And the winners are…
the envelope, please!

The Who’s Who in Workplace Health awards are designed to honour individuals and organizations that have demonstrated leadership and innovation in workplace health. And, while one might think that wellness has taken a back seat because of our downturned economy, nothing could be further from the truth as demonstrated by the flood of entries we received this year.

Our 2009 award winners are inspiring communicators and skilled collaborators.

They have a passion for employee health and are committed to making a difference in our working lives. In short, they are the “best in class” examples of how Canadian organizations can support and sustain their most important asset… their people.

The four award categories include: Employer (2 winners), Employee Communication, Strategic Partnership and Provider Leadership.

Congratulations to our 2009 Who’s Who in Workplace Health award winners!

Profiles written by Cindy Mark

Employer Award

University Health 101
“Let’s do lunch!”

In an academic institution as large and decentralized as the University of Toronto that encompasses a vast and varied employee population, Myra Lefkowitz can be proud of her healthy workplace accomplishments. In her role as manager of Health and Well-being Programs and Services, Lefkowitz, her team and her colleagues throughout the university along with the Family Services Association Employee Assistance Program have not only tackled all aspects of wellness, but also influenced perspectives, from the individual to the institutional.

One of Lefkowitz’s achievements is a series of seminars she created and organized in cooperation with Dr. Carolyn Dewa of the Work and Well-Being Research and Evaluation program at the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health. Naming the seminar Convergence on Mental Health in the Workplace, the 19 presenters and 100 people in attendance at the first half-day event (that was free to all) had the opportunity to learn from each other on a wide variety of issues relating to mental health in the workplace.

“Our aim was to bring together researchers, clinicians, administrators and those with lived experience to create a more integrated understanding of mental health issues in the workplace,” says Lefkowitz. “It wasn’t just about presenting to the audience, but presenting to each other. We wanted to break down the silos.”

The dialogue has continued since the convergence with at least four more intensive seminars, one of which included a panel of three women who openly shared their experiences of returning to work after suffering a mental health issue. “The three women spoke of their lived experiences and provided us with ideas of how we could improve the return-to-work process and what areas of research we should be exploring,” says Lefkowitz.

Adapting a phrase from the violence against women protest walks—an issue that Lefkowitz formerly worked on—she also created a Take Back the Lunch Break campaign. Through the use of posters, postcards, and a Web site full of ideas about what to do during your lunch break, the initiative was so successful that the government of Nova Scotia has adopted the concept for their province.

One of Lefkowitz’s proudest achievements is the creation of accommodation guidelines for university employees returning to work after short- and long-term disability, as well as the development of training sessions for managers to educate them on the process and gain their commitment to create a supportive work environment for employees returning to work.

Lefkowitz and her team develop accommodation teams for individuals returning to work. Those teams include a union representative, the manager, an HR generalist and the employee. “I haven’t done any of this on my own,” says Lefkowitz. “It’s been a collective effort all the way.”

Sponsored by Shepell-fgi

Employer Award

From awareness to action
A challenge worth taking on

Beginning in 2008, The Economical Insurance Group (TEIG) began with the aggressive goal of engaging at least 40% of its employees in an on-line health risk assessment, supported by on-site cardiovascular screening clinics, offered in 18 locations across Canada. In fact, TEIG surpassed its first-year objectives with over 55% of the total employee population participating.

The brainchild of Jennifer Hubbard, human resources corporate manager and Heather Steinson, benefits analyst, TEIG’s wellness program had a first-year philosophy of awareness. This year, Hubbard and Steinson are not only looking for health awareness among their employees, but also action.

The campaign for 2009 includes four key components: a wellness assessment, cardiovascular screening clinics, flexible benefits re-enrollment (that incorporates wellness credits), and a wellness challenge (taking place this November).
Combining the Year One results of the biometrics screening clinics with the on-line wellness assessment, Hubbard and Steinson were able to create a wellness challenge taking into account the risk areas of the employees. Those risk areas were nutrition and sleep.

“While the results for cardio and stress were still high, being a concern for more than half of the population, with sleep and nutrition we were getting into over 80% of the population receiving a score that would yield a yellow or red flag,” says Steinson.

