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Funded in part by the
Government of Ontario

What is a Healthy Work Environment (HWE)?

Healthy Work Environments recognize that people are at the heart of the healthcare system and give priority to the multiple aspects of the workplace that have an impact on the mental and physical wellbeing of employees including the cultural, social and job design conditions. Organizations that adopt Healthy Work Environment principles and values, by taking a comprehensive, collaborative approach to ensure workers can function in a safe and respectful atmosphere, are the most successful. Healthy Work Environments promote employee well-being, engagement, retention, productivity and patient safety, all of which affect the bottom line.

Why are Healthy Work Environments important?

Healthcare workers are one of the highest risk groups for work-related injuries and illness in Ontario and across Canada. The stats are telling:

  • The average number of days of work lost due to illness or disability was at least 1.5 times greater for workers in health care than the average for all workers, according to Canada's Health Care Providers: 2005 Chartbook.

  • Healthcare workers have the highest frequency of violence and aggression-related injuries of any occupation, representing nearly 67% of all violence-related injury claims to the WSIB in 2009.

  • 28% of Ontario nurses report being assaulted by their patients in the last 12 months

  • Approximately 46 per cent of Canadian physicians reported they were in advanced stages of burnout, according to the Canadian Medical Association Study on Physician Burnout.

  • A 2008 study of personal support workers in long-term care in Ontario, Manitoba, and Nova Scotia found that 43 per cent experienced physical violence on a daily basis.

  • In the US it's now estimated that it costs $22,000 to $64,000 per nurse turnover, estimated to be between 0.75 to 2 times the salary of the departing individual. Read more about the costs and benefits of nurse turnover: a business case for nurse retention.

Unhealthy work environments impact Ontario's ability to recruit and retain health care workers. Illnesses and injuries resulting from these environments place additional pressure on coworkers, reduce caregivers' ability to meet their patients needs and can, in some cases, even cause people to consider leaving the field of health care.

Implementing healthy work environments and building a culture of safety for health care workers is critical to ensuring quality patient care. Enhancing morale and reducing absenteeism can reduce adverse events, improve patient safety and support improved patient outcomes.

A Healthy Work Environment is not only common sense, but it makes economical, human resources and patient safety sense and it’s a journey you can embark on right away. Visit other sections of this site to see how others implemented innovative changes, do a rapid self-assessment of your own environment, download a free health work environment tool or share your success story.