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Your one stop shop for all topics workplace health and wellness related!

  • Business Spotlight: Coast Hotels

    The second annual Healthy Workplaces Extra Mile Awards, hosted March 20th 2017, created a community of knowledge around workplace health and wellness. We spoke to Coast Hotels, the winner of the Silver Extra Mile Award and the Health Innovation Award, to gain insight into workplace wellness. Coast Hotels is recognized for implementing unique wellness activities and fostering an environment that promotes healthy living. We recently sat down with Sandra Stewart, People and Culture Advisor at Coast Hotels. She described the transformative effect of workplace wellness, saying that it helps employees approach their work with greater enthusiasm and enjoyment, a welcome outcome in any business. Read our interview with Sandra to hear Coast Hotels’ captivating wellness story and discover their innovative initiatives!

    What advice would you give to businesses around workplace health and wellness?

    Sandra: Start with a survey to understand what people think about workplace wellness and find out if people are interested in forming a wellness committee. Wellness committee members could be employees looking to join a fun workplace initiative or those who maintain individual health and want to focus on helping others.

    Also, recognize the talent within your workplace. If you tap into the skills of different individuals and departments your workplace wellness initiatives become stronger. For example, we had our marketing team conjure up a wellness mascot, Agent Coast, and we created a walking challenge where employee steps powered Agent Coast’s journey between our hotels all the way from Yellowknife to Whitehorse! We recorded the daily kilometers employees ran or walked using an online survey, added up the collective distance, and emailed updates on Agent Coast’s progress. In three weeks Agent Coast arrived at his destination in Whitehorse, travelling 1,880 kilometers! The Agent Coast walking challenge was a huge success and we plan to bring it back every quarter, sending Agent Coast on journeys around Coast Hotel locations.

    How has your organization’s outlook on workplace health and wellness evolved?

    Sandra: Our employees have become more conscious about physical activity and healthy eating. They think carefully before making decisions about whether to walk to work or eat a particular food. Before we adopted a focus on workplace wellness our social committee would provide pizza and cupcakes at workplace gatherings. In embracing workplace wellness we’ve now opted for salad and sandwich bars instead. Integrating wellness into a social context helps people rally around it and support one another while making an environment where the healthy choice is the easy choice!

    What communication strategies have you used to promote wellness initiatives?

    Sandra: We send emails to all our employees, using catchy titles to capture attention and introduce subjects like shopping for healthy groceries. To take a fun break from work and allow employees to engage with wellness messages we create our own videos around health topics like sun safety awareness. We also create PowerPoint presentations showcasing health and wellness messages that we can display on our internal office televisions so staff that don’t have access to computers can see the information Some of our past PowerPoint presentations have explained the nutritious benefits of eating any of the food items that are part of our salad or sandwich bars, such as kale, cilantro, chickpeas and avocado.

    How do your organizational values support workplace health and wellness?

    Sandra: The five core values that we promote at Coast Hotels- expect commitment, act with fairness, live with honour, challenge the limits, and win together- coincide with our dedication to workplace wellness. We work towards creating a healthier work environment every day. When we promote new workplace wellness initiatives our ambassadors embrace the opportunity to challenge the limits and win together.

    Coast Hotels cares for the hospitality of guests and the health of employees. They cultivate a culture of workplace wellness through fun initiatives and innovative educational strategies that inform and inspire staff. They integrate healthy living into communications and social gatherings, while also encouraging employees to dream of exciting new developments for workplace wellness initiatives. We’d like to thank Coast Hotels for sharing their valuable insights into workplace health and wellness!

Business Spotlight: Coast Hotels

July 19th, 2017|Business Spotlight|

The second annual Healthy Workplaces Extra Mile Awards, hosted March 20th 2017, created a community of knowledge around workplace health and wellness. We spoke to Coast Hotels, the winner of the Silver Extra Mile Award [...]

  • Business Spotlight: City of Richmond

    Recently we took some time to sit down with the City of Richmond, our 2017 Platinum level Extra Mile Awards winner. We wanted to hear more about what contributes to their culture of workplace wellness. Take a look below to hear more about this ever evolving workplace wellness program from the perspective of Alison Dennis, Disability, Health & Wellness Specialist.

    What has been the most rewarding organizational outcome of promoting workplace health and wellness?

