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Wellness Works: Building a Healthy Workplace

Workplace Wellness Guide

Health is an important concept in our daily lives, both at home and at work.  Employees who feel they are “healthy” are generally more productive, use fewer sick days, have better morale, and are more likely to stay at their particular job.

Wellness Works provides resources, tools, and information to help workplaces to support the health needs of their employees.  If your organization would like to create a workplace wellness program, our Guide to Building a Healthy Workplace can help.

Quick Tips

If you would like information on a specific health topic, the following menu can provide you with ideas for how to build skills, develop policies, and create a healthy workplace environment.  

For each topic, you will find:

  • Goals for your workplace to strive for
  • Ideas and activities your workplace can implement.
  • Helpful resources

If you would like to speak with someone from the Wellness Works program, or to request a consultation or presentation, please contact 519-753-4937 ext. 472 or workplace@bchu.org.

It’s difficult for many working Canadians to start or maintain an active lifestyle. Employers can support their employees to be active by creating opportunities for physical activity within the workplace.

Goals

  • Make physical activity available to employees
  • Share Canada’s Physical Activity Guidelines
  • Show employees how physical activity improves health

Steps to Creating a Physically Active Workplace

Raise Awareness
  • Include physical activity ideas and information in bulletin boards, e-mails, newsletters and other employee communications
  • Promote local programs, activities and events to employees (i.e. recreation centre programs or community events)
  • Subscribe to the BCHU e-bulletin (workplace@bchu.org) to receive information on interesting health topics
Create Healthy Workplace Policy
  • Develop policies suited to your particular workplace environment
  • Create flex time/flexible scheduling policies to encourage physical activity time
  • Use employee expertise in physical activity, to share their skills and knowledge with others
Create a Supportive Environment
  • Encourage physical activity with employee incentives and recognition
  • Start a workplace walking club, softball league, etc.  (offer different options for all ages and abilities)
  • Create an indoor or outdoor recreation area for employee use during breaks. Provide sports equipment
  • Host company recreational events like activity days, etc.
  • Participate in physical activity fundraisers for charities (e.g. Heart and Stroke, Cancer Society). Promote physical activity and support a good cause!
  • Give or loan pedometers to employees for activity tracking
Build Skills
  • Present or offer workshops/challenges on physical activity. Use a suggestion box for employees to offer suggestions and feedback
  • Offer subsidized or group rate discounts on gym memberships, or organize lunchtime classes on site
  • Encourage employees to stretch throughout the day. Share ideas for workstation stretches
  • Encourage employees to uses stairs, not elevators. Hang reminder signs and make sure stairways are well lit and safe
  • Include stretch breaks or light physical activity breaks during meetings. Better yet, arrange a walking meeting!

Resources

Local

Online

    Alcohol and substance use can lead to many problems in the workplace.

    • Missing work or arriving late
    • Injuries, liability risks and compensation claims
    • Poor morale and high stress
    • Negative work relationships and environment
    • Poor decision making, needless risk taking

    Alcohol use  can increase your risk of developing many chronic diseases, including diabetes, certain cancers and heart disease.  Follow Canada’s Low Risk Alcohol Drinking Guidelines to reduce health risks. Learn more about the guidelines in this video from the Middlesex London Health Unit.

    Goals

    • Share risks associated with alcohol and substance misuse
    • Create a supportive and safe work environment, free of alcohol and substance misuse
    • Encourage communication between employers and employees to support staff facing substance use or abuse

    Steps to a Safe and Supportive Workplace

    Raise Awareness
    • Share information on alcohol and substance misuse prevention through print and/or digital resources
    • Include alcohol policy in orientation process for new employees
    Create Healthy Workplace Policy
    • Create a workplace policy that outlines expectations for alcohol consumption at organization events
    Create a Supportive Environment
    • Provide an EAP program and promote its confidential services   
    • Offer flexible work hours or give personal leave time for counseling
    • Create a workplace culture that does not promote alcohol use.  Offer alcohol-free employee events and activities
    Build Skills
    • Present or offer workshops on alcohol use and health, low risk drinking guidelines, safe party planning, etc.
    • Provide education for  employees to identify workplace alcohol and substance misuse

    Resources

    Local

    Online
  • Canadian Centre for Substance Abuse
  • Centre for Addiction and Mental Health
  • MADD Canada
  • Motherisk
  • Rethink Your Drinking

    Creating a safe and supportive working environment that promotes breastfeeding as well as family health offers many benefits to employees and employers. Workplaces with healthy families can expect:

    • Better productivity
    • Less sick time
    • Better employee relationships
    • Greater staff loyalty
    • Less employee turnover

    Goals

    • Promote a supportive and safe working environment for maternal and child health
    • Support nursing mothers’ safe and comfortable transitions back to work
    • Create a baby-mother friendly work environment by creating a Breastfeeding in the Workplace policy

    Steps to a Safe and Supportive Workplace

    • Create a healthy workplace policy
    • Develop a policy that demonstrates that breastfeeding is valued and breastfeeding mothers are supported.