The upcoming wellness challenge incorporates a broader, less stringent idea of wellness that includes the more unorthodox such as gaining an extra 30 minutes of sleep, eating lunch away from your desk, and organizing a “to do” list.

While Hubbard and Steinson performed plenty of research in designing TEIG’s wellness program, achieving executive buy-in was the first and foremost challenge. So, how did they accomplish this?

“We arranged an invitation to an executive meeting and put wellness on the agenda,” says Steinson. “Once we had their attention, and because we had done our research, the information basically sold itself. And, both of us just brought so much excitement to the room that it was hard not to want to be a part of it,” she adds.

While Steinson and Hubbard don’t expect to be able to correlate the savings of the program for about three years, initial results indicate that management made the right decision. With the cardiovascular screening clinics, 92% of employees indicated that it helped them to learn more about their cardiovascular health and 71% stated that they would be making changes to their lifestyle in the upcoming months.

Editor’s Note: We’ll check in with Jennifer and Heather in our next issue, when more statistics will be available.

Sponsored by Sun Life Financial

Provider Leadership

Passion and drive
A catalyst for change

Mary Ann Baynton’s passion for improving workplace mental health began when she was a small business owner with eight employees. Of those eight, four were diagnosed with a mental illness. That initial excursion into the world of employee health eventually led her to become the director of Mental Health Works (MHW)—an initiative of the Canadian Mental Health Association (CMHA). As director, Baynton extended the CMHA’s activities—that had traditionally focused on research, policy development and knowledge exchange—by developing products and services that were of particular interest and value to employers, educating and training them on how to effectively deal with mental health in the workplace.

In addition to that role, Baynton agreed to serve as program director for the Great-West Life (GWL) Centre for Mental Health in the Workplace. The centre (unique in Canada) is a public service initiative on the part of GWL, formed to help employers and employees better prevent, reduce and manage the impacts of mental health issues in the workplace.

One of the centre’s recent initiatives that reflects Baynton’s innovative approach, is the launch in April 2009 of Guarding Minds@Work. Available free on-line to all employers, it is a set of tools that enables an employer to assess the psychosocial risk levels in the workplace according to 12 research-based factors. A report is then provided along with an evidence-based action plan with options and a framework for evaluation.

Baynton is also working on a project titled Working Through It, that she likes to refer to as “virtual peer support.” It is a partnership between Mental Health Works and the Mood Disorders Association.

“We have found 10 people who have, as we say ‘worked through it,’ and we have them talking to those who may currently be struggling and not know why it’s such a struggle,” says Baynton.

Baynton is also a member of the workforce advisory committee with the Mental Health Commission of Canada. One of the projects underway offers small business owners across the country free group workshops.

And, yet another project she’s involved with is launching this October and reaches out, this time, to senior business leaders. A group of high-profile leaders including Ambassador Michael Wilson and Rob MacLellan from TD Financial Group have volunteered to speak on video to discuss how to, first, identify mental health issues in the workplace and then how to most effectively integrate change into, often huge, organizations.

From assisting large companies in dealing with mental health issues to offering one-on-one counselling, Baynton makes concrete contributions to the field of workplace mental health. She has taken her passion and drive for workplace mental health and, through her work, acts as a catalyst helping many employees with mental health issues—some, no doubt, that she has never even met.

Sponsored by Pfizer Canada

Employee Communication

Blogs, videos & text messages
A new way to stop smoking

The future is indeed friendly, especially for those TELUS employees who took advantage of the company’s smoking cessation coaching service called STOMP, an acronym for STop smoking Over Mobile Phones.

Zak Bhamani, director of consumer health at TELUS Health Solutions along with Product Manager Pete Cronin used established internal communications channels like the Healthy Living programs (championed by the wellness team and led by Director Janet Crowe) to explain the science behind the application and create interest in the program.

For example, using Team Vision—a five-minute video clip that is distributed to employees every two weeks highlighting programs, jobs and news around the company—Cronin and Bhamani created a three-minute segment on exactly how STOMP worked.

