With the New Year approaching, some Ontario employees may be looking to move to pastures new in 2020. The issue for their current employer is that replacing any employees is difficult at present, let alone those with the specific experience and skillsets required.

In 2019, Canadians experienced a growing awareness both within business and the general public of the importance of mental health and wellness in the workplace. This has an impact on retention rates, as the Globe and Mail reported:

“More and more organizations are beginning to see a correlation between their employees’ well-being and their willingness to stick around.”

In their survey, ‘The LifeWorks Workplace Well-being Priorities – CEO Perspectives’, USA company Morneau Shepell stated that:

“Progressive companies are realizing they need to broaden their attitude to workplace wellness, taking a holistic approach that considers all aspects of the individual’s health, including family, financial and workplace… Modern businesses understand that to attract and retain top talent, they need to continually invest in their workers’ wellness – it’s good for the employees and it’s good for the business.”

Shall I stay or shall I go?

Can wellness provide an extra incentive for your employees to stay with your business or organisation? The evidence seems to point that way. So, how can your business start to improve wellness and mental health in your workplace?

According to Élisabeth Paquin, advisor, human resources at Aéroport de Québec, the first step is to listen:

“We just try to listen to what they need and what they want, so they can be happy where they work …They like to work here, and they think they have good conditions – better than other places.”

Removing the stigma about talking through issues is also key, according to Carole Morris, director of human resources at MDS Aero Support Corp:

“Over the past couple of years we set up a mental-health committee because we said, ‘We just want to … get rid of the stigma, and start talking about stress management and how stress affects one’s performance.’”

The trend of linking wellness and creativity is nothing new: Google have been doing it for years. As an article for Rise People says:

“Whether it’s the free bikes that litter the company’s campuses, the massage parlours, the on-call doctors and nurses, the on-site laundry, the nap rooms, the office dogs, the standing desks, the colour-coded healthy cafeteria, the Lego stations, the Ping-Pong tables, and even the big company slide. Google set a new standard for the office experience that many companies have been scrambling to compete with.”

However, it’s not just big corporations that are making changes. Ontario financial service provider group Williamson Group have taken small steps that have made a difference, including starting a running club, then creating an annual race.

“The company also instituted Fibre Fridays, where the executives pay for a tray of fruit and vegetables for their employees once a week. Their wellness initiatives have grown to include smoking cessation programs, fitness assessments, cholesterol tests, and BMI calculations.”

Why government likes wellness initiatives

The Canadian Government have been keeping a close eye on the growth of health and wellness programmes too. According to the 2016 Federal Public Service Workplace Mental Health Strategy:

“A healthy workplace is essential to the physical and psychological health of all public service employees, as it enables them to bring the best of their diverse talents, skills and energy as they deliver services to Canadians.”

The survey also revealed that:

“Employees who had positive perceptions of well-being in their workplace tended to report higher levels of satisfaction with their organization.”

A more recent survey in by Canadian pharmaceutical company Sanofi-aventis found that:

“89% of employees that praise their company’s wellness culture say they are satisfied with their current jobs, compared to 59% without the benefits of wellness culture.”

Wellness initiatives and the bottom line

Are there more tangible benefits to a business wellness program beyond retention and general satisfaction? According to an analysis by Sun Life Financial, it also can impact positively on your business finances:

“Companies that kick-started an effective wellness program reduced costs and experienced financial gains, including:

  • 11% higher revenue per employee
  • 1.8 fewer days absent per employee per year
  • 28% higher shareholder returns
  • For every $1.00 spent on wellness programs,
    • medical costs fall by about $3.27 and
    • absenteeism costs fall about $2.73”

If those figures are not persuasive enough, a study by Soma Analytics found that:

“FTSE 100 companies that prioritize employee engagement and wellbeing outperform the rest of the FTSE 100 by 10 per cent.”

What should a workplace wellness program include?

Any wellness program should be tailored to needs and requirements of your employees. If they work primarily in an office environment, incentives to help people exercise more and promote a positive work/life balance may be key, for example.

The Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety (CCOHS) lists key areas that need to be addressed in a wellness strategy as:

  • Violence and Bullying
  • Impairment
  • Stress
  • Work-Life Balance
  • Promotion
  • Mental Health
  • Program Development

Writing in CEO WORLD, Paula Allen of Morneau Shepell provides an excellent list of considerations when setting up your own wellness program.

  • Wellbeing programs are not a “one size fits all” solution. Understand and address your employees’ particular needs.
  • Competitive compensation packages are not enough anymore – a company’s culture is key
  • A healthy lifestyle is not just fitness and diet – sleep management, stress reduction, financial well-being and relationships are all important.
  • Your well-being program must be accessible to all and available on mobile devices.
  • Consider flexible support options, including face to face, text support or video chats.
  • Don’t neglect the mental health and wellbeing of top management.
  • Measure employee wellbeing so you know what’s working!

Wellbeing for owner/operator businesses

If you ARE the company, your wellbeing is critical. Make sure you take time to treat yourself as your No1 employee, and put in place your own support structures to help you achieve your own wellbeing goals.

How your local Chamber can help

There’s lots of help and support available here at your local Chamber of Commerce. We’re here to serve local businesses like yours, to support your ambitions and represent your interests. You’ll also find lots of support and help from our membership, always happy to talk to other businesses at our networking meetings.

As a local Chamber member, you can also join the Chambers of Commerce Group Insurance Plan. It’s Canada’s No.1 plan for employee benefits, created especially for companies with up to 50 employees. It’s a great foundation on which to build your own wellness initiative. Just call us for details.