P&O Ferries expands wellbeing programme pilot after crew record 97.2kg weight loss

P&O Ferries

Ferry operator P&O Ferries has rolled out its wellbeing programme pilot across five of its ships after an initial three-month trial aboard one ship saw 52 crew employees lose 97.2kg of weight, in part due to nutrition interventions.

The programme was provided by SuperWellness and launched in May 2017. The ship’s absence figures improved from approximately 7% to 0.07% during the trial, and the initiative led to increased energy and concentration among the crew.

P&O Ferries, which has 2,900 employees, trialled the wellbeing programme on The Pride of Burgundy, which sails the Dover-Calais route.

Crew underwent a body composition test and received education and coaching from wellness experts, while The Pride of Burgundy ferried passengers. The educational talks covered eating to lose weight and gain energy, sleep better and reduce stress and anxiety, as well as healthy eating choices and portion sizes.

Crew members received a one-to-one session with a wellness coach to set personalised nutrition and fitness goals and map a route to achieve them. In addition, SuperWellness advised the ship’s chefs and employees on healthy recipes.

Delivering the programme required some creative thinking and strict planning from P&O Ferries to accommodate being at sea. Amanda Miller, head of HR fleet at P&O Ferries, explains: “We piloted it on just one vessel, because the challenge had never been done on a ship before and [in] a seafaring environment. We had a few different challenges to face that [would not occur] if [an employer] were running the programme ashore, such as crew living on board for a week at a time and working 12-hour shifts.”

Results, analysed across eight key factors, revealed that energy improved by 24% on average across all participants at the end of the pilot period, participants reported an improvement to sleep quality by nearly 20%, while stress levels reduced by 16%. In addition, concentration levels improved by nearly 20%. Finally, the results showed participating employees lost 77.5kg of fat and 91 years in metabolic age.

P&O Ferries expanded the wellbeing programme pilot to the remaining five ships on the Dover-Calais route in February 2018, with an average of 45 to 55 crew members out of 70 on each watch signing up.

Employees heard about the programme via the organisation’s internal communications function, and by word of mouth via health and wellbeing champions based at each port and on each ship.

The nutrition-centred programme forms part of P&O Ferries’ overall health and wellbeing strategy, which also includes the publication of a health and wellbeing magazine, featuring advice on nutrition, health and fitness. In addition, its chefs have been sent on a food champion nutrition course, sponsored by the National Health Service (NHS), in order to gain Association of Nutrition level three qualifications. Employees have access to full health checks too.

Nutrition is a particular focus for P&O Ferries because staff require a medical to work at sea. Miller notes that the organisation had seen increasing issues around obesity and fitness levels for seafaring staff.

“Nutrition is part of our wider health and wellbeing strategy and it goes hand in hand with our board commitments to lead the industry and [set] standards for best practice in health and wellbeing,” Miller says. “We operate in a highly regulated industry where we’re constantly focusing on safety and compliance, so it’s essential that our people are fit and healthy and able to take [on] the work they’re required to do.

“On the other hand, we believe encouraging our people to take ownership for their own health through initiatives such as [the] SuperWellness challenge empowers them to make healthier choices in their own life.”