Every October, Canada’s Healthy Workplace Month celebrates success stories from organizations across the country. A healthy workplace is one in which the organization cares about the health, safety and wellness of its employees and establishes systems to achieve and maintain exemplary health.

Great Employers establish a comprehensive healthy workplace strategy by addressing four key areas of focus. Together, these elements establish a foundation from which to support positive outcomes like improved employee engagement, low absenteeism and high productivity.

As you read this article, consider how you would answer the four “Questions” below for your own organization.

1. Healthy Lifestyle

Question: Does your organization have a physical wellness program with priorities and measurable goals?

Absenteeism causes Canadian businesses to lose an estimated $16.6 billion in productivity annually. Low levels of physical activity, poor nutrition, and unhealthy habits such as smoking not only increase the likelihood of illness but also contribute to higher health care costs.

What Great Employers do differently

In addition to traditional health benefits, organizations can support healthy lifestyles through activities such as:

  • Stretching breaks: Gentle stretches and guided yoga undo the stress that sitting all day places on the body.
  • Sleep hygiene promotion: Sleep assessments and tips show employees how to ensure their minds and bodies are well-rested.
  • Healthy eating: Nutritious snacks and meal options provide employees with the fuel they need to stay creative and productive.

It is important that programs are offered based on employee health needs identified through employee surveys, focus groups or health risk assessments.

2. Mental Health and Workplace Culture

Question: Are your employees able to provide feedback on matters such as work schedules, training, equipment, and supervision?

Every week, an average of 500,000 Canadians are unable to work due to mental health problems or illnesses. Workplace culture, which is the sum of the organization’s values, behaviors, and attitudes, directly affects employee mental wellness. Supportive, respectful workplaces enable employees to speak up, share concerns and provide open feedback.

What Great Employers do differently

Mental health can be a difficult topic to discuss. Greater Employers support their workforce by:

  • Raising awareness about mental health and the associated stigma: Although mental health issues are common, they are often hidden and not shared because of the stigma in doing so, making people feel isolated. Awareness programs build an understanding and an openness to conversations and helping people living with mental health issues get the help they need.
  • Financial wellness education: Financial stress is a key influencer of mental and physical health. Financial literacy workshops help employees to better understand their finances and to gain the skills and knowledge to make better decisions and reduce the stress of financial uncertainty.
  • Anti-violence policies: Making a formal commitment to disallow bullying, harassment, and discrimination in the workplace makes everyone feel welcome and safe.

3. Physical Environment and Safety

Question: Does your organization have programs in place to support a physically healthy and safe environment?

Office workers spend the majority of each weekday indoors. In fact, 4 in 10 Canadians say they never spend any recreational time away from human-made environments. Matters such as indoor air quality, noise, and lighting can directly impact employee health and safety.

What Great Employers do differently

Assessing indoor environments for risks to employee health and safety is important. Consider the following activities:

  • CPR training: Offering courses in CPR and first aid helps can help everyone feel safer and more confident during a medical emergency.
  • Ergonomic assessments: Teaching employees how to improve their posture while completing work tasks reduces the risk of repetitive stress injuries.
  • Infection control: Offering flu shots to employees and promoting hand washing hygiene prevents the spread of the virus, which can reduce rates of absenteeism.
  • Assessing air and lighting quality: Obtaining a report on the physical environments not only addresses possible health threats but reassures employees and reduces concern.


4. Corporate Social Responsibility and Giving Back to the Community

Question: Does your organization demonstrate its commitment to giving back to the local community?

Organizations that give back to their communities build trust and respect with their employees. In fact, 90% of surveyed business students say they would be willing to give up some percentage of their future salary to work for a socially responsible employer.

What Great Employers do differently

Great Employers understand that they are members of a larger community. They strengthen community relationships by:

  • Volunteer opportunities: Encouraging employees to participate in charity events that build camaraderie among employees and support local causes.
  • Green initiatives: Teaching employees how to reduce their environmental impact shows them how to make a difference.
  • Blood drives: Canadian Blood Services will work with employers to run a clinic on site.

Combined, these four elements support a healthy workplace where employees feel valued and recognized.

Great Employers make sure that their actions are aligned with employee needs by communicating frequently through town halls, surveys, and newsletters. They create a culture of respect and trust by being responsive to feedback and acting strategically and transparently. With their physical, emotional, and mental health needs met, employees can focus on their work and how they contribute to the company’s mission.

If you answered YES to the four “Questions” above, your organization may be a Great Employer! Remember, Healthy Workplace excellence is not a matter of doing everything perfectly, it is about doing something purposefully in each area and continually measuring and improving over time.

Apply for the Great Employer Award and Excellence Canada will give you feedback about how you are doing and recommendations about how to progress.

Learn more about how to be recognized as a Great Employer for your commitment to a healthy workplace.




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