Workplace Wellness Programs (Part 1 – What Canadian Companies Are Doing)

How Healthy Are Canadian Workers?

Health and wellness programs for the workplace are not just for big companies, and are not just “employee perks”. There are numerous studies and statistics that show that promoting health and wellness in the workplace benefits both the employees and the organization.

Consider these facts about Canadian workers:

  • 60% spend their entire workday seated, and 56% are classified as “physically inactive”
  • 36% are overweight, and 23% are obese
  • 66% report high stress on their jobs
  • 21% are daily or regular smokers (1)

According to the Global Business and Economic Round Table:

  • An estimate of 7.5 million Canadians — each year, every year — actually suffer depression, anxiety, substance abuse or another mental disorder.
  • The cost to the Canadian economy from workplace stress, depression and mental illness is 35 million lost workdays and an estimated $35 billion in lost productivity annually. (2)

Benefits of a Healthy Workplace

Some of the benefits to companies that invest in a healthy workplace are:

  • Increased productivity
  • Lower absenteeism
  • Improved employee satisfaction
  • Reduced short and long-term disability payments
  • Reduced employee benefit costs
  • Lower worker’s compensation claims (3)

Furthermore, according to Canadian consulting firm, WorkingWell, an average ROI for an employee wellness program is $3.40 for every $1 spent.(4)

What is Workplace Wellness

Workplace Wellness is different from the traditional Health and Safety Programs that have a legal mandate focusing on prevention of injury. A Workplace Wellness Program involves a combination of health promotion, developing a wellness culture, and adapting the workplace environment to facilitate health and wellness. The overall goal should be to have a company strategy that creates a healthy workplace and supports employees in making healthy lifestyle changes (5).

Elements of a Workplace Wellness Program

A Workplace Wellness Program can consist of one or a variety of elements, and can be developed over time depending on your company’s resources and the needs of your employees.

Some of the top Workplace Wellness plans currently in use today include:

Employee Assistance Programs (EAPs):
These are a services ranging from educational resources to counseling intended to help employees deal with personal problems that might adversely impact their work performance, health, and well-being. It can also be part of a health insurance plan.

Health Promotion and Education:
This involves ongoing education to employees on a variety of health related issues. This can include internal campaigns coupled with health seminars, workshops, newsletters, etc.

Weight Management & Fitness Programs:
A company can encourage nutrition and physical exercise by offering healthy cafeteria food choices, providing in-house fitness equipment, sponsoring gym memberships, and encouraging company sports team initiatives.

Stress Management:
Relaxation and stress management programs generally fall under the Fitness Programs category but should be given special attention because of its popularity. This can include a range of services and sessions geared towards reducing stress and managing stress.

Screenings & Immunizations:
Companies can organize in-house health screenings such as breast cancer detection/mammograms, cholesterol testing, cardiac health screenings, etc. Companies can also offer immunizations and flu shots to workers for free.

Individual Goal Setting and Incentives:
These are company-sponsored initiatives that reward individual employees for achieving specific personal wellness goals. Participation in health campaigns and signing up for Workplace Wellness activities are two of the most commonly rewarded schemes. Rewards can range from special recognition’s to points, gifts, and even monetary incentives.

Starting A Workplace Wellness Program In Your Company

You don’t have to be a large corporation to implement some form of Employee Wellness Program. Top employers may spend an average of $100-$200 per employee. Regardless of how big or small your company is a successful wellness program starts from the right attitude and commitment from management.

Article Adapted from the Following Resources:
– “Wellness in the Workplace: Aligning Intentions and Outcomes”, Medisys Canada.
– “Workplace Wellness Programs”, Article from,
– “Health Screenings Among Most Popular Workplace Wellness Programs, Survey Finds”, Wellness Junction,

(1) “Why are Workplace Wellness Programs Important?”, Article from, 2007
(2) Global Business and Economic Roundtable on Mental Health, 2006
(3) “Health Promotion Programs at Work: A Frivolous Cost or a Sound Investment?”, Conference Board of Canada, October 2002
(4) Canadian consulting firm
(5) “Workplace Health and Wellness Program — Getting Started”, Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety.

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