Workplace Health and Wellness Crucial to Economic Prosperity

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By Derek Sienko

Economic sustainability for Canada in a fast-changing world economy relies not only on business opportunities, but also on a mentally and physically healthy labour force.

The Cost of Workplace Illness
The human costs related to illness, disabilities or personal issues in the workplace cost Canadian employers approximately $7.4 billion a year, which translates to an annual cost of $572.00 per employee – a figure that jumps to $1,700.00 per employee when looking at disability as a whole (Benefits Canada, August 2012).

Canadian employers struggle with high absenteeism and soaring cost of disabilities due to mental and physical conditions that employees are faced with in their daily lives. Healthy organizations depend on engaged, productive, and loyal employees, making workplace health and wellness more crucial to business success than ever.

Disease Prevention vs. Management
In today’s competitive economy, our society still mainly relies on a disease management model instead of disease prevention model; this costs Canadian employers and the health care system millions of dollars.

For example, our system is far too prompt to prescribe pills to cure the problem/symptoms quickly instead of focusing on a preventative approach to address the condition that the employee is struggling with. According to the US Surgeon General, 75 per cent of illnesses are related to lifestyle habits such as poor diet, lack of exercise and stress—factors that we all have control over. If 75 per cent of illnesses are preventable, then are 75 per cent of work absences and costs associated with them preventable too?

The answer to this question may surprise you.

According to scientific research and pertinent literature, many work-related illnesses can be prevented, but a more integrated approach to employees’ health and safety needs to be implemented in order for it to happen. As indicated in the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine, an integrated approach to employee health includes policies, practices and programs that enhance overall workforce health and well-being of employees (JOEM, December 2013.)

Embrace a Culture of Health and Safety
This approach reflects a culture of health and safety which supports employees and their immediate family members at work and outside of work. An integrated approach is similar to a holistic approach which focuses on supporting individuals on physical, emotional, intellectual and social levels.

For instance, it would be imperative to educate an individual who experiences high levels of stress on what stress is all about and its positive and negative effects on their individual life. Providing and supporting an individual in learning and implementing stress management techniques and healthy coping skills will not only empower the individual to manage and cope effectively with stress, but will also equip the individual with stress resilience in their daily life.

Long-Term Thinking Required
As we struggle to make a switch from the disease management model to a disease prevention model, we need to keep in mind that workplace health and wellness plays an essential part in building a strong economy for today and for the future of our children.

Dominick Barton of McKinsey & Company stated that “long-term thinking is essential for long-term success.” Since the disease prevention model focuses on long term thinking; it ensures greater success in the long run. The framework and benefits of the disease prevention model will be addressed during the Organizational Health and Wellness Summit hosted by Diversified Rehabilitation Group.

For more information, please visit www.diversifiedrehab.ca

Derek Sienko is CEO of Diversified Rehabilitation Group Inc.

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