Most adults spend more than half of their waking hours at work so it is important to build a workplace environment that promotes health and safety as well as psychological wellbeing to increase the effectiveness of your organization.
Addressing health in the workplace can create a positive organizational culture, which supports healthy employee practices and behaviours, and can meet the requirements of current occupational health and safety legislation
Healthy Workplaces Overview
A workplace that takes into consideration individual health behaviours, positive organizational culture and community involvement, and occupational health and safety may see the following:
- Reduced absenteeism
- Higher employee morale and job satisfaction
- Increased productivity
- Reports of improved employee health and energy
- Improved corporate image
- Lowered insurance costs
Individual Health Practices and Behaviours
Individual health practices and behaviours can be supported through workplace health initiatives that support employees to make healthy choices.
To help improve the behaviour of employees, consider offering:
- Healthy food choices in the cafeteria and/or vending machines
- Walking meetings and/or regular stretch breaks during meetings
Organizational Culture refers to the underlying values and beliefs that guide workplace behaviours and influence the work environment. A healthy workplace culture promotes work enjoyment and productivity. Workplace initiatives can enhance the physical and mental well-being of the employees.
- Employee recognition programs
- Team-building initiatives
- Flexible work arrangements
- Leadership training and development opportunities
- Staff involvement in decision making
Corporate Social Responsibility/Community Involvement
Workplaces that address the broader social and environmental determinants of workers’ health and engage in community development practices experience benefits. Evidence suggests that workplaces offering employees time to volunteer or give back to the community report higher rates of satisfaction. Equally beneficial is the reported improvement in organizational culture, when employees volunteer their time together.
- Charitable support to community causes and non-profit organizations
- Voluntary pollution/waste control measures and disclosures
- Equal employment opportunity policies and practices
Occupational Health and Safety
Occupational Health & Safety initiatives help to provide a safe physical environment that prevents illness and injury.
- Ergonomically designed workstations
- Safe and well-lit stairways
- Health and safety training e.g. first aid or hazardous material training
Workplaces Health Topics
Workplaces can implement various strategies to encourage an environment that supports healthy eating.
Here are some ideas:
- Provide opportunities for sharing healthy nutritional information
- Offer healthier food options in cafeterias, cafes and vending machines, and during meetings and celebrations
- Conduct a health needs and interest assessment to determine the health priorities of employees
- Develop a policy that supports a healthy eating environment
Use Canada’s Food Guide to help you pick healthier foods to offer at your workplace.
Learn more about nutrition and creating a healthy workplace environment.
Many organizations recognize the importance of promoting mental and emotional well-being, managing stress, and supporting employees to manage stress.
Prolonged work-related stress can contribute to cardiovascular problems, musculoskeletal disorders, workplace injuries, low morale, decreased job satisfaction, emotional distress, increased anxiety, depression, and burnout. The cost to the organization can be significant as a result of disability claims, absenteeism, high turnover, decreased productivity, and increased risks of liability.
Identifying stress-related hazards and working to reduce those risks, as well as making workplace health promotion a priority, are key to improving health.
Ensuring civility and respect among staff is also an important aspect of fostering mental wellness in the workplace. Civility and respect is about being considerate and inclusive with others, including staff, clients and the public. It involves having an understanding of other people’s perspectives as well as one’s own preconceptions, respecting differences and seeking common ground.
Benefits of mental health promotion include:
- Improved productivity
- Improved employee engagement and retention
- Increased morale and job satisfaction
- Reduced conflict
- Decrease in short and long term disability claims
- A successful return to work program
Some strategies to help foster mental wellness in the workplace include:
- Recognizing employees’ contributions
- Create an environment that is fair, respectful, civil, and supportive
- Maintain respect and professionalism to facilitate good working relationships
- Developing policies and consequences with respect to the Occupational Health and Safety Act, and reviewing the policies at least annually (e.g., anti-harassment)
- Demonstrating courteous communication
- Taking action to protect employees from violence and harassment in the workplace
- Providing constructive feedback
Your work environment has a significant impact on your employees’ overall health and wellness, which could affect their performance at work.
Sedentary behaviour is associated with an increased risk of health complications like:
- type 2 diabetes
- cardiovascular disease
- weight gain
- back pain
Encouraging employees to be active benefits both employers and employees. A little creativity can go a long way. Actions a workplace can take to promote physical activity include:
- Using the Rediscover the Stairs Toolkit to implement a stair campaign in your workplace!
- Taking a walk at break or forming a walking group
For more information on physical activity:
- Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety – Active Living at Work
- Canadian Society for Exercise Physiology – 24-Hour Movement & Activity Guidelines
- City Cycling Programs
- Toronto, Parks, Forestry and Recreation
Smoke- and Vape-free workplaces
The Smoke-Free Ontario Act prohibits smoking of tobacco, using e-cigarettes to vape any substance, and smoking medical or recreational cannabis in enclosed workplaces and enclosed public places in order to protect workers and the public from the hazards of second-hand smoke and vapour.
Every employer of an enclosed workplace must:
- Ensure that employees and the public are aware that smoking and vaping is prohibited in enclosed workplaces
- Post “No Smoking” and “No Vaping” signs at all entrances, exits, washrooms and other appropriate locations in order to ensure that everyone knows that smoking and vaping is prohibited
- Remove ashtrays and any object that serves as one
- Ensure no one is smoking or vaping in the enclosed workplace e.g. company vehicles
- Ensure anyone contravening Ontario’s smoking and vaping laws is removed from the area
Toronto Public Health offers workplaces smoking cessation programs and resources to help people quit smoking. Learn more about how to promote a tobacco-free workplace and create an environment free of second-hand smoke.
Ottawa Public Health Workplace health site
Ottawa Public Health’s Workplace health web site has many resources to support workplaces looking to implement various improvements to their work sites. Some of these tools include:
- Have THAT talk video series and facilitator’s guides on mental health focusing on the 13 factors in the National Standard for Psychological Safety in the Workplace
- Various sample workplace policies and templates
- More resources
Workplace Safety & Prevention Services (WSPS)
WSPS provides a range of information and services, including online and in-person trainings, that support workplaces adhere to workplace health and safety regulations in Ontario.
Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety – Health and Wellness
The Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety website has resources regarding labour legislations, workplace hazards, workers’ rights, and health and wellness
Mental Health Commission of Canada
The Mental Health Commission of Canada (MHCC) worked with the CSA Group (an organization specializing in research and development of standards in various industries) and the Bureau de normalisation du Québec (BNQ) to develop The National Standard of Canada for Psychological Health and Safety in the Workplace in 2013.
Authors of the National standard for Psychological Safety in the Workplace, the Mental Health Commission of Canada focuses on supporting mental health and wellness through helping organizations implement mental health policies, and advocate for psychological wellbeing for all populations across Canada.