University Health Network focuses on employees and is recognized for creating a healthy workplace

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At University Health Network, creating a healthy, family-friendly workplace for employees isn’t an afterthought -it’s a central part of our strategy, explains Bob Bell, president and chief executive officer, “Our vision is Achieving Global Impact, and to achieve that vision, we have to attract and retain the very best.”

Two recent awards are positive signs that the network of three Toronto hospitals is on the right track: Canada’s Top 100 Employers for 2006 and The OHA Healthy Hospitals Innovators Award.

UHN’s workplace practices such as benefits, vacations, commitment to diversity, professional and leadership development, and employee wellness were among the factors that earned it a place-for the third year in a row-as one of the country’s top 100 employers. The list is compiled by Medicorp Canada, the country’s largest publisher of job-hunting directories and guides. UHN was one of only two hospitals ranked in the top 100, and the only Ontario hospital in that group. UHN also made the top10 list in the “Family Friendly Employers” category. On-site day care, emergency childcare, a maternity top-up program and supporting flexible work arrangements are among several strategies that help UHN employees balance their family and work commitments.

“Balancing personal and professional roles can be a tremendous source of stress for employees,” explains Emma Pavlov, Vice President of Human Resources. “Anything we can do to make that process easier will benefit not only individual employees and their families, but the organization as a whole.” Another key component of building a healthy workplace is supporting employee health. With this in mind, the hospital established a program called Wellness@UHN last year.

“Wellness@UHN is all about helping employees improve their personal health and building a healthier UHN. Through Wellness@UHN, we strive to create an environment that allows employees to be safe and healthy in the workplace, to create a lifestyle where they can minimize their daily stress, improve their ability to manage work and life balance and to have a rewarding and challenging job/career,” says Tracey Aaron, Co-Chair of the Wellness@UHN committee.

The program, which is strongly supported by senior leadership at UHN, provides employees free seated massage, on-site weight loss programs, access to fitness facilities and ongoing learning opportunities in the area of wellness, earned UHN a Healthy Hospital Innovators Award from the Ontario Hospital Association. This award recognizes hospitals with a commitment to building, and sustaining a healthy workplace with leadership, programming and staff involvement.

In keeping with the model of Wellness@UHN, UHN has implemented some innovative wellness programs and is continually working to develop focused programs that meet its employee’s needs. In addition to many occupational health and safety programs such as, customized injury prevention and safe-lifting, UHN facilitates some unique lifestyle programs such as: an on-site fitness facility including aerobic classes, yoga, pilates, a swimming pool, nutritional counseling, and personal training as well as, wellness training courses, including lunch and learns on topics such as parenting, stress management and mindfulness meditation. In addition, UHN is currently launching a two pronged smoking cessation program with on-site cognitive therapy sessions and subsidized nicotine replacement therapies. UHN is also working on plans to develop a Wellness Resource Centre, which would provide employees with easy access to wellness resources and health services.

Part of the shift to wellness for UHN has been to recognize that the organization plays a role in overall wellness, including staff’s experiences in their workplace, relationship with their manager and their overall satisfaction with their job. As a result, many initiatives are underway across the organization, including, intact team training, diversity training and working effectively in teams.

“We are very pleased to receive these awards, but we also know that maintaining a healthy workplace is an ongoing process. As the needs of our employees change, our approaches will need to adapt. Wellness is an evolving concept that means different things to different individuals therefore we are constantly evaluating our wellness programs and making appropriate adjustments. At UHN, we firmly believe that healthy, productive and engaged employees will help us achieve our vision and provide the best care to our patients,” says Bob Bell, UHN’s CEO.