Markham Stouffville Hospital's Wellness @ Work Pilot Fosters a Healthier Workplace

Rationale / Objectives

Markham Stouffville Hospitals’ Childbirth and Children's Services department wanted to reduce the increased rate of absenteeism and workplace injuries among staff. In 2016 as part of their year-long Wellness Initiatives plan, MSH created a Wellness pilot program for the Childbirth and Children's Services department. The program’s aims were to increase staff morale and team unity to create a positive work culture and healthy environment to decrease absenteeism.

Project/Program Description & Major Achievements

The pilot program was seven weeks long, focusing on stress reduction and physical wellness. It included activities such as guided meditation, stretches, gratitude expression, tea breaks and sharing healthy recipes. Participation was tracked through a point based incentive program called “Wellness Challenges” whereby staff received email updates. These updates included wellness resources to encourage a healthy work culture within the department. Incentive prizes including gift cards or free massages also helped to motivate staff to participate more actively. Some of the positive outcomes observed through the pilot program included:

  • Improved employee morale and mood;
  • Increased team building and unity;
  • Increased motivation to create and sustain healthy habits; and
  • Healthy activities applied outside of the workplace.


Absenteeism was reduced by 92% on the target unit over a four month period (Feb 2016-Apr 2016). 

Lessons Learned

Relocating the programs during the pilot program from different locations to the nursing station within the unit significantly increased participation rates. A “Needs Assessment” conducted through focus groups, staff interviews and short surveys revealed that both mental and physical wellness were target needs within the Childbirth and Children's Services department.

People / Organizations Involved

Further Description

Markham Stouffville Hospital (MSH) is a progressive, two-site community hospital with leading diagnostic services and clinical programs in acute care medicine and surgery, addictions and mental health, childbirth and children's services, and rehab/transitional care; all of which are focused on the needs of its rapidly growing communities. Partnering with other specialist providers, the over 450 physicians, 17 midwives, and 1,900 staff of the hospital make it the centre of community care for the almost 400,000 residents of Markham, Stouffville and Uxbridge.

The goals of the corporate wellness program initiative at MSH include the development of an action plan that aims to create a healthy and vibrant workplace environment. Objectives include:

  • Provide wellness expertise through consultation, program development, implementation and evaluation;
  • Promote wellness and health at the organizational, job, and individual level; and
  • Organize wellness initiatives to enhance the current healthy and vibrant workplace program.


The pilot program for the Childbirth and Children's Services department consisted of five major steps: 1) Initial Steps, 2) Determining target population needs, 3) Planning, 4) Implementation & Tracking, and 5) Evaluation. Each step helped clearly define the department’s needs, plan for success, engage staff, and collect insights and evaluation data on the Wellness initiative. Program organizers kept track of monetary expenses throughout, and conducted a feedback survey mid-way through the seven weeks to gain insight on the effectiveness of the program. The initial goal was to decrease the amount of absenteeism among the staff. However, by encouraging physical and mental wellness a sustainable healthy work culture was also created resulting in enhanced productivity and better quality patient care. 

Components of the overall initiative include a wellness bulletin board, an annual wellness expo, newsletter, walking groups, stretch breaks, guided meditation, an annual biometric health screening, weekly wellness tips and challenges.

Major Achievements

Metric Result (N=36)
% of respondents who learned stress reducing activities to apply to daily work routine 62%
% of respondents who felt more motivated to make positive behaviour changes 52%
% of respondents who felt confident in sustaining new positive behaviour changes 67%
% of respondents who agree that program improved their health 95%
% of respondents who reduced their stress during the program 75%
% of respondents who exercised more 60%
% of respondents who were eating better during the program 50%
Absenteeism among unit staff during pilot reduced by 92%

Markham Stouffville Hospital was awarded a Certificate of Merit for its compliance with the CHWM Best Practices Criteria by Excellence Canada in recognition of workplace wellness activities. In addition, the organization was recognized in 2016 with a Healthy Workplace Award by the Durham Region Health Department.