“The workplace affects the well-being of the worker and the health of the worker affects the success of the company,” said Betty Hoyt, vice president of health promotion at New Brunswick’s branch of the Canadian Heart and Stroke Foundation (CHSF).
February is Heart Health Month and a new CHSF report released on February 4, has found that the majority of Canadians, especially boomers from 48 to 67 years old, have a distorted view of their heart health, which puts them at risk of living longer but not living healthier.
“According to Statistics Canada, on average, there’s a 10-year gap between how long we live, and how long we live in health. This gap is mainly due to heart disease, stroke and other chronic conditions,” states this new Reality Check report.
Most of us spend the majority of our lives at work, where health and safety is or should be a priority. Integrating workplace wellness programs into occupational health and job safety programs, especially in the high-risk, high stress construction and mining industries, makes sound business sense, Hoyt says.
Workplace wellness refers to the health of the entire company in the broadest sense of the word:
- The employee
- The environment or culture of the workplace
- The health of the company’s bottom line
“All companies are required by law to have Health and Safety Committees, but many workplaces do not yet put the same emphasis on wellness in the workplace as they do on health and safety,” Hoyt said during a recent telephone interview from her St. John office.
“We’re finding that some companies start with separate Health and Safety committees and Workplace Wellness committees and then put those two committees together,” she said.
A number of New Brunswick companies are committed to workplace wellness in addition to health and safety including the Irving Companies, several potash mining companies and others, Hoyt said.
“But there does have to be a commitment from management, a mind set, a buy-in to wellness, that you might not see under the umbrella of health and safety,” she said. “When companies make that commitment, the return on investment is really building the business case for wellness in the workplace.”
A management-driven commitment to workplace wellness complements a company’s health and safety program with the following benefits for both employers and workers:
- Improved health and well being
- Increased morale and job satisfaction
- Healthier workplace culture
- Fewer injuries
- Increased productivity
- Fewer insurance and workers’ compensation claims
- Reduced personal healthcare expenses
- Fewer absences
- Decreased presenteeism – i.e. workers may be at work but not working at their full potential
- Better retention and recruiting
- Decreased turnover
- Enhanced business reputation and customer loyalty
Maintaining your heart health is more than a full-time job, says Hoyt. “It’s a 24/7 strategy and it’s also a question of work/life balance. Too much stress can have a negative impact on increasing your blood cholesterol and blood pressure, which is the number one cause of heart disease and stroke. Smoking and alcohol consumption increase blood pressure, too.”
In the U.S., February is also Heart Health Month. Since 2004, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) with the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) have developed a health promotion strategy combining workplace wellness and occupational health, and worker safety called Total Worker Health.
According to the CDC, Total Worker Health is a strategy integrating occupational safety and health protection with health promotion to prevent worker injury and illness and to advance health and well-being.
To help you and your workers find out what your heart health risk factors are the Heart and Stroke Foundation has made it easy with the launch of a new website called Make Health Last to help motivate and support Canadians live heart healthy lives, longer. There are tips and tools, a risk assessment quiz that takes only 10 minutes and even an iPhone app to help address the five controllable lifestyle behaviours that threaten your heart health. Click on
Hoyt’s New Brunswick branch of the CHSF has taken a strong position on workplace wellness and published online several resource guides to help you incorporate a wellness program into your company’s health and safety strategy. They’re available free on line, here.
And to find out more about coping with workplace stress, the Saskatchewan branch of the Canadian Heart and Stroke Foundation offers you these tips.
February is the month to celebrate Valentine’s Day and Heart Health. Why not start now. Your heart will thank you for it.