    Alison: Given that we are a municipality there are so many different employee groups that are often spread out geographically. One of the most rewarding organizational outcomes of promoting workplace health and wellness has been the team connectedness when employee groups come together to participate in team initiatives and competitions. Seeing staff reconnecting with each other through fun competition and getting out of the office at lunch is invaluable. For me, personally, the most rewarding aspect has been helping my colleagues go through personal accomplishments such as achieving significant weight loss, increased self-awareness and or knowing our programs have assisted in earlier detection of cancers, heart disease and diabetes. It has also been really great to see the mandate for health and wellness come straight from our upper senior management team.

    What advice would you give to other municipalities to convince them of the benefits of workplace health and wellness?

    Alison: My number one piece of advice would be making sure you know what all your different employee groups want out of the wellness program, because after all, it is their program. If your programing is not what they want, they won’t use it so make sure you get out there and talk to them face to face but also make sure to follow through on your conversations. I would also recommend that you form a representative wellness committee that has members from all levels of the organization including senior management. I interview all potential committee members for suitability to make sure they have a vested interest in helping carry our wellness initiatives forward.

    How has your organization’s outlook on workplace health and wellness evolved?

    Alison: I have been with the organization for 18 years and have been working on health and wellness internally for close to 16 of them, so I have seen many evolutions in regards to workplace health. When we first started, the only aspect of the programing was around physical activity but that slowly evolved to including nutrition and other healthy lifestyle behaviours. Now, all these years later, our program has evolved into positively impacting organizational culture and all aspects of wellness. We now hold the philosophy; Work hard, play hard.

    As a municipal organization what challenges do you face in implementing workplace health and wellness?

    Alison: Like any public organization we face the challenge of a small budget so we really need to leverage community partnerships, those organizations that have a mandate to assist in programing like ours. Another challenge we face as a municipality is both the diversity of our various staff teams and how geographically spread out our employees are. We have office staff, firefighters, and an outside workforce so we need to make sure our program is flexible to their needs and schedules. I have spent lots of time talking face to face with these departments to ensure their needs are met, and now they have each formed their own wellness committees to help keep wellness alive in their areas of the operation!

    In your application for the Extra Mile Awards it mentions that “your wellness program has had over 60% of the organization participate in one or more initiatives.” How do you motivate staff to participate in workplace wellness initiatives?

    Alison: Face to face interactions! Build those relationships, listening to employees and being accessible to them helps us see great organizational participation. I make sure I am present at all wellness activities and I ask questions and solicit feedback at each one.

    What is your favourite workplace wellness initiative that the City has done?

    Alison: The City of Richmond was involved in the Vancouver 2010 Winter Olympics, so leading up to the event we decided to host our own “Warm Up to 2010 Olympics”. We had over 500 staff participate including our General Manager and our Chief Administrative Officer (CAO) over the six week program. In fact, the CAO and I competed against each other in the rowing competition! Staff recruited teams of 8-10 employees and competed in adapted Olympic events with fun twists such as chariots of fire and blind folded biathlon. We even had a tiki torch as our Olympic flame and had opening and closing ceremonies complete with team parades and a team cheer competition.

    Another one of my favourite initiatives has been our coaching program. I have been able to assist my colleagues who were poised to go off work on stress leave stay in their positions and set goals to becoming a healthier version of themselves!

    In the City of Richmond’s Extra Mile Award application it mentions that you’ve participated in pilot programs with various organizations and research groups. How do you connect with these opportunities and what unique benefits do they offer?

    Alison: It is easy! Just phone up an organization and start asking the questions. If a particular organization can’t help you they are often able to point you in the direction of someone who can. We also hold good relationships with our local university, the University of British Columbia, so when they are conducting research that has to do with the workplace setting they know they can reach out to us to be a pilot site. It is a symbiotic relationship!

    The City of Richmond cares about the health of employees. They cultivate a culture of workplace wellness through fun initiatives and removing health barriers for employees. We would like to thank the City for sharing their valuable insights into workplace health and

Business Spotlight: City of Richmond

July 5th, 2017|Business Spotlight|

Recently we took some time to sit down with the City of Richmond, our 2017 Platinum level Extra Mile Awards winner. We wanted to hear more about what contributes to their culture of workplace wellness. [...]

  • 5 best practices to boost your workplace wellness program

    Written by: Charles Curtis, President of Curtis Personalized Health Management and General Manager of 12 Weeks to Wellness

    My name is Charles Curtis and for the past 30 years I have been reading, consulting, discussing and writing on the ever increasing costs of poor health in the workplace and improving workplace wellbeing.

