July 6, 2015

Workplace Wellness

When “wellness” is mentioned in the context of a benefit plan, many people think first of gym memberships and a salad bar in the cafeteria. These are examples of wellness initiatives but a good wellness plan goes beyond specific events and perks – it is a fundamental element of the business strategy. It is part of the corporate culture and can create a competitive advantage.

Creating a culture of wellness does not require a big budget but it does require time, thought, and commitment. The benefits are as broad as there are wellness ideas: reduced turnover, higher engagement and productivity, reduced absenteeism, reduced health & disability costs, community recognition as an employer of choice, easier to attract quality employees, etc.

Plan out your wellness strategy to achieve the greatest return by following these few tips:

Lead by Example

If your wellness plan communication material champions balancing work and personal time then management should follow step. An employee who sees their manager eating through lunch and working late all the time may feel that the same is expected of them despite what the corporate philosophy states. In this case, the resources dedicated to the wellness initiative are lost. Not only will the benefits never materialize, but the motive behind the plan may be viewed as being insincere and create a level of resentment among employees.


An internet search will return a litany of articles and wellness plan ideas. Not all are suitable for every company and no company can manage them all.

Customize the plan to fit your needs – a company with a younger demographic will have a different focus that that of one with an older employee population. Choose the strategies that will work best with your population and your objectives.

Pick strategies and initiatives that can be communicated well, work with your budget and time constraints, and can be supported by staff. Including employees in the process may help gain a better understanding of what employees value. Furthermore, implementing employees ideas can show your commitment to their well-being and have a positive impact on engagement.

Whole Life

Wellness encompasses many aspects of life. Therefore a good wellness plan will provide a balance that touches on the:

  • Physical Environment – ex. ergonomic work spaces, proper equipment, good lighting, bike storage, food storage
  • Social Environment and Personal Resources – ex. respectful workplace policies that are communicated and enforced, flex time, access to an EAP, mentoring opportunities.
  • Health Practices – ex. health risk assessments, flu clinics, lunch and learns that address nutritional labelling, calorie counting, etc., 10-minute massages, smoking cessation tools.

Be Flexible

Set the tone for your wellness plan but don’t mandate how the objectives are to be achieved. Not all initiatives will work for everyone so allow for some flexibility in how each employee achieves the balance that works for them. For example, some people work better when they have planned ahead while others are more productive just before a deadline. When an employee is forced into a behaviour that is contrary to their preferred method, stress may result. Managers want to ensure goals are achieved in the most economical fashion, but allowing employees to find their own path may benefit all parties.

In short, your objective is to create a healthy, welcoming environment where employees look forward to coming to work every day.

Timely Wellness Idea

For companies in the GTA, the PanAm and ParaPanAm Games are just a few short weeks away. Traffic congestion is expected to be heavier than normal. Most area highways will have a lane temporarily dedicated to high occupancy vehicles (3 or more people). Consider promoting car pooling and walking/cycling to work, allowing flex time, or working from home if possible to reduce commuter stress.

The Games are a great time to get your team motivated for physical activity too – maybe host a mini Games with work groups squaring off against each other in friendly challenges.



5 Workplace Wellness Mistakes to Avoid, Greg Bambury, Benefits Canada, May 4, 2015 (www.benefitscanada.com)


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