“And then, of course, there was Cronin’s blog,” says Bhamani. “We have internal blog sites for our employees, so Cronin authored one just for pre-launch so that people could converse with him, and it really put more of a personal note on STOMP.”

Originally developed and clinically validated by the University of Auckland in New Zealand, STOMP is a behaviour-based coaching program that offers 24/7 support with daily motivational tips along with automatic and individually prompted text messages.

As Bhamani is quick to point out, “It’s got the ability to offer you that 24/7 support, and, realistically, how else are you going to get that support?”

Throughout STOMP’s quitting process (which averages six months) 140 character texts are sent to participants at specifically prescribed intervals with messages of encouragement. Additional messages of support can be prompted at any time by the participant. For example, a cigarette craving inspired by stress and anxiety can be quelled by the participant texting “crave stress,” to which the service will respond with suggestions for taking the participant’s mind off smoking and overcoming that specific situational craving.

Results have been promising. At the half-way mark, the churn rate (participant dropout rate) was a low 35% and the sustained quit rate (rate of uninterrupted smoking cessation by continuing participants) was 17.4%. Compare that to the statistic of individuals who try quitting without support: a meager 3% success rate.

Originally launched as a pilot program with a six-month cycle (that would have ended this September), TELUS has now left STOMP’s registration open and is seriously considering making the program a permanent part of their wellness offering.

Editor’s Note: Stay tuned to Working Well’s next issue when we’ll take a look at TELUS’s final STOMP results.

Sponsored by Green Shield Canada

Strategic Partnership

Quebec’s standard of success
A first for Canada

As a former minister of health in the province of Quebec and a former vice chairman of a 1986 royal commission in that same jurisdiction, Roger Bertrand has a wealth of experience in the health sector. “I realized at that time that we needed to be more aggressive on prevention,” says Bertrand. “I was recalling that in 1972 the ParticipACTION health campaign promoted the same powerful strategy of prevention.

“When I was defeated, I said to myself I won’t try again to change the situation through politics, let’s try in a more business-oriented way.” Two years later, Groupe de Promotion pour la Prévention en Santé (GP2S) was born with Bertrand as the president of the board. GP2S’s mission is to foster the promotion of health in the workplace with the intent to benefit businesses, their employees and society in general.

In 2006, GP2S joined forces with the Bureau de Normalisation du Québec (BNQ), a standard development organization accredited by the Standards Council of Canada. At GP2S’s request, BNQ developed the Healthy Enterprise Standard and certification program. Officially launched in 2008, this is the first consensus-based standard to address workplace health in Canada and in the world.

Created as a reference document, the Healthy Enterprise Standard is now available to any Québec enterprise or organization, large or small, wishing to implement and maintain a structured approach of prevention, promotion and organizational practices contributing to their employees’ health in the workplace. It is based on four spheres of activity: living habits, work-life balance, workplace environment and management practices.

Following the development of the standard, a certification program was developed to recognize the efforts of those companies that implement health-oriented practices according to the standard.

“Two levels of commitment were defined in order to fit different enterprise situations and to encourage them to ‘climb on the bandwagon’ with the first level being less stringent, but still significant,” says Daniel Langlais, BNQ’s coordinator of the Healthy Enterprise Standard. Those two levels of certification are Healthy Enterprise and Healthy Enterprise—Elite.
While the BNQ must retain neutrality as a certification body and is not directly involved with the implementation of the standard or the certification program, they are currently working hard upgrading the Healthy Enterprise Standard into a nationwide, national standard of Canada approved by the Standards Council of Canada.

“We really hope that this standard will become a very powerful business reference and a kind of tool that will change the way we’re headed with our health system,” says Bertrand.

It’s a first for Canada, a first for North America and a first for the world.

Sponsored by Shoppers Drug Mart

For a PDF version of this article, click here.

© Copyright 2009 Rogers Publishing Ltd. This article first appeared in the October 2009 edition of WORKING WELL magazine.

Copyright © 2020 Transcontinental Media G.P. This article first appeared in Working Well.

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