    We know that costs associated with employee health continue to rise regardless of the overwhelming evidence of the positive return on investment (ROI) from effective workplace wellness programs.

    So how can we determine what programs result in the positive outcome companies now must strive for?

    A 2011 Sun Life-Ivey Business School study, Canadian Wellness Return on Investment Study, identified the five best practices to support optimal wellness strategy, design and implementation as:

    1. Leadership by example from senior and middle management creates a healthy culture.
    2. Policies and practices that reflect a culture of health and a commitment to a healthy workplace.
    3. Communication is critical. Employees must understand the employer’s commitment to employee health and wellness offering.
    4. Targeted programs to identify top health risks.
    5. Evaluate outcomes for analysis and benchmarks.

    Leadership

    Over the past 30 years, some organizations I’ve worked with exist through a philosophy of wellness for everything they do. Starting from the top, leadership believed that organized wellness activities were to be woven into the fabric of the company. The result was continuous growth, positive energy, pride and better outcomes resulting in organization wide cost savings while allowing the wellness budget to continually grow.

    Contrary to this winning approach, I have seen cases where a very small budget was given to outfit fitness centres and see how the attendance would be before any more funds were injected into the program. This “build it and they will come” approach without strong leadership or investment usually results in little engagement, accountability and ownership of the program.

    Policies and Practices

    A strong business case with solid policies and practices is a must in order to sustain a wellness program. The strongest programs have a team of dedicated employees supported by leadership and an outside expert to help guide them through the pitfalls of a start up or refresh. Forming a committee to establish guidelines sets the tone for a strong program. The key to this is having a solid plan and committee members that are committed to the program, the company and the people. Without a dedicated group willing to work hard and support the policies it is an uphill battle.

    Communication

    The best programs have the strongest methods of communications. If the communication system is not effective then it doesn’t matter if you have the greatest programs available.

    One example of this, I have seen, had a middle management who believed in the program but there was little budget to promote the services. That created a situation where the organization had little “skin in the game” and left the program and sign ups to the employees without financial support, leadership or ownership. That was not a sustainable model. Opposite to that, I have seen programs that have a strong web presence, communication policy and plans. Consistent messages and programs are promoted well in advance throughout the locations and levels of organization, and supported by champions spreading the good word. Again, the return betters the more the investment and programs are communicated effectively.

    Targeted Programs
    Using passive forms of communication alone, such as educational handouts on fitness, health and wellness, does not achieve a positive return on investment. Behavioral health interventions will provide a much better result, establishing a winning plan for reducing those costly areas of concern and enabling the employee population of your company to flourish.

    In my experience, using a health risk identification process and interest survey as a program launching point will ensure all data and health trends are collected from the beginning. This data is paramount in identifying and targeting the key areas of risk and interest in order to establish the most effective services and programs and maintain program accountability.

    Evaluation

    As a follow up to the risk identification process, it is suggested organizations develop a comparative feedback measurement to evaluate program success and establish accountability. The most successful programs are under constant scrutiny and evaluation. Evaluation can come in many forms: participation levels, participation feedback, pre and post test results and financial cost benefits just to name a few. This process forces the organization to keep on top of the program and make adjustments as needed in a timely matter.

    Charles Curtis is President of Curtis Personalized Health Management and General Manager of 12 Weeks to Wellness: Premier services in providing fitness, health, wellness and coaching programs to individuals and organizations since 1985.

5 best practices to boost your workplace wellness program

June 19th, 2017|Monthly highlight|

Written by: Charles Curtis, President of Curtis Personalized Health Management and General Manager of 12 Weeks to Wellness My name is Charles Curtis and for the past 30 years I have been reading, consulting, discussing and writing on [...]

  • Business Spotlight: West Vancouver Schools

    Teachers teaching teachers

    On March 30th, 2017 we hosted the second annual Healthy Workplaces Extra Mile Awards, and we recently took some time to speak with one of our winners, West Vancouver Schools. As the winner of the 2017 Health Education Award, they are recognized for implementing innovative educational strategies in workplaces. To understand the challenges and rewards of promoting workplace health and wellness, we spoke to Amy Rafuse, Human Resources Advisor for West Vancouver Schools.

    Amy highlighted the positive potential of workplace health and wellness programs by sharing the testimonial of an employee from a recent nutrition challenge.

    “I chose the nutrition challenge for a few reasons. Recovering from a serious illness, I was rebuilding my body from the inside out…. I learned a lot from it, and found it easy that I did not need to research things on my own but rather information was provided to me with the weekly challenges.”