    Raise Awareness

    • Use tools like e-mail, bulletin boards, newsletters, meetings etc. to share information about healthy lifestyle issues including the importance of breastfeeding.
    • Make baby friendly policies available to all employees in the workplace.
    • Ensure that supervisors/managers are aware and supportive of new mothers when they come back to work.

    Build Skills

    • Offer presentations/workshops on importance of breastfeeding and returning to work after having a baby.
    • Encourage employees to discuss their plans for breastfeeding with supervisors and managers.
    • Provide education on breastfeeding and work including benefits to employers and all employees to increase support and understanding.

    Create a Supportive Environment

    • Provide a private, clean space where women can breastfeed or express breast milk
    • Make sure the designated area has adequate lighting, a chair, and an electrical outlet; also make sure it’s close to hand washing and refrigeration facilities
    • Offer flexible work scheduling for employees such as work from home, part time hours, and job sharing. Offer break times for pumping if required.

    Resources

  • Breastfeeding (Brant County Health Unit)

Cancer is the leading cause of death in Canada. About two in five Canadians will develop cancer in their lifetime and one in four will die of it. The most commonly diagnosed cancers in Ontario are prostate, breast, colorectal and lung cancer.  About one-third of the 12 major cancers can be prevented by living a healthy lifestyle.1

To reduce your risk:

  • Don’t smoke and avoid second hand smoke
  • Eat healthy foods and limit your alcohol intake
  • Know your family’s cancer history
  • Protect your skin in the sun
  • Know your body and contact your doctor if you notice any changes in your health
  • Be cautious of hazardous materials in your environment

For more information on screening for colorectal, breast or cervical cancer, visit Cancer Care Ontario.

Goals

  • Share information on the importance of cancer screening for breast, cervical and colorectal cancers
  • Promote healthy living (helps prevent cancer)

Steps to a Healthier Workplace

Raise Awareness

  • Share information about cancer screening and healthy living on bulletin boards and displays. As well, include information with pay checks and other employee communication

Build Skills

  • Offer opportunities for staff to learn about cancer screening and prevention

Create a Supportive Environment

  • Offer flexible work hours for employees to attend appointments
  • Promote active living in the workplace (e.g., walking groups at breaks, walking meetings, lunch time activity groups)
  • Make healthy food options available
  • Provide sunscreen and other protective materials like hats for sun safety
  • Include coverage for nicotine replacement options in benefit packages
  • Hold quit smoking clinics on site

Create Healthy Workplace Policy

  • Include a smoke-free workplace policy
  • Design a food and beverage policy for meetings that promotes healthy options

Resources

Videos

Websites

12014 Canadian Cancer Statistics from the Canadian Cancer Society’s Advisory Committee on Cancer


Healthy eating reduces the risk of many diseases, including obesity, type 2 diabetes, heart disease, certain types of cancer, and osteoporosis. Promoting healthy eating is a good investment in your employees.

Goals

  • Create a supportive nutrition environment
  • Follow Canada’s Food Guide in workplace healthy eating programs
  • Help employees break down common barriers to healthy eating: stress and lack of time

Steps to a Healthier Workplace

Raise Awareness

  • Share healthy eating resources on bulletin boards and displays
  • Make brochures and other resources about healthy eating and meal ideas accessible to all employees
  • Include short articles about healthy eating in staff newsletters or e-mail (e.g., the Health Unit’s monthly e-bulletin)

Build Skills

  • Survey employees and offer presentations/workshops on healthy eating issues that interest them (could be stress, shiftwork, eating well with a busy lifestyle, etc.)
  • Motivate staff and encourage healthy eating (e.g., subsidize gym certificates, host healthy pot-luck lunches)
  • Provide educational opportunities on healthy eating habits to management and staff
  • Help staff assess their healthy living habits (healthy eating and physical activity) with self-screening tools

