I’ve always been interested in the things that make us and keep us healthy; not just the personal things, but the interactions we have with our environments and our relationships with each other that contribute to our health. When the opportunity presented itself to become involved in Eastern Health’s newly formed Healthy Workplace Committee several years ago, I jumped on board. A healthy workplace sounds like such a noble goal, and should be simple to achieve, right? Why were we struggling so hard?
Like many of you, I “grew-up” in health care, and I care about what happens here. I’m a ‘bottom line’ kind of person, and certainly in my role as a Professional Practice Consultant I felt if our workplace was healthier we would all be better off, and the people we serve would have the ultimate benefit. A healthy workplace is a win-win, if we can get there.
A healthier workplace
I really didn’t know how the Healthy Workplace Committee was going to tackle this. I couldn’t wrap my head around how a committee – no matter how big or how representative of Eastern Health – would penetrate into every nook and cranny of this organization to make a difference, and a different way of going forward was what we needed.
Enter into the picture the Healthy Workplace Framework offered by Excellence Canada. I like simple rules, and this framework is simple enough for such a complex topic. It has four levels of certification: commitment, planning, implementation and sustainability. By starting at the beginning and building commitment to address this issue, we have slowly been able to “connect the dots” across the organization to begin building a culture that not only values but brings to life a healthier place to work.
We have achieved the first two levels of certification: commitment (Level 1) in June of 2010, and planning (Level 2) in March 2013. This is a deliberate and thoughtful process of reaching into the organization and learning all the pieces of what is happening and needs to happen, who is doing it and where we need to focus our future intentions.
Moving through the first two stages of this process has been an overwhelming learning experience for me. This process enabled me to learn about the interconnected web that is the true structure of Eastern Health. Being involved with this process has enhanced my systems-thinking because I am able to see the different parts of our organization in action, and understand their connectedness to each other. I don’t know how I would have gotten this exposure otherwise. The very process of achieving Level 2 certification means we have a reasonable plan to make our workplace healthier – one that has a real shot at reversing some of that unhappiness we lived with earlier.
While we now move on to implementing the healthy workplace plan, it is clear to me that creating this environment is not the sole job of the Healthy Workplace Committee. Instead, the committee facilitates the connectedness of different groups, policies, people, initiatives and ideas.
Our people: the best resource
I believe the true resource of Eastern Health lies not in our buildings, resources or technologies, but in the people who come to work here every day. They have the solutions to making our workplace healthier, and this process of stepping through a progressive framework puts some structure and guidance into a quest that is complex and variable.
I said I like the bottom line, and here it is. Think of who we used to be as Eastern Health in 2005, when we were new. Now think of all the ways we’ve changed. We have conflict resolution, recognition celebrations, a health and safety focus, workplace mental health initiatives, smoke- free workplaces, Lean initiatives, LEADS (a framework to help Eastern Health leaders enhance their leadership effectiveness), ethical decision-making, a process for working alone and an increased connectedness to our external community. We have done all of these things, and many more besides, together.
Simple rules for a healthy life!
From a personal perspective, I believe each of us has the initial responsibility for a healthier workplace by living a healthier life ourselves. I like simple rules for complex things, and here are mine for a healthier life: eat better, don’t smoke, drink alcohol only in moderation and move my body more. Combine that with a commitment to always be respectful of people and to take care of myself emotionally, and life gets a little smoother all around.
During my work day I actively manage my time so I accomplish what I set out to do, and thus avoid getting overwhelmed. I don’t sit too much, or on some days, don’t run around too much. It means I try to manage conflict well, and take time to eat lunch and have a few quiet minutes to order my thoughts. It does sound simple when you put like that, but it is about finding things we can do to help ourselves on a better path, and sometimes it is hard work.
Are we where we need to be to say Eastern Health is a ‘healthy workplace?’ Though some work remains to be done, we are going forward, which is the only direction that we can go. By striving to have a healthier workplace, we are doing the right thing. We are forward-moving, solutions-focused and resilient, and I for one can’t think of a better group of people to be on this journey with. ■
*Founded in 1992 by Industry Canada, Excellence Canada is an independent, not-for-profit, organization that is committed to advancing organizational excellence across Canada.
This story was written by Cathy Hoyles, a professional practice consultant for Physiotherapy at the Dr. Leonard A. Miller Centre in St. John’s.