    This story confirms the power of workplace health and wellness programs to transform the lives of employees. Our interview with Amy shares more about West Vancouver Schools’ inspiring wellness story!

    What advice would you give to other organizations or school boards about workplace health and wellness?

    Amy: Don’t get bogged down in planning every little detail before initiating workplace health and wellness. Find out what your employees are interested in, and what they need, and just start! Once you’ve started, the positive feedback and suggestions create a momentum that sustains workplace wellness. If you have a diverse employee demographic, like we do, then focus on the universal experiences that affect health and wellness. Factors like work-life balance, stress management, and relationships transcend the divisions of employee demographics, making it easier to plan workplace wellness initiatives.

    How has your organization’s outlook on workplace health and wellness evolved over time?

    Amy: Throughout the past year our focus has been on traditional aspects of health and wellness: exercise and healthy eating. After building internal buy-in and getting positive feedback from employees, we’re hoping to transition into a general holistic approach to workplace health and wellness. We’d like to offer mindfulness and meditation initiatives that address aspects of wellness beyond nutrition and fitness.

    Have you encountered any challenges to implementing workplace health and wellness? If so, how did you approach them?

    Amy: We are always challenged by budget. West Vancouver Schools is a publicly funded district so we have to balance the needs of employees and the expectations of taxpayers. It can be difficult to mitigate costs while providing good quality workplace wellness initiatives. One of the ways we cut costs is by looking for in-house experts. Since our employees are qualified across so many different subject areas we can harness their knowledge to provide workplace wellness initiatives. With our transitioning focus on mindfulness we want to arrange for a speaker to come in. After investigating options we found that a corporate professional might charge close to a thousand dollars to deliver a presentation, whereas a PhD student doing research in the field of mindfulness may be happy to speak for free.

    With teaching at the core of your workplace culture how do you approach health education?

    Amy: We emphasize the accessibility of information. Due to the busy schedule of school days we arrange wellness initiatives flexibly around the demands of different employee groups. We use multiple avenues to relay health and wellness information, and we engage in friendly competition across schools. With teaching being at our core, we have also used our students to educate our staff! One example of this is we had high school students prepare healthy snacks for staff during their cooking class. West Vancouver Schools are responsible for shaping the minds of future generations so it’s important for us to exemplify the benefits of maintaining health and wellness.

    West Vancouver Schools excel in educating employees. They use information to inspire action in healthy living challenges and through discussions with health and wellness professionals. Navigating the challenges of budget and diverse employee demographics, they have committed to workplace wellness, and are rewarded with the enthusiasm and satisfaction of staff. We’d like to thank West Vancouver Schools for sharing their knowledge on workplace wellness!

     

     

Business Spotlight: West Vancouver Schools

June 2nd, 2017|Business Spotlight|

Teachers teaching teachers On March 30th, 2017 we hosted the second annual Healthy Workplaces Extra Mile Awards, and we recently took some time to speak with one of our winners, West Vancouver Schools. As the [...]

  • Business Spotlight: BlueShore Financial

    Following the inspiring momentum of the second annual Healthy Workplaces Extra Mile Awards, we took some time to speak with one of our nominees. BlueShore Financial is one of British Columbia’s largest credit unions. With over 340 employees across 12 branches and a head office, they understand the challenges of implementing accessible and inclusive workplace wellness initiatives. We had the pleasure of speaking with Marni Johnson, Senior Vice President of Human Resources and Communications, to hear BlueShore’s wellness story. Explore our interview with Marni to find out how workplace wellness programs enhance quality of life and help employees enjoy their work!

    What advice would you give to a business to convince them of the benefits of workplace health and wellness?

    Marni: It simply makes good business sense to take care of your people. They are your most valuable assets. An investment in workplace wellness shows employees that they’re valued and promotes team spirit and engagement. Since a large percentage of business healthcare costs are due to preventable conditions, taking a proactive approach to workplace health and wellness also reduces long term costs.

    How would you define your organizational culture with regards to workplace health and wellness?

    Marni: At BlueShore Financial we view our relationship with employees as a partnership. We do everything we can to facilitate their health and wellness. We emphasize the importance of only coming to work when healthy and encourage employees who aren’t well to stay home by offering unlimited sick days. We host weekly soccer games, paying for the rental of a local field, and invite employees to play outdoors. The CEO of BlueShore participates in the staff soccer games too!

