Retaining skilled labour in an aging work force is pushing workplace wellness up the agenda for some employers in Saint John.
This year is “crucial” as the oldest baby boomers ready to retire, says Gina O’Rourke-McKay, a work force expansion initiative coordinator for Enterprise Saint John. “For the next five to seven years, you’re going to see a huge number of baby boomers leaving the work force,” says O’Rourke-McKay.
Enterprise Saint John, the Saint John Board of Trade and the Heart and Stroke Foundation of New Brunswick were to host two workplace wellness workshops in January. “The fact that Canadians spend about 50 per cent of their time at the [workplace] makes it a pretty good equation for business owners to realize that they have an opportunity to increase productivity through wellness programs,” she says.
A Statistics Canada survey in 2002 (updated in 2004) showed that 38.8 per cent of respondents between the ages of 15 and 75 reported being slightly stressed at work, 25 per cent relatively stressed, and 5.4 per cent extremely stressed.
Keeping workers healthy and happy can pay off big. The Conference Board of Canada reported in December, 2008 that in the first year after a major bank introduced a backup child care centre for employees, it saw 2,500 fewer days of absence and $1.5 million less in productivity costs.
In the United States, a University of Michigan study of a utility showed that the $7.3 million spent on wellness produced savings of $12.1 million from reduced medical and pharmacy costs, time off and workers’ comp.
Having a core group of interested people and a supportive management team is key, says Steve Adsett, human resource manager, Atlantic region, for Bird Construction Company. Turnover has fallen to 3.5 per cent since implementing its program five years ago.
It can be difficult to measure the benefits of health and wellness, says Adsett. Still, “when you have happy people, satisfied employees, they want to come to work every day.”
Jean Lian is assistant editor of OHS CANADA.