Health services provider St. Joseph’s Healthcare Hamilton knows a thing or two about catering to the health needs of its patients, but it also knows working in the health-care field can take a toll on its employees.

The introduction of a new wellness strategy that focuses on mindfulness and caters to its unique demographic profile – 60 per cent of employees are shift workers – was at the centre of its win for best health and wellness program at Benefits Canada’s 2016 Workplace Benefits Awards in Toronto last week.

“Our motto is ‘We best care for our patients when we best care for ourselves,’ so the wellness program is based upon mindfulness, really being present and aware in the current moment without judgment,” says Tiffany Wong, employee wellness coordinator at St. Joseph’s Healthcare Hamilton. “Especially in a health-care organization, how can you do that in the face of everyday demands and stress?”

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The organization embarked on a research study in 2014 using two mindfulness-based interventions with its frontline health-care workers and its leaders. The results showed significant decreases in depression, anxiety and stress at work, as well as increases in the ability to empathize with others.

“We focused on mindfulness partly because of the research behind it,” says Wong. “Our senior leadership really saw that as something that we needed to extend and become part of St. Joe’s culture.”

Using results from the research study, as well as usage information from its employee and family assistance program, drug plan and extended absence reports, the organization introduced a wellness strategy that encourages staff to seek informal ways to apply mindfulness through mind, body and spirit.

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The strategy includes weekly mindfulness practices at its two largest campuses; monthly Wellness School seminars covering topics such as resiliency, living well in shift work and successful transition to retirement; complimentary group fitness classes; the promotion of active transportation to work by providing bike rack locations; and outdoor spaces such as a spiritual garden and labyrinth.

Since introducing its wellness strategy, St. Joseph’s Healthcare Hamilton has seen measurable increases in responses to its employee engagement surveys, as well as an increase in participation in the wellness program year-over-year, a 14.7 per cent decrease in long-term disability claims for musculoskeletal injuries and a 31-day decrease in average days lost.

“Our program has grown significantly over the years,” says Betty Kenney, manager of human resources, benefits and wellness at St. Joseph’s Healthcare Hamilton. “We’ve grown 485 per cent, we have over 17,000 visits to the wellness centre, so employees are really engaged in what we’re providing. And we couldn’t do it without our senior leadership’s support; that’s very crucial.

“We’re very honoured that Benefits Canada has named us in the health and wellness category. Employees are going to be ecstatic.”

Read more about the winners of the 2016 Workplace Benefits Awards

Have you done great work? Enter the 2017 Workplace Benefits Awards now

Copyright © 2020 Transcontinental Media G.P. Originally published on

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