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Workplace Health

Approach to wellness

Current evidence shows that workplace health promotion programs are more effective when a comprehensive and balanced approach is used. A comprehensive and balanced approach considers the interrelationship between individual lifestyle choices, the organizational culture of the workplace and the approach your workplace takes to health and safety issues.

The World Health Organization identifies an additional category for Balanced Workplace Health called Organizational Social Responsibility. This means that organizations participate “in the community to improve the health of workers, their families and other members of the community”. Examples include reducing the carbon footprint of business activities, fundraising for local charities, subsidizing public transportation and bicycles for employees to ride to work or opportunities to volunteer during work hours.

Developing a comprehensive balanced workplace program includes:

A workplace health program needs endorsement from business owners, senior, and middle management. This requires a willingness to dedicate time, energy, and resources to the program.


  • Meet with key individuals of influence and decision-makers within the organization (business owners, senior managers, middle managers, union representatives, employees, occupational health, health and safety staff, etc.).
  • Conduct formal and informal presentations to management, unions, etc.  Presentations should include information on the importance of taking a comprehensive balanced approach to developing a program and your plan for promoting workplace health within the organization. Making the Business Case may be one option. 
  • Create a formal letter of understanding to ensure the commitment for the workplace health program. It may be signed by management, employee representatives, unions and other key stakeholders.
See the Sample Letter of Commitment you may wish to use as a template.

Ensure the committee is representative of all the sectors within the organization.


  • Build Trust
    The committee must ensure everyone’s interests and needs are respected. This helps to build trust which is an important first step to then carry out the program.
  • Communicate
    Keep employees informed about the activities and importance of the Workplace Health Program. The success of the program will rely on regular and effective communication between employees, management, and the workplace health committee.
  • Set Goals
    Develop achievable short-term goals to market the Balanced Workplace Health Program. See Sample Communication Plan PDF to assist you with this task. These short term goals will suffice until employees are surveyed.
  • Create a Terms of Reference

See sample Terms of Reference PDF

It is important to assess the needs and interests of employees before developing and implementing workplace health activities.  Be sensitive to age, gender and physical limitations, as well as cultural differences.

Keep in mind the nature of the business/workplace, the demographics of employees, and past responses to other feedback requests when designing a process that’s right for your workplace.


It is important to give employees an opportunity to identify health needs i.e. healthy lifestyle choices as well as identify occupational health and safety changes. Employers/employees should also look at the organizational culture and how it affects health as well as any action they would like to take related to organizational social responsibility.

Strategies include conducting a workplace health survey through an online organizational assessment tool or by paper, supplying a suggestion box for ideas, informal discussion and focus groups.

Once the health needs survey information is gathered, the next step is to identify common themes and write a report to share these findings with management and staff.

Make programs as flexible as possible. It is important to remember that when it comes to making lifestyle changes, employees will all be at various stages of readiness. Successful programs recognize that change is a process that takes time and that there needs to be a good match between the activity and the stage of readiness for change. 


  • Review your report and discuss common themes and related issues. 
  • Rate the themes according to importance or priority. You will need to strike a balance between what the employee and employer can do.
  • Determine goals, activities, timelines and evaluation methods.  Goals tend to be broad purpose statements (e.g., to increase knowledge or change behavior) and the activities will help accomplish these goals (e.g. presentations, safety training and policy development).
  • A strong action plan includes awareness raising, skill building and healthy policies that lead to a supportive work environment as well as actions that can be taken to improve organizational culture and identify organizational involvement in the community.

Once evaluations methods are determined, it is suggested that an evaluation plan be created to monitor program effectiveness and use results to modify initiatives.

The action plan should guide the implementation of the program in terms of timing, content, strategies, monitoring and evaluation. An important step in this stage is to continue to communicate with employees, to promote the programs and initiatives and to receive and respond to feedback.


  • Provide incentives. Incentives encourage participation and demonstrate to employees that participation is valued by the organization.
  • Revisit the plan regularly. The plan should be revisited periodically to check on progress and determine whether modifications need to be made. Choose a way to evaluate and track your expected results.

Continually communicate the plan. The program must be continuously communicated to make sure employees are aware of the program, its benefits, and opportunities to participate.

Program evaluation generates the information needed to guide the development of more effective workplace health initiatives and to determine if goals are being met. Most workplace health promotion strategies do not see immediate results. It can take 5 to 10 years to see significant pay-offs from workplace health programs.

For more information on developing an evaluation plan - Public Health Ontario - At a Glance: The ten steps for conducting an evaluation.

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