Why Establish a Workplace Health Program?

Changes in the pace of work and stress levels experienced by employees, combined with the rising cost of health care and benefits, have convinced many employers that investing in employee wellness makes good business sense. This month, we take a look at wellness activities from our northern neighbor. Statistics Canada reports that an estimated $12 billion is lost to workplace absenteeism each year.  Stress, smoking, the inability to balance work and family, and feelings of loss of control over workplace schedules and environments are some of the major health issues facing today’s workforce.

Two-thirds of Canadians over age 15 are employees and, on average, they spend about 60 percent of their waking hours at work. Therefore, the social and physical workplace environment can have a significant impact on health. Research shows that most employees believe the workplace is an appropriate and effective place to promote health and well-being issues. The workplace is also an effective setting for increasing active living because of the potential policy and environmental impact, increased social support, use of mass media and the use of individually based interventions. Other assets of the workplace setting are the size and stability of the target population, the lack of time and travel barriers to participation, peer pressure and peer support, and a “captive” audience.

The workplace also has previously established channels of communication, existing support networks and opportunities to develop corporate norms of behavior.

Not only is the workplace viewed as an effective place to promote health, it is increasingly recognized that the environment at work influences health. The health of employees, in turn, influences productivity, and ultimately, an organization’s bottom line. Evidence suggests a significant return on health and wellness investment for Canadian businesses. For example:

  • In the first six months of the Metro Fit program in Toronto, active municipal employees missed 3.5 fewer days than employees not in the program;
  • BC Hydro employees enrolled in their fitness program had a turnover rate of 3.5 percent compared to a company average of 10.3 percent;
  • The Canadian Life Assurance Company found that the turnover rate for fitness program participants was 32.4 percent lower than average over seven years; and
  • A Canada Life study found a return of $1.95 to $3.75 per employee per dollar spent on corporate wellness programs.
Source:  http://www.healthyalberta.ca/Documents/guidebook-howtochoosewell.pdf