What does it mean to be a “healthy” workplace? It goes beyond physical health and safety

November 13, 2014 Peter Salusbury

How a healthy workplace supports physical, personal, and psychosocial health as well as community (“Push-Up Club” anyone?)


In my role in Stantec’s People + Practice group, I have had the privilege in being engaged in a lot of interesting aspects of our unique organization. One that is important to me personally is having an organization that promotes health and wellness in the workplace. I was reminded of this recently when I noticed that Stantec was named one of the Healthiest Employers by the San Francisco Business Times. It’s a great accomplishment and it got me thinking about what it means to be a “healthy company.”

The World Health Organization defines a healthy workplace as one where employees and managers collaborate to protect the safety, health, and well-being of all employees in the workplace through:

  • Promoting health and safety in the physical work environment

  • Promoting well-being in the psychosocial work environment

  • Providing personal health resources

  • Engagement in the community

Those goals sound intuitive and reasonable enough, but they’re sometimes easier said than done, especially in a company of well over 14,000 employees. Official company programs and policies are certainly one way to get at it, and (in my opinion) it’s something we do well:

  • Our Health & Safety program takes a disciplined approach to assessing hazards in the workplace, conducting risk assessments, and implementing things like HSE training, safe work practices, office inspections, job observations, ergonomics evaluations, etc., to mitigate those risks.

  • Career stream guidance, learning programs, career development and performance reporting process, mentoring and coaching programs, and succession planning are all designed to help every employee identify a rewarding career direction and achieve their career goals.

  • An Employee Assistance Program helps staff address personal or emotional concerns, addiction concerns, bereavement, or marital challenges.

  • Wellness programs available to all employees include healthcare premium savings for healthy behaviors, a weight management program, smoking and tobacco cessation program, and others.

  • Having an active Community Engagement program helps employees give back to and be a part of their communities, whether through volunteering (best represented by our annual Community Day in September) and the significant contributions we make each year to Habitat for Humanity, Movember, Oxfam, United Way and so many other community organizations. 

While official programs like these certainly support the WHO’s definition of a healthy workplace, it’s often the little things that truly complete the picture. Let’s take our San Francisco office as an example. They have committees dedicated to all kinds of healthy practices – from a sustainability group working to get the office certified as a San Francisco “Green Business,” to a Safety Crew tasked with helping keep staff safe on the job. To help express creativity in ways not necessarily related to a job, staff actively participate in our companywide “Through Your Eyes” photography contest and an office “Drawing of the Quarter” competition, and have started an office book club. They’ve even formed a “Push-Up Club,” in which they head into a conference room every day to bang out at least 10 push-ups (and I hear an offshoot “Jumping Jack Club” is taking root…).

And that’s just one office. I hear stories every day of similar activities and events happening around our company, whether through our corporate programs or as a local, grassroots effort. I’m proud to see the commitment our people and our company have made to make a healthy workplace a reality for all employees and their families. How about your workplace? I’d love to hear more ideas on what makes yours healthy – Stantec employee or otherwise.

About the Author

Peter Salusbury

Peter Salusbury is our Senior Vice President of People & Practice. Peter developed Stantec’s ISO Certified Integrated Management System.

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