The CPB Contractors staff delivering the Waikeria Prison Development in New Zealand come from more than 25 different countries. The COVID border closures have meant that, for the past two years, there has been no opportunity for them to return home.
Well-being is important and some workers on the project say they have experienced feelings of loneliness and isolation. With research supporting a strong link between mental and physical health, the Social Committee decided to hold a COVID-safe physical challenge called the “Virtual Walk.”
The Virtual Walk follows the route of Te Araroa – New Zealand’s Trail – a continuous 3,600 km walking track from Cape Reinga in the north, to Bluff in the south.
All staff were randomly divided into five teams, asked to download a pedometer app to their phone and track steps taken throughout the day, both at work and at home. Reporting steps is easy: team members simply submit a screenshot of their step count to their Team Leader.
The Virtual Walk suits most staff, as workers onsite were already doing plenty of steps and office staff have an incentive to increase their physical activity. Many have already reported benefits to their physical and mental health. Even those in isolation as COVID contacts can participate in the event.
The Virtual Walk created the opportunity to enjoy a ‘virtual tour’ of Aotearoa’s outstanding natural beauty. Team Leaders are issuing area updates as the teams embark on the next leg of their journeys.
Calum McFarlane, of Team 4 Totara, said:
“Managing the Totara team has been a rewarding experience. I've enjoyed the daily contact with my team members and learning about how they've achieved their step count, as well as getting to know them as individuals. The banter and engagement have brought a fun social aspect to the project, and I look forward to our next challenge. GO TOTARA!!”
Almost all staff are actively participating and communication within the workplace has increased, with the Virtual Walk being a frequent topic of conversation and a source of healthy competition between the five teams.
Currently, the teams are spread across the North Island (Te Ika a Maui) of Aotearoa New Zealand. The teams range from Auckland’s North Shore down to the Timber Trail (North of Taumarunui).
With teams submitting combined steps of up to 150 km a day, it will likely only take another couple of weeks for the winner of the challenge to be decided.