Workplace Health Topics
Create a workplace environment which inspires all employees to incorporate health and wellness goals into their daily routines. — Wellness Within Program, Campbell Company of Canada
Addressing health in the workplace supports employee practices and behaviours, positive organizational culture, and occupational health and safety legislation.
Workplaces can encourage employees to make healthy lifestyle choices and go for screenings to prevent or decrease the risk of cancer.
Employees who work outdoors benefit from the cancer workplace program which addresses sun safety awareness, supportive environments, and the development of sun protection policies.
Toronto Public Health offers information and support to workplaces about:
The Canadian Cancer Society offers more information on other types of cancer.
Workplaces can implement many strategies to create a positive healthy eating environment.
Here are some ideas:
- Create a bulletin board in a high traffic area and post information and posters on various nutrition topics
- Offer lunch and learns that contain a skill building component such as label reading, planning meals for the week, and food budgeting
- Improve the nutritional quality of food offered in cafeterias, cafes, vending machines, during meetings, and celebrations
- Conduct a health needs and interest assessment to determine the health priorities of employees
- Develop a written nutrition policy that supports a physical and social healthy eating environment
- Provide adequate time and space to eat, and facilities to allow employees to store and prepare their own food
Many organizations recognize the importance of promoting mental and emotional well-being, managing stress, and reducing the factors that lead to stress. A mentally healthy workplace addresses the components of comprehensive workplace health, and is a commitment shared by employers and employees.
Benefits of mental health promotion include:
- Improved productivity
- Improved employee engagement and retention
- Increased morale and job satisfaction
- Reduced grievances
- Decrease in short and long term disability claims
Read more about Workplace Mental Health Promotion and strategies for your organization.
Although some stress is required for productivity and engagement, continuous stress can adversely affect the physical health and mental well-being of employees and also have negative consequences for the organization. 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.
Causes of work-related stress:
- Excessive work demands and lack of control (e.g., little influence over constant unrealistic timelines)
- Imbalance between high effort (physical and mental) and low reward (compensation, recognition, career opportunities)
- Unclear roles and responsibilities, lack of support, disrespect, and poor communication
- Mismatch between job demands and employee’s knowledge and abilities
- Unsatisfactory work environment (e.g., excessive noise, poor air quality, inadequate resources)
Identifying stress-related hazards and working to reduce those risks, as well as making workplace health promotion a priority, are key to improving health.
What can employers do to minimize workplace factors that contribute to employees’ stress?
- Provide opportunities for employee input in decision-making involving their work
- Redesign some aspects of the work environment (e.g., decrease noise, organize workspace)
- Clearly define roles, responsibilities, and expectations
- Show employees that they are valued and recognize their contributions
Provide employees with training, learning opportunities, and required resources
- Create an environment that is fair, respectful, civil, and supportive
- Provide access to Employee Assistance Programs
What can employees do to reduce their own stress?
- Strengthen resiliency by taking breaks, incorporating physical activity in the workday, eating healthy, and being positive
- Offer solutions to deal with existing or potential problems
- Prioritize work, break down difficult tasks in manageable proportions, and plan ahead
- Communicate with management about work priorities and timelines so that expectations are clear and manageable
- Maintain respect and professionalism to facilitate good working relationships
- Participate in learning opportunities
- Access support and counselling when required
Civility and Respect
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.
Examples of incivility:
- Verbal or non verbal (e.g., eye rolling) communication, which is perceived as negative
- Taking credit for someone else’s work or ideas
- Withholding required information to get work done
- Discrediting other people’s perspectives and efforts
- Showing “favouritism”
- Sending rude e-mails or voice messages
Strategies to promote civility and respect include:
- Providing constructive feedback
- Resolving conflicts early on
- Avoiding making assumptions
- Aiming to create a positive, supportive and inclusive environment
- Developing policies and consequences e.g., anti-harassment
- Demonstrating courteous communication
- Recognizing positive contributions
Bullying in the Workplace
Under the Occupational Health and Safety Act, workplace harassment is defined as “a course of vexatious comment or conduct against a worker in a workplace that is known or ought reasonably to be known to be unwelcome.”
Workplaces protect their employees by:
- Taking every reasonable precaution to protect employees from violence and harassment in the workplace
- Preparing policies with respect to the Occupational Health and Safety Act, and reviewing the policies at least annually
- Developing a program to implement the workplace violence policy
- Assessing the risks of workplace violence and reporting the results to a health and safety committee/representative or to employees directly
For more information on mental wellness:
Video on easy ways to fit physical activity into your busy day.
