How does this sound - start work one hour later if you use that hour to exercise. Pretty radical eh? Well there are yachts that offer this to their crew - with great results. I asked Captain Benjamin Craig-Cameron to tell us more about how it works in practice.
How does your crew fitness plan work?
The idea is that if you help to promote a healthy approach to crew life, you will see a change in outlook and productivity from the crew.
In order to do this, I have an onboard policy that if a crew member wants to benefit from having an hour during the working day to exercise, they can start work at 09.00. The only rule is is that they must be exercising by 07.45 and actually exercising! It doesn’t matter what form of exercise they do.
I also make allowances for crew who want to finish early in order to train in daylight/ go to classes.
What benefits have you seen?
The benefits are huge! I am a firm believer in the analogy of “healthy body = healthy mind”, which translates directly into a more positive crew. Consequently, you see an increase in productivity and positive attitude in the work place.
Picture two different crew members:
The “party yachtie” - life and soul of the party, drinking, smoking etc…
The “sporty yachtie” - fit, healthy and fun to be around
Type one will generally turn up to work complaining, feeling hungover, always tired etc. They take a ton of coffee to get going and suddenly start to feel alive around 5pm. Most of the day is spent feeling sluggish, and generally not focused on the job. Typically, their glass is always half empty. Yes... I was that person for a long time!
Type two will get up early, go exercise, eat healthily and generally make the most of the day. Their day is spent feeling positive, focused and productive.
Additionally, you also see an increase in genuine crew bonding, physical and mental strength as well as productivity.
Is it only during ship yard periods?
As far as possible, the plan is not only for periods of stand-by time, but when the yacht is operational as well. I actively encourage crew to use their breaks (on charter) to exercise and in most cases, guests will often ask to join a crew member who is going for a walk/ run or swim once they’ve seen them doing this. I also tell guests that if they want to join me for a ride/ swim or run, I’d love them to. The response has yet to be negative.
I think Captains, have, for far too long, tried to avoid this kind of interaction between crew and guests, but if done in the right way, it can enhance the guests’ time on board. In addition to this, if a crew member wants to go ashore to go for a run/ walk/ ride etc, then as long as it doesn’t interfere with the operation of the yacht, then why not?!
Has it made a difference to the kind of crew you attract when recruiting?
I now only tend to employ crew who are into some kind of fitness - I just find them far more motivated and more “team players” than those who aren’t.
Was it hard to get the yacht owner and/or the management company to agree to the idea?
No. Only one Owner commented “how can you possibly be a triathlete and a Captain at the same time?” Funnily enough, he was the Owner which I spent the least time of my career working for!
Most Owners see the positive side to my approach, so long as it doesn’t affect the operation of the yacht.
What advice would you give to other Captains who are looking to implement something similar? What lessons have you learnt?
For any Captain looking to implement this, I’d say “go for it”! I am seeing more and more crew wanting to lead a healthy lifestyle and we, the Captains, should be encouraging this.
Employ a chef who wants to cook healthy food for the crew as the diet aspect is important as well. Replace the snacks in the naughty cupboard with healthy choices, cut down the sugar intake and watch the benefits!
For those who see this as a way for a crew member to “slack off” - I’d say give it a go. Watch the shift in mental approach amongst the crew and see how this translates into a more positive and productive team on board. I have yet to “discover” a crew member abuse the system, but I have seen many crew become healthier, fitter and more positive people as a result.