Program discontinuation notice
Due to changes reflected in the modernized Standards for Public Health Program and Services, the Workplace Wellness Program has been DISCONTINUED. The information on this website is still relevant and may be helpful in your workplace health and wellness programming.
York Region provides consulting and support services and resources to help businesses start and maintain a Workplace Wellness program. York Region offers information to workplaces in the key areas of employee health, including:
- Stress management
- Skin cancer prevention
- Physical activity
- Stress management
- Substance use
- Tobacco use
- Healthy eating
- Becoming a breastfeeding-friendly place
By starting or improving a Workplace Wellness program, workplaces can take care of their most important resource, their employees. Employees who feel safe, healthy and supported give businesses a competitive edge. It makes business sense to promote health in the workplace and it can be simple and inexpensive.
Aspects of a Healthy Workplace
Starting a Workplace Wellness program
Current research shows that a comprehensive approach to workplace health promotion is the most effective way to protect and enhance the health of an organization and its employees. This approach to creating a healthier workplace supports program activities that can be easily maintained and that focus on the needs of the employees and the organization.
A successful workplace wellness model has strategies to reduce employees’ health risks in three broad categories:
- Occupational health and safety: including reducing work-related injury, illness and disability by addressing factors in the physical environment such as physical, biological and chemical hazards, ergonomics and air quality
- Organizational change initiatives: including changing employee attitudes and perceptions, management practices and the way work is organized to improve job satisfaction and productivity
- Voluntary health practices: including addressing lifestyle behaviours such as physical activity, tobacco and substance use, nutrition, stress management and cancer prevention through education, supportive environments and policy
A complete Workplace Wellness plan (Health Plan) organizes these activities according to the four health promotion strategies:
- Awareness building: provide information to raise awareness of health risks and the benefits to employees for making healthy choices
- Education and skill building: provide education and opportunities for staff to learn new skills related to healthy living
- Environmental supports: provide an environment that encourages employees to make healthy choices
- Policy and guideline development: establish policies and guidelines that encourage healthy living
York Region’s Workplace Wellness Toolkit was created to help companies develop their health plan. Workplaces can move through the steps quickly or choose a gradual guided approach to develop their health plan and engage their employees.
Physical Activity and Sedentary Behaviour
Physical activity is beneficial to the body and the mind. Research shows that regular physical activity can help reduce the risk of over 25 chronic conditions, including coronary heart disease, stroke, hypertension, breast and colon cancer, type 2 diabetes and osteoporosis. As well, physical activity has been linked to improved sleep, reduced stress and improved mental health.
Being active on a regular basis helps you to become more fit. This allows you to perform tasks of daily living with comfort and ease. According to the Public Health Agency of Canada, about half of the functional decline between the ages of 30 and 70 is the result of an inactive lifestyle and not aging.
The Canadian physical activity guidelines recommend adults should accumulate at least 150 minutes (2.5 hours) of moderate-to vigorous-intensity aerobic physical activity per week, in bouts of 10 minutes or more for health benefits. This includes activities such as walking, taking the stairs, cycling or sports.
Since more than half of Canadian adults spend at least one third of their waking hours at work, fitting physical activity into the work day is a great way to be active and also reduce sedentary time (sitting).
Workplaces with active employees have a reduced level of:
- Work related Injuries
- Disability and health claims
Employees experience better:
- Health and well-being
- Job satisfaction
- Ability to cope with stress
- Increased productivity and effectiveness at work
Workplaces can help employees reduce sedentary time by providing opportunities for employees to be active. Here are some examples:
- Host a pedometer challenge and/or a Physical Activity Counts! challenge
- Include physical activity in comprehensive workplace wellness programming
- Encourage the formation of a walking club
- Encourage active breaks throughout the day, for example stretch breaks when sitting for a while and stretching exercises to keep active
Health professionals recommend we walk at least 10,000 steps daily to achieve health benefits. How far do you and your fellow employees walk?
Starting a Pedometer Challenge is a great way to raise awareness of regular physical activity and promote healthy active living among employees.
The Pedometer Challenge Toolkit provides all the resources a workplace needs to organize a challenge.
Sedentary behaviour is any activity done while in a sitting or reclining position that requires very little movement and energy expenditure (measured in metabolic equivalent or MET). This does not include sleep as sleep is beneficial to health. Sleep helps reduce the risk of developing chronic conditions such as type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, obesity and depression.
Sedentary behaviours include occupational sitting, commuting in automobiles and time spent in front of screens (computer, television, mobile devices). Being sedentary increases the risk for poor health outcomes such as:
- Cardiovascular disease
- Type 2 diabetes
- Weight gain
- Some cancers
- Back pain
- Metabolic syndrome
Metabolic syndrome refers to a group of risk factors that often occur together and include abdominal obesity (fat around the waist), elevated blood pressure, high triglycerides, elevated blood sugar and low levels of high density lipoprotein. These risk factors combined increase your risk of developing type 2 diabetes, heart disease and stroke.
Ways to reduce sedentary time
Some activities such as reading, working on the computer or travelling may need to be completed while sitting but it is good practice to find a healthy balance between sitting and standing. Whenever possible, incorporate physical activity into your day to help meet the physical activity guidelines for adults of 150 minutes (2.5 hours) of moderate to vigorous physical activity per week for health benefits and to displace time spent in sedentary activities.
