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Focus On: Healthy Workplaces

Healthy Employees - Healthy Organizations

I'm an Employer/Senior Management

Employers have a pivotal role in all stages of health programming for employees. Having a comprehensive health program is an approach, not a specific model for health issues in the workplace. Under the comprehensive approach, health issues become business issues.

Six things you as the employer can do to contribute to your business being a healthier organization, include:

  1. provide leadership and support
  2. create a workplace health committee
  3. invest in an interest survey/needs assessment
  4. know your workplace health plan
  5. coordinate programs into the business plan
  6. build the results into strategic planning activities

This not a recipe for success, but rather a starting point of areas to consider as you build a healthier organization.

An Unhealthy Organization Affects You
The health of your organization impacts your bottom line. Consider the following costs of having an unhealthy workplace and/or unhealthy employees:

  • On average, each smoker costs his or her employer an estimated $4,256 (in 2012), more than $3,800 in lost productivity due to unsanctioned smoking breaks and more than $400 in lost productivity due to absenteeism (Conference Board of Canada 2012)
  • The average absenteeism rate in 2011 was 9.3 days per full-time employee (almost two full weeks). These absences cost the Canadian economy an estimated $16.6 billion in 2012. (Conference Board of Canada, 2013)
  • Excessive stress, as well as other mental health problems such as depression and anxiety, is estimated to cost the Canadian economy $51 billion each year in lost productivity. (Psychology Foundation of Canada, 2008)

Build a Healthy Organization
Here are a few ideas on how you as an employer can create and maintain a healthy organization (PDF 20 pages):

  • Use a participative team approach, including representatives from all segments of the organization
  • Clearly link health issues and outcomes to your organization’s strategic goals and integrate health & wellbeing objectives into the organization’s business planning process. This will ensure that all management decisions take employee health & wellbeing into account.
  • Developing a communications plan for your organization’s health policies and strategies and keep management informed regularly.

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I'm a Health/Safety/Wellness Professional

Human Resources and Health, Safety & Wellness Professionals have a pivotal role in health programming for employees. A Comprehensive Workplace Health program can help boost productivity and employee morale while decreasing absenteeism, health care costs and employee turnover.

Helping employees to be healthy doesn't have to be costly, time consuming or overly complicated. Here’s how to get started:

  1. obtain management support
  2. establish a workplace health committee
  3. conduct an interest/needs assessment
  4. develop a plan for workplace health
  5. implement your program or initiative
  6. evaluate the program

This is not a recipe for success, but rather a starting point of areas to consider as you build a healthier organization.

An Unhealthy Organization Affects You
The health of your organization impacts attendance, benefits costs, retention and turnover rates.  Consider the following costs of having an unhealthy workplace and/or unhealthy employees:

  • Physically active employees take 27% fewer sick days and report 14-25% fewer disability days (Public Health Agency of Canada, 2008).
  • Workers with high role overload are 5.6 times more likely to experience high job stress; 3.5 times more likely to be absent from work due to emotional, mental, and physical fatigue (Lowe, 2005).
  • Asthma is estimated to contribute to $2.4 billion in lost productivity in Canada each year. 12% of respondents in the survey said they had missed an average of 34 work days in the past 12 months due to asthma, resulting in 8,160,000 lost days (The Asthma Society of Canada, 2005). In Canada, one in ten adults has asthma (The Lung Association).
  • Employees with multiple risk factors for chronic disease have 50% more days absent and incur 3-4 times more healthcare costs than employees with no risk factors (Sunlife Canadian Health Index, 2010).

Build a Healthy Organization
Creating a healthy organization can’t be done overnight and it requires effort from both employers and employees alike! Here are a few ideas on how you can work to improve employee health and the health of your organization:

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Revised: November 03, 2015

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