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Healthy Workplaces

It’s easy to forget about the “health” part of “Occupational Health and Safety” (OHS), but a safe and healthy workplace is about far more than just avoiding injury. On average, Canadians spend 60% of their waking hours at work. What happens at work can therefore have a huge impact on our overall health.

Health can be affected by:man-and-woman-meeting-inside

  • the workplace environment: air quality, noise, lighting, quality of equipment, and exposure to health and safety hazards;
  • working relationships with supervisors and co-workers;
  • personal resources and support, such as having somewhere to turn if someone has problems in their personal or work life;
  • how much control employees feel they have over their job, such as having a voice in decision-making and feeling that their opinions matter; and
  • workplace health, which is a comprehensive and integrated approach to health that focuses on the general population at a workplace and the organization as a whole.

What is a healthy workplace?

Workplace health addresses a broad range of health and safety issues through programs, policies and practices. A healthy workplace is one that takes all of these  things into consideration. In a healthy workplace, employees have a safe and clean work environment, strong and supportive working relationships that give them a sense of control and influence over what happens to them, and are encouraged to treat their health and safety as a top priority both at work and at home.

The importance of healthy working relationships cannot be overstated. An employee who feels valued, who views themselves as part of a team, and who feels comfortable talking about health or safety concerns with coworkers and supervisors will be able to diffuse stress more effectively and will be able to derive more pleasure from their work than one who feels unappreciated or alienated.

A safe and healthy workplace benefits the organization as much as it does employees. Healthy employees are more energetic, are less likely to be involved in an accident, are sick less often and are able to recover from illness faster. Investing in employee health programs usually results in lower absenteeism, reduced sick leave and lower incident rates, but the benefits go far beyond the bottom line – healthy employees are happy employees, and happy employees are productive employees.

school-desks-1418686What about school?

As a young person, you may be working part time, but most of you are also in school full or part time. These facts about healthy workplaces don’t just apply to where you earn your paycheck – they also apply to your school life.

Reducing stress is important to keep you focused, energized, happy and healthy. If there is something going on at your school or in your workplace that is causing you stress or negatively impacting your mental or physical health, you need to speak up about it. If you are feeling stressed, you may need to evaluate whether you have too much on your plate, or you can talk to your school counselor about how you can manage your time more effectively. Or perhaps your stress is the result of too much pressure from yourself or your parents to achieve high levels of success. Regardless of what the source of your stress is, there are things you can do to address it.

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  • Practice good time-management skills, such as scheduling, organization, prioritization and goal-setting;
  • Schedule regular breaks for yourself and don’t allow yourself to become distracted from mindful rest;
  • Talk to a trusted supervisor, school counselor, adult or friend about the pressure you feel;
  • Make time for your friends and build healthy working relationships with your coworkers and school peers; and
  • Eat well and get moving! What you eat and drink plays a key role in your overall energy levels, mood and physical well-being, and physical exercise is key to both physical and mental health. Not only does physical exercise release mood-enhancing chemicals and bolster your body’s effectiveness, but participating in team sports can also help you build a sense of camaraderie with your peers. Physical exertion is also a healthy way to release pent up stress and clear your head.

Your role at work

Just as you have a key role to play in your health and safety at school, you also have an important role to play at work. It is up to you to speak up about it if there is something going on at work that either feels unsafe or that you think might have a negative impact on your or your coworkers’ health. Look back at the list of ways health can be affected at work above. Be mindful of these things when you are at work and consider how they can be improved. Some of these items you can address on your own, such as your relationships with your supervisors and coworkers, while others will require you to make recommendations to others. It might be something big, such as bringing up the air quality in a certain corner of the shop, or it could be something small like suggesting a company social outing or event.

Are you in balance?

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The Canadian Mental Health Association (CMHA) understands the importance of work/life balance. When your life feels out of control or you feel overloaded, this can have a significant impact on both your physical and mental health. Many teenagers today lead very busy lives – school, work and extracurricular activities can leave you feeling like you’ve got no time to catch your breath. Achieving work-life (or school-life) balance means having equilibrium among all the priorities in your life. What that balance looks like is going to be different for every person.

The CMHA work-life balance quiz below can help you determine if you’re out of balance:

Take the Work/Life Balance Quiz