Look for ways to break up sedentary time and move more:
- Take the stairs. Research shows that using the stairs regularly can help reduce the risk for chronic diseases such as heart disease, stroke and obesity. It also raises awareness of the stairwell locations in case of emergency
- Look for cues to remind you to stand. For example, stand up to answer the phone and stay standing while talking on it, or when someone enters your work area stand up
- Hold walking meetings. Walking burns calories and stimulates blood flow throughout the body, helping to increase concentration and problem solving
- Walk to a colleague’s desk for a face to face discussion instead of using email or phone
- Print documents to a printer further away
- Take active breaks. Go for a short walk around the office or do some stretches
- Break up seated work with standing-based work. A sit/stand work station is helpful if the workplace is able to provide this
- Go for a walk at lunch. Join or form a walking club at work
- Park the car a little farther away from your destination and walk the rest of the way
- Consider walking for trips up to two kilometres and cycling for trips up to five kilometres
- Healthy U – provides information on getting active and staying active
- Canadian Physical Activity Guidelines for adults and older adults
- Canadian Physical Activity and Sedentary Behaviour Guidelines Handbook
- Australian Government: Department of Health - Tips for reducing sedentary behaviour
- Evans Health Lab: Let’s make our day harder (video) - A review of some of the science around how our typical days have shifted with technology and culture and the impact on our health. It is also a call to action about how to "Tweak your Week" and make small changes to improve your health
- The Victorian Health Promotion Foundation (VicHealth): Reducing prolonged sitting in the workplace (video) - Part of VicHealth's Creating Healthy Workplaces program to demonstrate the health impacts of prolonged sitting at work, and provide practical strategies that workplaces can adopt to improve the health and wellbeing of their staff
Mental Health and Stress in the Workplace
To help employers create and maintain healthy workplaces, the Mental Health Commission of Canada and its partners have released the National Standard of Canada for Psychological Health and Safety in the Workplace and an Action Guide for Employers. Visit the Mental Health Commission of Canada to download the standard, action guide and to register for free monthly webinars.
Stress in the workplace
Stress is a part of life. A little bit of stress can be motivating, helping us to get things done. Too much stress can overcome our ability to cope and can result in health concerns such as headaches, sleep disturbances, difficulty with concentration, irritability, short temper and upset stomach. You may also experience job dissatisfaction and low morale (CCOHS).
Fortunately, there are strategies that may help with stress management. These include:
- Participating in physical activity which releases endorphins, feel good chemicals in the brain that act as natural pain killers. Also, physical activity helps to reduce tension and facilitates a good night’s sleep so that you are better able to handle stress
- Engaging in mindful health activities such as Me Time, Strive for Balance, Make the Connection and Spending Time in Nature
- Workplaces can host a Mindful Health Challenge. This resource is designed to help participants become more aware of their daily health habits and empowers them to make "mindfully healthy" choices
According to the Mental Health Commission of Canada, the workplace can be a strong contributor to positive mental health. It can, however, also be a stressful environment that contributes to mental health concerns and illness.
Good mental health is an integral part of health. It is more than just the absence of mental disorders. It is about feeling good and being able to function effectively most of the time (CMHA).
You can look after your mental health by building mindful health choices into your life.
The Workplace Wellness e-newsletter focuses on recent research, health information and resources related to workplaces. It provides regular updates on current public health campaigns and is distributed quarterly to subscribers. This e-newsletter can be forwarded to your employees, included in your company newsletter or posted.
Archived Workplace Wellness Newsletters:
- December 2017
Mindful eating; Who cares? York Region Public Health Cares – YouTube; ‘Tis the season to stay active!; Notice of discontinuation of the Workplace Wellness E-newsletter – Last issue; ‘Tis the season for cancer prevention; It is easier than ever to get your flu shot!; Deck the halls, prevent the falls, and spread some cheer – winter is coming!; Sleep Deprivation Effects – infographic; From Liver to Lentils, The Changing Messages of Canada’s Food Guide – YouTube; How to deal with loneliness, according to an expert – YouTube; Measuring Positive Mental Health in Canada: Social Support – infographic; Recipes; Fun Corner - riddle
- September 2017
Bring mindfulness to work; Don’t worry! Be happy and keep moving!; Start your quite journey with Stop on the Road; Radon - test your home study; Notice of discontinuation; Help make your workplace more age-friendly!; Ergonomics: Position for Safety and Comfort – infographic; Let’s cook! – YouTube; Mindful health – YouTube; Human Health – quiz; recipes; Fun corner: English! What a Language!
- June 2017
York Region forests bring wellness; Will you be “Fit to Retire?”; Becoming a breastfeeding friendly place; Think about it – infographic; Diabetes and Depression in Older Women – podcast; Diseases Caused by Mosquitoes – infographic; insect repellents – web resource; recipes; Nutrition Basics: The Best Probiotic Foods to Eat - YouTube; Safe Food Handling: Fridge – Health Canada Interactive Tool; Sun Safety at Work – YouTube; Bike to Work Month – web page; Fun Corner: brain teaser
- March 2017
March is Nutrition Month: Let’s cook ; ParticipACTION 150 play list; Bring the forest home with you; Weight management and your heart – infographic; Healthy heart score – quiz; The science of subjective well-being, a.k.a. happiness – YouTube; Mental illness in Ontario – infographic; Five feet of fabulous – YouTube ; Fun corner: brain teaser
Becoming a Breastfeeding-Friendly Place
The Ontario Human Rights Code says women have the right to breastfeed, undisturbed in any public place in Ontario without being asked to cover up or move to a more discreet area.
The Becoming A Breastfeeding-Friendly Place guide provides businesses and public establishments with step-by-step instructions and resources to create breastfeeding-friendly and welcoming spaces. Decals are available for display in your establishment to promote breastfeeding in public and to attract families to your organization.
By welcoming breastfeeding families, your business will:
- Publicly acknowledge the rights of breastfeeding families
- Attract families to your facilities
- Align your organization with the promotion of health and wellness
By supporting and welcoming breastfeeding families, you are joining many other businesses and organizations that are committed to promoting a healthy community.