). Initiating the introductory weeks for first semester students was another of these projects. The introductory events were a perfect way for newly arrived students to easily form a wide network of contacts, many of them friendships lasting to this day.
To begin your studies as one of only 30 students enrolled in our degree program was another highly motivating circumstance for many of us. It enabled close contact with the lecturers and professors which in turn evoked a sense of familiarity not unlike past school days. From the very beginning, the relaxed informality of this classroom atmosphere encouraged lively discussions and this kind of involvement made it much easier to learn the material.
For me personally, an additional motivation was the fact that the university was founded virtually around the corner from where I grew up in Xanten on the Lower Rhine. That way, I could benefit from meeting new people during my studies and at the same time stay in touch with my close friends at home.
What were your next steps after successfully graduating in 2013?
After graduating in 2013, I completed an internship in the field of Occupational Health Management at the management consultancy Claudia Effertz Consult in Darmstadt which lasted several months. Next to gaining insight into a number of different large companies and health insurances, I prepared healthcare trade fairs, developed concepts for preventive care and health promotion, and together with the managing directors and company representatives I helped launch the implementation of Workplace Health Promotion programs in the respective company structures.
Following this internship, I took up my current position as a company health manager with Hellmann Worldwide Logistics in Osnabrück. Together with representatives and experts of the company, employing almost 4,500 employees in more than 40 branches all over Germany, I am now responsible for the health of my colleagues.
You’re currently working as a health manager at the company Hellmann Logistics. Can you tell us more about your daily tasks and the importance of your job for the company?
My work as a company’s health manager includes a great variety of tasks. For any strategic and organizational measures, I typically start out with creating health analyzes with regard to departments, branch offices and the entire company.
On the basis of the analyzed data the next strategic steps are then jointly determine by the management, executives, the personnel department and the works council. In recent years, these have been, for example, the re-assessment of risk factors for work-related mental stress, the introduction and organization of a Workplace Integration Management, and the establishment and expansion of a professional education program for executives on the subject of "healthy leadership".
As part of my daily work, I, for instance, organize the formation of steering committees responsible for the implementation of health programs at each company branch. Together with the committee members (including employees, executives, company physicians, workplace health and safety specialists) we develop health-promoting measures for the company and employees, based on an accompanying health analysis. Depending on the results of the analysis, these may include preventive care and health promotion measures, but also structural adjustments such as educational programs for executives or new ergonomic standards for supplies. In order to put these measures into practice, we look for suitable service providers, plan the implementation at a branch office, advertise the strategic goals and work on sparking our colleagues’ interest for the program.
Finally we evaluate the results of the measures taken, and if they prove to be successful we aim to implement them into the daily work routine on all levels. What makes this job so exciting are the new challenges each company branch poses, as each is made up of unique individuals, their needs and range of duties.
Another duty of mine is the organization of the educational programs for multipliers (health representatives). These are committed employees and executives who have integrate health awareness into their everyday work life, thus serving as examples to others.
As a health manager, I also serve as the employees’ primary contact person for various inquiries. My most fascinating task related to these inquiries was the scientific evaluation of whether office dogs would actually have a positive influence on the workplace atmosphere. It turned out that they actually do, as petting dogs causes the body to release the hormone oxytocin, a ‘feel-good’ hormone which helps lower the levels of the stress hormones insulin and cortisol. Unfortunately and sadly, I had to decide against it. Due to our open space offices the possibilities of allergies and fear of dogs had to be taken into consideration, in addition to the lack of places to walk the dog in the immediate vicinity of the workplace. Dealing with difficult decisions is also part of my daily work.
What has been a special highlight in your job that you will likely remember for a long time?
After working at the company for three years I am glad to say there are many highlights that come to mind. There are, for example, the introduction of nationwide purchasing standards, the introduction and ongoing development of our Workplace Integration Management or the improved risk assessment of work-related mental stress factors.
But I am particularly happy about of a very recent event. Following my idea to inspire our trainees to engage in sports and teambuilding, 14 volunteer trainees were registered for a rather challenging “obstacle run” in Schüttdorf called “Höllenlauf” (Hell Race). Ten weeks of super tough training preceded the run, including boot camp fitness training, swimming, running and bouldering. During training, particularly our chubbier trainee participants impressed me, as they were the ones who trained the hardest and attended training regularly.
On the day of the Höllenlauf, all trainees successfully completed the obstacle course, overcoming challenges like tree trunk and hill climbing, swimming through a mud pit and shooting arrows. The most pleasing aspect was to see how the participants watched out for each other during the race, and how they crossed the finish line as a team in the end. This made me immensely proud of them and it also showed me that all the preparatory work, the team building efforts and the impressive perseverance and commitment of both male and female trainees had paid off.
Which advice can you give to current and prospective students based on your experience?
My biggest advice to students – try and use every opportunity to gain practical insight into your desired profession, not least by completing as many internships as possible over the course of your studies, as well as after graduating. You’ll have a chance to learn how to easily cope with mistakes at an early stage, and in effect you will definitely make less later on, allowing you to focus on the important challenges and projects. It will make it much easier to identify the needs and motivations of the many stakeholders you’ll work with at a company and ultimately pave your way to professional success.
Please finish the following sentence: For me, Rhine-Waal University of Applied Sciences…
… provided a great time, giving me the opportunity to learn a lot about myself as a person and about my goals and strengths.