Variety keeps employees healthy at Morguard

Morguard Investments Limited is the gold winner for the special Wellness Award as part of the 2013 Canada's Safest Employers Awards.

Through their wellness program, the 1,400 employees of Morguard Investments can take advantage of a range of initiatives that help keep them fit and healthy.

They can order ergonomic items for their work stations. They can join a national fitness club at a discounted membership fee. And the new lunchtime cooking classes show them how to prepare healthy meals. But it is the initiatives aimed at promoting mental well-being that may be most valued among employees, says Nancy Rusk, vice-president of human resources at the Mississauga, Ont.-based real estate ownership, investment and management company.

“We try to give employees tools to help build emotional resilience and to manage life events that may affect their ability to function as productive employees and as productive human beings,” she says.

Many workers turn to the company’s employee assistance program (EAP), which provides referrals, information and in-person counselling on such issues as parenting and child care, financial matters, addiction, senior care and workplace stress management. On Morguard’s wellness intranet site, workers can read articles on reducing stress through techniques such as meditation and yoga. The company offers flexible hours and allows staff to leave early on Fridays in the summer.

“One of the most precious things you can give employees is time, and they are grateful for it,” Rusk says.

Mental well-being is essential to the happiness and productivity of employees, and companies must take a holistic approach to wellness, says Suman Bhasker, national manager of occupational health, safety and security.

“The scope of looking after employees has really changed — we need to look at all factors,” he says.

All aspects of health are addressed at the annual wellness fair, where employees spend time talking to representatives of police and fire departments, fitness companies and financial services. Morguard conducts blood pressure, bone density and cholesterol screenings for employees and also runs lunch-and-learns on issues such as heart health, strokes and cancer. There is an on-site cafeteria and workers can select healthy snacks from vending machines. Additionally, a nutritionist is often available for consultation. The company also participates in Smart Commute, a program that encourages walking, cycling and carpooling to work.

Bhasker believes the wellness program’s success is a result of its variety. It is shaped according to issues important to employees.

“The program is very broad in nature; it hits many different interest areas and so it promotes participation.”

Risks change over time, says John May, director of risk management and insurance, and Morguard must be able to meet these risks as they change.

“Tomorrow, there will be a challenge. We don’t know what that is yet, but we need to be in a position that we can adapt and meet employees’ needs."