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Ministry of Health

What Makes a Healthy Work Environment?

Did You Know?

  • Physically inactive employees cost employers $488 more per year in more in sick time, benefits and lost productivity. 1
  • Employees who smoke cost companies $3,396 more each year than non-smoking employees 2
  • Mental and nervous disorders have replaced musculoskeletal conditions as the top conditions causing long-term disability.
  • Workplace mental disorders and sub-clinical mental health problems in Canada annually result in $33 billion in lost industrial production 3

Worker with hard hat

Healthy work environments…

  • share an understanding that a healthy work environment not only benefits employees through improved health and wellness but also benefits customers, shareholders and communities
  • take a comprehensive approach to promoting health and wellness
  • encourage workers to take responsibility for their own health, safety and wellness and contribute to creating a healthy work environment
  • create environments that make the healthy choice the easy choice
  • provide information and resources to assist their workers to make healthy lifestyle choices and to achieve and maintain good health
  • promote work-life balance and make work a healthy life experience
  • create a healthy physical, social and psychological work environment as a core business goal

This web site provides resources useful to organizations of all sizes and at all stages of the journey – whether you are getting started or well on your way to being a truly healthy workplace.

Building a Foundation for Success

A healthy organization creates healthy outcomes for its people – improved health and well-being, and for the organization – reduced costs and improved performance.* These healthy outcomes depend on whether:

  • the business values its employees
  • safety comes first
  • jobs are challenging
  • employees have control over work load and work pace
  • employees have a say in workplace decisions
  • relationships are based on trust, respect, and fairness
  • employees have adequate resources to do their job
  • supervisors support employees
  • employees have opportunities for training and development
  • communication is two-way and open
  • employees are recognized for their contributions
  • pay and benefits provide an adequate and secure living standard

*Source: © The Graham Lowe Group Inc.

How will a healthy work environment benefit my bottom line?

Research shows that healthy people working in a healthy environment are key to business success. That’s because a healthy workplace improves productivity and reduces employers’ costs.

A healthy workplace will:

  • Improve employee health outcomes
  • Make it easier to attract and retain qualified employees
  • Lower absenteeism
  • Reduce health benefit costs
  • Enhance morale
  • Reduce risk of injury
  • Improve job performance

Healthy Work Environments are Good for Business*

  • Absenteeism in Canada has increased steadily since the 1990s.  In B.C., actual work time lost for personal reasons was 8.5 days per employee in 2005--and the lost productivity that goes along with it is a major business cost. 
  • People who have a supportive supervisor, flexible workplaces, and low job stress report greater work-life balance. 
  • Job stress has been linked causally to heart disease, depression, diabetes, asthma, migraines, and ulcers.
  • Obesity in the workforce imposes costs on employers, including workers’ compensation claims, medical benefit costs, and absenteeism.
  • Workplace health promotion interventions that are comprehensive, well-designed, and successfully implemented will have a positive return-on-investment.
  • Multi-component worksite health promotion programs which track return on investment result in average reductions in sick leave, health plan costs, workers’ compensation and disability costs of just over 25%. 
*The business world includes private companies, not-for-profit organizations and government
A summary of recent research and evidence on healthy workplaces can help when you’re ready to develop a business case for healthy work environment initiatives. 

What is a flexible workplace?

A flexible workplace supports employees to balance work and life commitments. It’s an environment in which the workplace culture views this balance as positive and encourages employees to take advantage of options such as:

  • Flexibility – allowing employees to have some capacity to adapt their workday to respond to family issues such as a child becoming ill or one who has special needs, school visits and parent-teacher interviews or special needs of elders. It typically includes family responsibility leave for employees.
  • Supportive supervisors/managers whose management style values staff and is characterized by a desire to help employees achieve better balance between work and the rest of their lives.
  • A culture that is family friendly - overall attitudes, beliefs, values and taken-for-granted ways of doing things that support work-family issues as legitimate workplace concerns, and as an opportunity to develop ‘new ways of working’.  Options include maternity, paternity, family and personal leave provisions.
  • Alternative work arrangements – options are available to employees including daily or scheduled flex time arrangements, job-sharing, reduced hours, compressed work week, family leave options, part-time work, gradual retirement, telecommuting, other leaves and sabbatical options. Such alternative work arrangements are seen as ways of working, and employees using them are not sidelined, marginalized or belittled.
  • Recognition of child and elder care issues including support for child care, providing access to a service regarding child or elder care, establishing on-site child care or, developing a consortium with other employers in order to provide emergency child care. This includes accommodating the needs of employees who are breastfeeding their children.

Source: Work and Family Unit, Saskatchewan Labour, 2005
Component of The Family Friendly Workplace Portfolio

The impact of healthy workplace actions on business success

As businesses progress along the path toward being a healthy business they will see increased benefits for both employees and performance. Use this visual model to discuss the following:

  • Where is your business on this pathway?
  • Where do you want to be in 5 years?
  • What actions will get you there?
Healthy Workplace Impact

1 The Business Case for a Healthy Workplace by Joan Burton, Industrial Accident Prevention Association www.iapa.ca
2 Smoking and the Bottom Line: Updating the Costs of Smoking in the Workplace by the Conference Board of Canada (2006) www.conferenceboard.ca
3 Global Business and Economic Roundtable on Addiction and Mental Health (2006) Business and Economic Plan for Mental Health and Productivity—An Agenda for Progress: Reducing the Social and Economic Burden of Mental Disabilities in the Workplace. Toronto