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Professor Feldhaus, how did you get to Continental?
My journey has been colorful. Let me give you a quick summary. After high school, I became a carpenter and did my civilian service working in the carpentry trade for 20 months. I still regard this time as essential, especially for my later work as an occupational physician. But after five years in the craft, instead of getting a master’s certificate, I pursued my second passion: medicine. After studying medicine in Münster and Zürich, I spent my residency and senior physician years in the university hospitals of Münster, Heidelberg and Essen in the areas of orthopedics and occupational medicine. After almost 17 years as Chief Medical Officer of the RWE Group based in Essen, I have now been working for Continental for more than a year as head of Corporate Safety & Health. Especially safety was the main reason for my decision to switch to Continental, followed by the field of ergonomy and hazardous substances management (=HSM). The bundling of exactly these four topics allow a concerted approach. At this point, Continental has a unique feature in my opinion, as all the topics related to health are concentrated here.
What challenges are you facing in your field?
Well as I just mentioned the bundling of those four topics, this indeed is the biggest challenge I have to deal with! Because, due to history, the responsibilities concerning those issues have been dealt with differently over the 400 locations. Often, we seem to know the decentral contact persons better than the colleagues on site. Many times, the topic responsibles on site don’t really know each other. In addition, we grew differently across the world, and besides all that, this company is concentrating so many different predecessor companies with all their different business cultures. So we basically need to bring people together and join ideas and forces!
What has your department contributed to the company’s success?
With preventive medicine, we contribute to ensuring that people stay healthy and can do their jobs as effectively as possible. That applies physically as well as mentally – over a whole professional lifetime! We know that by investing in preventive measures, we will save ourselves significantly more money for the treatment of diseases. In other words, we are making a clearly quantifiable contribution to the company’s success. Especially since illness is not absolute, but relative. It’s not only about reducing absence due to illness and keeping it as low as possible, but also enabling the employees in the workplace to do their jobs with peak physical and mental health on a daily basis.
What do you think are the biggest changes or improvements in the recent months?
I feel that there is great willingness to continue developing the culture of health and safety among all those involved. Compared with my early days, I can even feel a real sense of optimism. Society’s growing interest in health issues and the debate of a healthy work environment as well as key words like work-life-balance or work-life-integration have long now reached Continental, too. That way our work and concerted approach land on fertile soil. This is by no means always the case! Because the topics had a moderate image in the past. Industrial safety has been associated with inspection and supervision rather than appreciation and success. Health has first and foremost been linked with illness and downtime. This is where change is starting to happen. Both health and safety topics are not a nuisance in the company, but fit in well with other corporate goals. And they also fit our four values: Trust, Passion To Win, Freedom To Act and For One Another!
As Head of Corporate Safety & Health, how does a typical work day look like?
It’s all about convincing and conducting! So you can imagine that I rarely get to be alone on my desk. I get too meet many many people and my job is to bring them together, convince them and guide – of course across all our locations, divisions and business units. So no two days are the same.
What do you like most about your job?
Well, exactly this variety makes my job so challenging, exciting and interesting to me.
What do you do in your free time to balance out your work?
Having three (almost) grown up children it never gets boring. Besides, it is no accident that I am also a sports physician. First, sports medicine and occupational medicine are like brother and sister and second, I love both endurance and golf sports. I actually prefer practicing them in “the home of golf”, meaning at the sea.
What was your most exciting experience since joining Continental?
To be honest, the most exciting thing was to experience how to deal with a complete restart giving up a pretty comfortable employment with a high level of establishment that I was in for almost two decades now, in search of a new challenge. Today I can say: Yes, it’s worth it! Sometimes you need to get out of your comfort zone if you want to grow your potential, either in a professional or a personal way.