October is Healthy Workplace Month, which means it's a great time for companies to review their practices on how they can better support employees' well-being. 

Why employees need a healthy workplace
Creating a safe and productive space for employees is important because the workplace can have a big influence on an employee's health. A poor work-life balance, a high-pressure environment or worries brought home from the office, can cross into their home life, contributing to higher stress and anxiety levels. 

According to HealthyFamiliesBC, Canadians spend more than half their waking hours each day either at work or commuting to and from it. With so much of people's lives spent on the job, it's essential they're spending it in healthy, productive environments that support their well-being, not detract from it. 

Here are five ways employers can create healthier workplaces:

1. Support work-life balance 
In the modern workplace, an employee's value should no longer be tied to whether they are willing to work overtime or spend their weekends checking email. When job duties infringe on people's personal lives, it can lead to stress. Not to mention that employees are unable to recharge and rest so that they can come back into work refreshed. 

officeHealthy workplaces emphasize physical activity, social connection and emotional well-being.

Employers should actively support employees to have a healthy work-life balance. This can be done by de-emphasizing a culture of working late and overtime and instead, urging employees to take breaks and work only the required hours each day. Training in time-management can help employees better prioritize their work to fit within regular hours. 

2. Offer group fitness classes 
Exercise is a key component of healthy living, for both body and mind, with the Public Health Agency of Canada recommending adults are active 2.5 hours a week. The negative effects of sitting all day in front of a screen have also been well-documented. Employers can offer group fitness classes to employees to show they value their well-being and to help them be active. 

"A workplace can encourage employees to take on various activities at all levels regardless of age and ability," the Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety noted. 

Companies can offer group fitness classes on-site, in the office, in a meeting room or even outside. They can be taught by professional fitness instructors or by employees that have experience. Ideally, the classes should be accessible to beginner ability levels. Some ideas for classes are yoga, aerobics or Zumba. 

Other ways employers can encourage physical activity at work include encouraging frequent stretch breaks, providing bike racks and allowing employees to take an extra half hour twice a week to use the gym or take a walk, CCOHS suggested. 

3. Host social activities 
In addition to frequent physical activity, social activity is also necessary for health and wellness. 

While employees may all be working in the same place, an office doesn't always allow time for meaningful social interaction beyond talks about projects that need to be done and meetings about sales goals. Create a healthier workplace by offering social activities outside of work-related discussions to help employees de-stress as well as develop bonds with each other. 

Employers can host fun events that allow people to mingle, relax and build relationships. Here are a few ideas:

  • Hold a weekly lunch held in a nearby park for all employees. 
  • Have a relaxed breakfast every Friday in a conference room where people can talk about weekend plans. 
  • Host an event off-site once a month, such as a barbecue. 

4. Provide counselling resources
Beyond physical and interpersonal health, employers must also help support workers' emotional well-being. One important way they can do this is by providing counselling services to employees. 

"Social activities outside of work-related discussions help employees de-stress and develop bonds."

These services can be hosted by HR professionals at your company, therapists or even workplace counselling specialists. No matter who provides the sessions, it is important that they are impartial and that what is discussed will not be held against the employee. Each employee should feel safe discussing their concerns and not like their job will be in jeopardy. 

5. Have group benefits for employees 
Offering robust health, dental, vision and other insurance coverage to employees can improve job satisfaction, help workers feel secure and communicate employers value their workers' well-being. 

Companies are advised to select inclusive group benefits plans that ensure all employees have access to the services and programs they need. We offer Group Advantage and Custom Group Benefits Plans for both small and large companies. 

A healthy workplace supports healthy employees. With these five tips, employers can support their workers' physical, social and emotional well-being.