Create a Supportive Environment

  • Use an environmental scan of the workplace to understand how it supports healthy eating: consider type, price, and portion size of food available in cafeterias, common areas, meetings, and celebrations
  • Provide safe storage and clean eating areas for homemade lunches
  • Create a positive atmosphere around healthy eating and discourage negative comments about individuals’ weight or food choices
  • Encourage employees to attend healthy eating workshops/courses with funding, reimbursement or flexible working hours

Create Healthy Workplace Policy

  • Include policies on healthy eating, physical activity, and stress reduction
  • Make staff schedules that allow for healthy eating and wellness programming both at and outside work
  • Continually review healthy food and beverage choices (e.g., vending machines, cafeteria)
  • Understand staff need for and interest in healthy eating and physical activity programs at work

A Word on Weight Loss Challenges…

Though sometimes popular at workplaces, employers must be cautious about weight loss challenges. Workplace events should promote healthy, sustainable, and positive messages.  Instead of promoting weight loss specifically, try promoting positive habits like eating more fruits and vegetables or homemade meals.  A workplace recipe challenge or community garden is a great starting point.

Resources

Local

Online


Mental illness affects one in five Canadians. Some problems or illnesses might be caused by issues, such as work-life balance or ‘overloaded’ responsibilities.

Signs of poor balance or overloading include:

  • Feeling out of control of your life
  • Feeling guilty about not having time for everyone
  • Finding it difficult to concentrate
  • Feeling tired all the time

Helping employees with work-life balance is a big step towards improving mental health.

Goals

  • Create education and training programs that cover mental health in the workplace
  • Reduce employee work-life conflicts
  • Develop and use policies and procedures to reduce stress at work
  • Create a supportive working environment to help manage work and life stress

Steps to a Safe and Supportive Workplace

Raise Awareness

  • Display messages about mental health and work-life balance on bulletin boards in accessible areas, such as lunch rooms
  • Host presentations/seminars on stress or related topics
  • Give self-screening tools to employees

Create Healthy Workplace Policy

Make sure workplace policies address:

  • Stress management  
  • Flex-time working arrangements  
  • Family-friendly employment practices
  • Physical activity and healthy eating in the workplace

Use communication strategies which focus on positive staff relations, team building, organizational goals and values, and job satisfaction.

Create a Supportive Environment

  • Know your organization’s working environment priorities
  • Survey staff to find out needs and interests
  • Offer stress management/counseling through Employee Assistance Program(s)
  • Keep work-life balance in mind when creating work schedules
  • Let employees help set work goals and objectives

Build Skills

  • Organize management education and training on work-life stress management, workplace culture change, effective communication skills and team building
  • Review workloads with employees regularly
  • Offer classes at lunch for relaxation, meditation or physical activity initiatives
  • Give presentations/workshops

Resources

Local

  • The Brant County Health Unit: 519-753-4937 ext. 472
  • Brant Mental Health Crisis Response System: 519-752-2273
  • Canadian Mental Health Association: 519-752-2998
  • Family Counselling Centre – non-crisis counseling: 519-753-4173
  • Heart & Stroke Foundation: 519-752-1301
  • Mental Health Service Information Ontario:1-866-531-2600
  • St. Leonard's Community Services Mental Health Crisis Support Program: 1-866-811-7188 or 519-759-7188
  • Six Nations Crisis Services: 1-866-445-2204

Online

If your workplace employs individuals outside of the traditional eight hour day shift, promoting their health should be part of your business plan. 

The human body follows a natural daily (circadian) rhythm based on a 24-hour cycle. Working hours that disrupt this natural rhythm may cause problems.  Shiftwork can impact staff health and job performance and may contribute to:

  • More fatigue and disorientation                                              
  • Higher risk of accidents
  • Physical and mental health concerns, including relationship and family issues
  • Poor nutrition and reduced physical activity
  • Increased risk of cardiovascular disease, gastrointestinal disturbance and cancer

Goals

  • Share potential health and safety risks of shiftwork
  • Provide resources and strategies to promote employee health
  • Create a supportive physical and social workplace environment that supports shiftworkers’ needs

Steps to Creating a Healthy Workplace

Raise Awareness

  • Use tools like e-mail, bulletin boards, newsletters, meetings etc. to share information about shiftwork and how to manage shiftwork risks

Create Healthy Workplace Policy

  • Consider rotational shift direction, start and end times, and adequate rest periods when creating shiftwork schedules
  • Develop policies that limit excessive overtime
  • Create a suggestion box for staff feedback

