Emma Gruenbaum, Head of Business Improvement and Transformation at Wates Construction Group, talks about how a wellbeing and charity initiative for colleagues turned into so much more.
In the middle of a rather miserable January my boss Mark Tant tasked me to organise an outdoor challenge to be held across the month of February.
The challenge was for us to collectively walk from the North Pole to the South Pole during the month of February 12,440 miles in total. The aim was threefold, to primarily provide some fun relief from the punishingly hard winter lockdown; to inspire some healthier habits and promote positive wellbeing and climate messages; and finally to raise some desperately needed funds for our corporate charity partners The Conservation Volunteers (TCV).
With no time to lose I found the United Heroes platform and with some great support we launched our first Group-wide virtual charity challenge on 22 January. Within the week we had 330 colleagues signed up by way of a donation to fundraise for TCV, a wonderful charity which works across the UK creating and connecting communities with green spaces.
From previous experience I knew our fabulous team would embrace the challenge and together we’d reach the Pole to Pole mileage target. But what I didn’t anticipate was how it would give us a huge boost of energy and bring us closer together as a team, particularly when so many of us are working remotely. The good-humoured competitive banter started immediately with everyone checking out the leader board and taking on sub-challenges to catch up and overtake colleagues. I’ve not been in a meeting all month that hasn’t started with Pole to Pole chat or been done off laptop and on an earpiece while out on the hoof!
Our aim was to collectively walk or run 12,440 miles, but we’ve actually ended up walking a staggering 43,149 miles – equivalent to 1,653 marathons, averaging 130 miles each! Our amazing people walked, ran and hiked in all conditions, including floods, mud, snow and sub-zero temperatures. We took family, loved ones, pets or sometimes just ourselves off to enjoy the great outdoors or even clock up steps around our sites while raising money for an amazing cause
We also smashed our fundraising goal, thanks to our team’s incredible generosity and efforts, raising over £25,000 for TCV when we include the match funding from Wates Giving, our charitable arm. This money is going to make a huge difference for TCV whose work to improve the environment and people’s health and wellbeing is needed now more than ever.
I’m so proud of this effort as well as the dedication and commitment from everyone involved. The challenge has certainly delivered on all counts and brightened up our meetings and social media accounts. I’ll miss the daily glimpse into my friends and colleagues’ lives as they capture their daily walk or run, along with the brilliant banter and am already planning a virtual site to site cycle race using the United Heroes app again, as who wouldn’t want some more of this excellent tonic?!
After the year we’ve had as a nation handling the pandemic, this has been a most welcome distraction and has left us all healthier, happier and even closer as a team. When we work together and support one another we are stronger and the Pole to Pole challenge has really epitomised this.
Thanks once again to all of our donors and for everyone that has embraced this challenge and smashed it. On to the next one!