Your work environment has a significant impact on your employees’ health and your company’s bottom line. Getting employees active during their regular workday benefits both employers and employees.
Actions a workplace can take to promote physical activity:
- Promote staff to take the stairs
- Walk at lunch or form a walking group
From a business perspective, promoting physical activity can be low in cost and easy to implement. A little creativity can go a long way!
Toronto Public Health staff can assist you with ideas and developing an action plan for creating an “active” work environment.
Use the Rediscover the Stairs Toolkit to implement a stair campaign in your workplace.
For more information on physical activity:
Shift work (working outside 7 a.m. to 6 p.m.) is a reality for many Canadian businesses in the retail trades, manufacturing, accommodation and food services, health care and social assistance industries.
Shift work can disrupt an employee’s circadian rhythm (the body’s “internal clock”), which regulates internal functions such as body temperature, hormone levels, blood pressure and sleep/wake patterns.
The health risks of shift work may include:
- Sleep disturbances
- Gastrointestinal disorders
- High blood pressure
- Heart disease
- Mental health issues
- Workplace injuries
- Disruption of family relationships and social life
What can employers do?
- Allow adequate rest periods between shift cycles
- Maintain predictable schedules
- Provide appropriate lighting and ventilation in the work environment
- Maintain supportive environments that promotes physical activity and healthy eating
- Provide continuous learning and training opportunities
What can employees do?
- Maintain an adequate rest and sleep schedule
- Eat healthy meals/snacks, maintain hydration, avoid alcohol, high fats and high sugar foods /drinks and monitor caffeine intake
- Keep active
- Stay in touch with family and friends
For more information on shift work:
The Smoke-Free Ontario Act prohibits smoking in enclosed workplaces and enclosed public places in order to protect workers and the public from the hazards of second-hand smoke.
Every employer must:
- Ensure that employees are aware that smoking is prohibited in enclosed workplaces
- Post “No Smoking” signs at all entrances, exits, washrooms and other appropriate locations in order to ensure that everyone knows that smoking is prohibited
- Remove ashtrays and any object that serves as one
Toronto Public Health offers workplaces smoking cessation programs and resources to help employees quit smoking. Learn more about how to promote a tobacco-free workplace and create an environment free of second-hand smoke.
When does Occupational Sitting Become a Health Hazard?
The Canadian Physical Activity Guidelines recommends adults should accumulate 150 minutes of moderate to vigorous aerobic activity per week to achieve good health.
Only 15% of Canadian adults meet Canada’s Physical Activity Guidelines.
According to Statistics Canada, the average person spends 9.5 hours a day in sedentary pursuits at our desks, in front of computers, at meetings and in vehicles. This equates to approximately 69% of our waking hours.
Most importantly, sedentary behaviour is associated with an increased risk of:
- Type 2 diabetes
- Cardiovascular disease
- Weight gain
- Back pain
The above risks have implications for workplace disability claims, lost work time, and productivity.
What can Toronto’s workforce of 1,399,985 employees do about it? Learn more about Toronto Public Health Rediscover the Stairs Campaign and how you can get your employees more active and engaged by taking the stairs!
There are many benefits to taking the stairs:
There are many great reasons to encourage regular stair use with your employees.
Stair climbing is considered to be a moderate-to-vigorous aerobic physical activity depending on how fast a person climbs the stairs.
Regular stair use:
- Improves heart and lung health
- Reduces risk of obesity, type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and some cancers
- Improves blood cholesterol levels
- Strengthens muscles and bones
- Improves energy levels and helps to decrease stress
What are other things you can do to become more active throughout your day?
In addition to meeting the Canadian physical activity guidelines, it is important to build physical activity in throughout your day and decrease the amount of time you spend sitting. Here are a few tips:
- Take a fit break. Walk around your office or school.
- Stand up while talking on the phone.
- Get up from your desk every hour. Do a stretch or walk on the spot.
- Go to talk to your co-worker or friend instead of e-mailing or calling them.
- Go for a lunch walk, encourage your co-workers/friends to go with you.
- Consider taking public transit whenever you can.
- For trips of 2 km or under, try walking there.
- For trips of 7 km or under, try cycling.
- Need your car? Park the car farther away from the entrance.
For more information on how to become more active throughout the day, visit our activeTO.ca and physical activity websites.
Mental Health Commission of Canada
Video on the national standard for psychological health and safety in Canadian workplaces.