Niagara Health (NH) is putting people first with a commitment to supporting the health and wellness of its team members, not only during October’s Healthy Workplace Month, but year-round.
“Niagara Health has really invested in creating an environment focused on the well-being of its people,” says Thomas Longland, Manager of Wellness and Health Promotion.
The Wellness and Health Promotion team focuses on programming and creating a culture of taking time to care for yourself.
“As we emerged from the pandemic our strategic plan has taken a really heavy focus on recovery and retention of staff,” says Longland. “This includes putting people first.
“Healthcare workers have endured an immensely stressful time for an extended period of time. So we are looking to provide options for team members to try and build back those healthy habits. Create safe spaces and safe programs to help staff reflect and grow as people. We want staff to feel supported and know that Niagara Health is there to help.”
Longland says their goal is to make sure people are enjoying their work and taking needed breaks, reducing injuries and strains, and seeking health and wellness supports.
Although burnout is a long-standing issue, the pandemic has placed further burden on NH team members and exacerbated the problem. According to Statistics Canada, job stress or burnout, particularly over the past two years, was the most common reason why Canadian healthcare workers who hadn’t intended to retire are now considering leaving or changing jobs.
“Promoting Niagara Health as a healthy workplace is just one of the things we do to recruit and retain top talent,” says Amanda Basilone, Manager, Recruitment and Volunteer Resources. “We care about our staff, their health and their wellness. This helps reinforce Niagara Health as an employer of choice.”
The new Wellness and Health Promotion team highlights the importance of practising workplace habits that promote a healthy mind, body, and organizational culture using four pillars of well-being: BeWell Mind, BeWell Body, BeWell Work, BeWell Life. This means providing support to staff who are struggling, whether it be mentally, physically or due to a specific incident.
During this edition of Canada’s Healthy Workplace Month, there will be increased programming for all staff and physicians through NH Unplugged.
“The focus of this month will be on encouraging our team members to relax, recharge and reconnect,” says Longland. “Taking regular breaks at work positively correlates with improved mental and physical health, increased productivity and concentration, as well as opportunities for meaningful connections between patients and co-workers.”
Programming will happen at all five NH sites throughout the month, with St. Catharines, Niagara Falls and Welland hosting Wellness Fairs for connecting in person with wellness vendors to learn about resources at NH and in the community. Other fun initiatives include Music @ Work sessions, massage clinics, a mobile petting zoo, therapy dogs, lunch and learns, and make and take sessions. We will also visit our smaller sites and bring NH Unplugged to them directly.
“We are committed to creating opportunities for self-care and learning, which is reflected in the strategic and annual wellness plans,” says Fiona Peacefull, Executive Vice-President, Human Resources.
Longland says the BeWell program has benefitted from Niagara Health’s focus on the well-being of its people.
“What we are trying to do is create a culture of well-being where people feel supported at work,” says Longland.
Regular year-round resources include education, DIY break programs, custom department programming, Employee Family and Assistance program (EFAP), massage clinics, mindfulness sessions, team huddle talks, mental health programming, such as The Working Mind program, and department challenges, such as walking or water intake programs.
“We are able to provide resources to staff, guide them to appropriate community-related support, or help them use our great EFAP,” says Longland.
EFAP is free for all staff and physicians, as well as any member of their household. They do not need to be direct family.
“Physicians, staff, and their families don't need to be struggling to access the BeWell program,” Longland explains. “We are constantly trying to acquire more resources, refresh programming, and utilize new materials to engage team members in taking time to focus on the well-being of themselves and their families.”