Create a Supportive Environment

  • Make sure the work environment has appropriate lighting, ventilation, a comfortable rest area and access to healthy food options during all shifts
  • Offer training and support services during both day and night shifts
  • Make sure EAP and counseling services available to employees working shifts
  • Involve staff in developing shiftwork schedules
  • Develop shift hours that disrupt sleep patterns as little as possible and maximize social and family time

Build Skills

  • Give presentations/workshops on staying healthy during shiftwork.  Suggest strategies for day and night shiftworkers for healthy eating, stress management, sleep disorders, and fatigue and alertness
  • Include an “orientation to shiftwork” in new employee training

Resources

General Tips for Shift Workers

Shiftwork and Nutrition

Shift Work and Physical Activity

Shiftwork and Sleep

Although 24.8% of the population in Brant County aged 12 + smokes tobacco, many adults of working age (over 25) are motivated to quit: based on 2015 data, 38% of those who smoke are planning to quit within six months, and 22% are preparing to quit in the very near future. By providing information, programs, and counselling for smoking cessation, workplaces can strongly influence this positive change. With fewer employees smoking, employers benefit from higher productivity and less missed work.

Goals

  • Provide a safe work environment free of second-hand smoke through a smoke-free workplace policy
  • Provide a supportive environment that encourages employees to quit smoking

Steps to Creating a Healthy Workplace

Raise Awareness

  • Share tips and resources on quitting smoking on bulletin boards and displays in accessible areas
  • Promote National Non-Smoking Week (3rd week in January) and World No Tobacco Day (May 31st) to encourage employees to quit
  • Promote company’s health benefit plan (e.g. any smoking cessation medications covered)
  • Raise awareness of and comply with current legislation (e.g., Smoke Free Ontario Act)

Create Healthy Workplace Policy

  • Create a smoke free workplace policy, for example:.

ABC COMPANY: Non-Smoking Policy

ABC Company is committed to providing a healthy comfortable and productive work environment for our employees.

In order to eliminate hazards and ensure a safe, healthy workplace, the ABC Company shall be entirely smoke-free in accordance with current legislation.

All forms of tobacco use will be strictly prohibited within company buildings including but not limited to offices, hallways, waiting rooms, washrooms, lunch rooms, stairwells, elevators, meeting rooms and all enclosed facilities.  Smoking is also prohibited on all outdoor property belonging to the company.

All company vehicles will also be designated smoke-free, including rental cars used for company business.

Copies of this policy will be distributed to all employees.  Signs will be posted at all building entrances.  

Those employees who smoke and would like to take this opportunity to quit smoking are invited to participate in the cessation supports being offered by ABC. For more information regarding supports contact human resources.

The success of this policy will depend on the thoughtfulness, consideration, and cooperation of smokers and non-smokers.  All of us share in the responsibility for adhering to and enforcing this policy.

Signature of CEO or President

Create a Supportive Environment

  • Provide incentives, support, and/or resources to employees who want to quit smoking
  • Offer a workplace quit smoking support program (e.g., STOP on the Road - open to all Ontario residents)

Build Skills

  • Offer lunch and learn sessions that reflect employee interests in quitting smoking
  • Encourage employees to participate in provincial Quit Smoking Contests or organize an internal workplace quit smoking contest

Resources

From the Health Unit

To access any presentations/print resources below, please call 519-753-4937 ext. 455 or e-mail tobacco@bchu.org.

Cessation

  • Smoking cessation presentation at your workplace
  • “Thinking About Quitting (A Guide to What’s Available in Brant County for People Who Want To Quit Smoking)” brochure
  • Additional brochures for smokers who want to quit: “One Step At A Time,” “If You Want To Help A Smoker Quit,” and “For Smokers Who Don’t Want To Quit”
  • Start Quit, Stay Quit: A Self-Help Guide For Pregnant Women

Community

  • Smoker’s Helpline: 1-877-513-5333 (Free, confidential support service for smokers who want to quit)

Displays (can be temporarily signed out from the Health Unit by calling 519-753-4937 ext. 455 or e-mailing tobacco@bchu.org)

  • Second Hand Smoke
  • Smoke Free Ontario Act (4 panel display)
  • Smoke Free Homes & vehicles (3 panel display)
  • Policy
  • Smoking Cessation in the Workplace:  A guide to helping your employees quit smoking

Online

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Workplace Wellness
519-753-4937 ext. 472
workplace@bchu.org