    We also regularly sponsor health and wellness related events in our communities, such as 10k runs and half marathons in Vancouver, Whistler, Squamish and other regions. We promote employee wellness at the same time by encouraging staff to participate in these initiatives by covering the registration fee.

    To accommodate the health and wellness of diverse employee demographics, last year we started offering an annual stipend for wellness purchases. More than half of our staff took advantage of this initiative, buying running shoes, yoga classes, and everything in between. We give a great deal to our employees and the value of our investment is demonstrated through their energy, productivity, and commitment!

    BlueShore Financial promotes a flexible work environment. How does this contribute to employee health and wellness?

    Marni: A flexible work environment helps employees balance their work and personal interests. As in most workplaces, opportunities to work flexible hours differ depending on the role, but many of our employees are able to leave work early to go see their child’s school play, work out at a time that suits them, or take time to meet with an elder care resource. We know that making flexible work arrangements possible contributes to the physical and mental health of employees and their families.

    What is your favourite workplace wellness initiative at BlueShore?

    Marni: My favourite wellness initiative is our physical activity photo challenge. Every summer we ask employees to send in photos of their outdoor physical activity adventures and we post the photos on our employee intranet. The challenge is low cost and inclusive. You don’t have to be an athlete to participate, and you get to learn about your colleagues’ interests. I find it inspiring to see whole branches or departments of BlueShore doing the Grouse Grind together or tackling the Tough Mudder.

    If you could give one piece of advice to another company around workplace health and wellness, what would it be?

    Marni: Workplace health and wellness doesn’t have to cost a lot. There are two key ingredients: imagination and wellness champions. Find people who are passionate about health and wellness so that they approach initiatives with enthusiasm!

    Improving the well-being of employees, clients, and communities is part of the core purpose of BlueShore Financial. Their workplace wellness initiatives are embraced by employees and supported by senior management. They see the value of investing in employee health, and encourage other businesses to take a proactive approach to workplace wellness. We appreciate BlueShore Financial sharing their insights into workplace health and wellness!

Business Spotlight: BlueShore Financial

May 10th, 2017|Business Spotlight|

Following the inspiring momentum of the second annual Healthy Workplaces Extra Mile Awards, we took some time to speak with one of our nominees. BlueShore Financial is one of British Columbia’s largest credit unions. With [...]

  • World Health Day 2017: Depression, let’s talk

    Depression can be a delicate topic to approach in the workplace, but as the conversation around mental health grows, the stigma is silenced. For World Health Day: 2017 the World Health Organization is mobilizing education and support efforts around depression.

    To strengthen your organization’s understanding of depression, it may be valuable to explore resources that can help to distinguish between myth and fact, and provide insight into the different ways that depression might manifest. Using educational resources such as fact sheets, posters, or handouts you can share information about the types and symptoms of depression, as well as its contributing factors and treatments. You can distribute these materials through internal communication channels or display them in common spaces such as lunch rooms or stair wells. It is also important to remind all employees of what may be available to them through your EAP (employee assistance program). By engaging in mental health education your organization empowers employees to identify and respond to signs of depression and other mental health topics.

    In openly discussing depression in the workplace, employers and employees may have unique challenges and considerations to take into account. For instance, employers may not know how to accommodate mental health issues in hiring practices, and employees might wonder how to articulate mental health issues to employers. Mental Health Works offers practical strategies and solutions that employers and employees can use to address depression and mental health in the workplace.

    Engaging in consistent mental health promotion supports a shift in organizational culture. It helps de-stigmatize topics like depression and encourages open discussion about mental health issues. To integrate mental health promotion into your organizational culture you can consider scheduling regular mental health hints where you share brief informational videos on the factors that affect mental health within the workplace. The videos are designed to promote discussion on factors such as workload management, psychological demands, and balance. They each have a corresponding worksheet that a facilitator, such as a wellness committee member, can use to guide conversation during team meetings, lunch ‘n’ learns, or employee orientations.

    Through a combination of mental health initiatives and information your organization can confront mental health issues while creating an atmosphere of acceptance and awareness. To connect with more resources about depression and mental health in the workplace you can visit our Workplace Wellness topics page

World Health Day 2017: Depression, let’s talk

April 6th, 2017|Mental Health|

Depression can be a delicate topic to approach in the workplace, but as the conversation around mental health grows, the stigma is silenced. For World Health Day: 2017 the World Health Organization is mobilizing education [...]