HR | Atlantic - Positive Change at Work

Workplace Wellness: What to do with the leftover Holiday chocolates and baked goods

Jan 07, 2011

Christmas CookieOkay, I have to admit I’m one of the culprits.  Desperate to get the temptations out of my house, and yet not disciplined enough to give the chocolates and shortbread cookies the heave ho, I, like others, bring the treats to work (where I eat them – as though eating them in the work kitchen means they have fewer calories than at home).   However, reading a recent report by Merck, Patient’s Voice focusing on chronic disease management made me realize that as a business owner, I’m not doing my part to promote workplace wellness.

While individuals must take responsibility for their health and wellness choices, the workplace can play an important role in supporting healthy choices and health management.  Employers need to do this, not only to be ‘good employers’ but also as part of managing disability and lost productivity costs.  

Chronic diseases, such as heart disease, stroke, cancer, chronic respiratory diseases, and diabetes are a significant factor in workplaces.  One-third of Canadians have at least one chronic condition, and about one-third of Canadians aged 40-59 report having more than one chronic condition.  With respect to chronic diseases, the most frequently identified were heart or circulatory problems (44%), chronic pain (37%), back or neck disorders (35%), diabetes/obesity (33%) and allergies (28%).  According to the Public Health Agency of Canada’s Centre for Chronic Disease Prevention and Control, chronic diseases are responsible for over $150 billion in direct and indirect costs each year.  One third of this is related to lost productivity. 

Some health and wellness factors are beyond the influence of the individual or the workplace.  However, one-third of chronic diseases are related to factors that can be modified be healthy choices relating to  tobacco use (smoke), alcohol consumption, physical activity, diet, and stress.   Employers can help educate and support their employees with respect to the impact their choices make on their health and well-being.  Employees often spend more time at work than they do in any other activity during their working years – so it only makes sense that supportive workplaces are an important factor.  There are a number of tools and assessments that can help.  A few are listed below.

And that plate of chocolate-dipped shortbreads that I brought in?  I put them in the garbage (after wiping a few crumbs from the corners of my mouth).  Next week I’ll bring in a veggie tray and yogurt dip instead.


The Institute for Health and Productivity Management
The Center for Value-Based Health Management
HealthWorks A “How-to” for Health and Business Success (Health Canada)
Public Health Agency of Canada: Business Case for Active Living at Work
The Key to a Healthy Workplace
How to Use Your Healthy Living @ Work – Workplace Action Guide
Comprehensive Workplace Health Promotion: The Case for Making “Cents” of a Good Idea
An Introduction to Comprehensive Workplace Health Promotion
Cancer Care Ontario – Promoting Cancer Screening and Prevention in the Workplace Toolkit
U.S. Chamber of Commerce – Partnership for Prevention: Leading by Example – Leading Practices for Employee Health Management
U.S. Chamber of Commerce – Partnership for Prevention: Leading by Example – Improving The Bottom Line Less Costly Workforce
U.S. Chamber of Commerce – Partnership for Prevention: Healthy Workforce 2010 – An Essential Health Promotion Sourcebook for Employers, Large and Small “
Wellness Council of America (WELCOA)
Conference Board of Canada: Health Promotion Programs at Work – A Frivolous Cost or a Sound Investment
Canada’s Healthy Workplace Month
University of Toronto Health Communication Unit

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