October is Healthy Workplace Month! We recently spoke with Nancy Sawler, VP of Corporate Health for Cambridge Group of Clubs, who has more than two decades of experience in the design and management of workplace fitness and health programs. During our chat she explained the importance of promoting a healthy workplace and offered some ideas for how to get started:
Q: What are the biggest health-related problems in the workplace?
A: The most recent national surveys recognized stress, mental health, and high-blood pressure and obesity as the biggest concerns. With downsizing, people are often taking on a bigger workload while trying to manage both their health and wellness and that of their family. It’s a time crunch of trying to balance it all and fit it all in.
Q: You worked with Blakes, a Toronto-based law firm; can you explain what changes you implemented to make the work environment healthier?
A: We started with Blakes five years ago, and we started with wellness week with some lunch and learn sessions. We expanded to health fairs and a 12-week “taking it down a notch” challenge, with weight loss goals, a nutritional focus, boot camp, and a cooking class for healthy meals. The feedback has been incredible.
Q: The benefits to employees are obvious, but what about the benefits for employers?
A: Attendance rates improve, morale improves, benefit costs go down when people are healthier. The productivity aspect is so important. These are preventative measures. Heart disease and high blood pressure is 70-80 percent preventable. The smart workplaces know they have to make an effort. Today, 99 percent of Canadian employers offer at least one form of wellness program, compared with 44 percent in 1997.
Q: Where is the most important place to start if you’re an employer who wants to create a healthier workplace?
A: Establish a wellness committee, where you have a bunch of people who are doing it together. Talk to your people and find out what they need and are interested in. Review your company’s health issues and benefits costs. Develop a plan to measure success and communicate success.
Here is five great tips for ensuring you’re healthier at work:
1. Stretch breaks to relieve tension.
2. Walking clubs to build common goals and team morale.
3. Desk ergonomics, or “get fit while you sit”, which ensures that you have the right chair, desk and lighting for optimal comfort at work.
4. “Lunch and learns,” where speakers come in and talk about anything related to wellness, such as naturopathy or stress reduction techniques.
5. Health fairs, employees can get tests for blood pressure, blood glucose, blood type, body mass, posture, cholesterol and nutrition.
For many more tips, check out Canada’s Healthy Workplace Month.
Do you have a healthy workplace?