While safety and injury prevention are the backbone of a healthy workplace and important contributors to the overall health of employees, a healthy workplace is about much more than just preventing injuries. Work is itself an important part of overall health, partly because of the time adults spend in workplaces and partly because work is a social environment that can positively influence our health.
Most employed Canadian adults spend at least 60% of their waking hours at work. This makes the workplace an ideal setting to promote behaviours like healthy eating and physical activity. More and more employers are recognizing their role in promoting the health of their employees and recognize that workplace physical activity programs:
- Reduce health care costs and insurance premiums
- Reduce the number of accidents on the job
- Reduce worker compensation claims
- Lower turnover rates and act as an incentive to recruitment
Restrictions around the use of tobacco in workplaces make it easier for people to avoid or quit smoking.
Workplace policies, and the tone set by management of an organization can have a tremendous impact on health by giving employees control and input into decisions about how work is accomplished. Together employers and employee can create a comprehensive workplace culture that promotes health.
There are lots of ways you or your organization can work towards a healthier workplace.
First, engage your staff in a discussion on health issues beyond safety – you may find mental health is a key priority for your workplace. Minds Connected has resources related to improving mental health in your workplace.
Second, think about the structures in your organization that support conversations around health. Consider creating a workplace health committee if you don’t have one, and consider using an employee assistance plan to ensure your employees have confidential support if they need it.
Finally, enabling physical health in the workplace doesn’t need to be overwhelming. Start small – encourage your employees to be active on their breaks, use prompts to encourage people to take the stairs where they can, and include stretching, standing and light activity into your meetings.
Learn more about workplace health promotion.