Contributors: Victoria Grainger, Founder, Wellness Works Canada
Occupational Health and Safety is evolving. Legislation is changing. Employers understand that employee well-being is a strategic imperative for organizational performance, let alone a good risk management strategy in the midst of the global war on talent. But how can employers meet changing legislative requirements while supporting employee well-being holistically to reap the gains without investing considerable resources?
It doesn’t need to be complicated. By meeting OHS requirements for a joint work-site health and safety (JWHS) committee (s) – you already have a system in place to support employee health and well-being in a proactive manner to reap the dividends in employee engagement and performance. These committees can be a key mechanism to get you where you need to be without investing in considerable resources for a new well-being strategy, a psychological health and safety strategy and an occupational health and safety strategy. Here’s how:
Change the name of your department to Occupational Health, Safety and Well-being
Appoint or recruit one person from each committee to be a well-being ambassador (they might be an ambassador for both psychological health and safety and other dimensions of well-being or you might want two ambassadors)
Add well-being to every agenda and consider topics for discussion listed below
Add psychological and physical well-being risk factors to your risk assessments
Now, this may seem to be oversimplifying things a bit, but it is the perfect way to get on the right track of supporting employee well-being. To make more gains in organizational performance, integrate employee well-being tactics in other human resource areas such as employee engagement, talent management, disability management, learning and development, organizational development and/or performance development – depending on what your organization offers. Better yet, align efforts to support employee well-being with the organization’s overarching vision, mission and objectives.
Topic areas for discussion at JWHS meetings, or for your HR or overarching strategy may include:
1. Supporting a psychologically healthy and safe culture
Preventing, recognizing and addressing stress
Preventing, recognizing, addressing and mediating bullying and harassment
Creating trust in management and between colleagues (discuss ways to encourage people to challenge processes/ideas, speak up and share ideas)
2. Creating access to personal health resources
How to create greater awareness of employee family assistance programs, linkage to resources at work or in the community that promote physical, mental and emotional wellness and/or offer new resources to support well-being
3. Supporting a healthy management philosophy and business practices
How can leaders better model well-being?
What practices can better support well-being (flexible work, more autonomy, walking meetings, culture to talk about mental health through the Not Myself Today campaign, holding managers accountable for supporting well-being through performance development, healthy values, better work design, Mental Health First Aid etc.)
4. Creating a healthy physical environment
Is it easy for employees to bike to work (i.e. – is there safe bike storage), are the stairs friendly for everyday use (stairwell beautification), is there space that can be used to disconnect or exercise, do you have sit-stand desks or meeting rooms?
Is there access to nutritious foods nearby, if not, are there lunchrooms that make it easy to store and prepare healthy foods?
5. Connecting to the community
How can we as an organization, or departments, better connect to the community? For example, can we offer days to volunteer in causes we all care about or create a partnership to offer discounted access to local recreation centres?
For specific information on OHS and legislation for physical health and psychological health and safety check out these links: