Workplace fit to be honoured

If you work at Red Deer Primary Care Network, waiting time at the photocopier or in the staff kitchen can easily become fitness time — thanks to a list of exercises posted there. Or, lunch time can be spent outdoors aboard one of four bicycles available for employee use.

If you work at Red Deer Primary Care Network, waiting time at the photocopier or in the staff kitchen can easily become fitness time — thanks to a list of exercises posted there. Or, lunch time can be spent outdoors aboard one of four bicycles available for employee use.

These, and a variety of other workplace health initiatives, have earned Red Deer Primary Care Network a 2011 Premier’s Award for Healthy Workplaces. Executive director Lorna Milkovich and operations manager Krista Rechner accepted the award on Tuesday from Premier Alison Redford and Health and Wellness Minister Fred Horne.

“It was really satisfying, because this really exemplifies what Red Deer Primary Care Network is about,” said Milkovich.

Another Red Deer workplace to receive recognition was Persons with Developmental Disabilities, Central Region Community Board. It and Red Deer Primary Care Network were among six organizations to earn a Premier’s Award of Merit, with the others the Municipal District of Greenview, Hyatt Regency Calgary, Athabasca University and University of Lethbridge. Premier’s Awards of Distinction went to Metromedia Marketing — A Brand Alliance Company, Alberta Blue Cross and Alberta Workers’ Compensation Board.

Now in its fourth year, the Premier’s Award for Healthy Workplaces is part of the Alberta government’s Healthy U initiative. It recognizes employers who support employee wellbeing through health promotion programs.

Milkovich said a big reason Red Deer Primary Care Network strives to create a healthy workplace is its own staff. She noted that sick time at there is about one-third of that at most other health care organizations.

It also wants to set a positive example for other organizations, she added.

Red Deer Primary Care Network’s mandate includes increasing the activity levels of local residents through the development of outdoor gyms and a disc golf course. It also organizes virtual treks through which participants convert their daily exercise into steps through places like Hawaii, Jamaica and Newfoundland.

“All of our staff are involved in that trek and we’ve gotten about 80 per cent completion in our treks,” said Milkovich, describing how internal prizes have been used to encourage participation.

“We’re big on walking the talk.”

Red Deer Primary Care Network staff retreats are organized around activity themes, and workplace lunches emphasize healthy components like vegetables and whole grain foods. And “sick days” are referred to as “healing days,” with employees able to trade their unused healing days at the end of each year for up to three “vitality days,” which can be used for healthy activities like skiing or spending time with grandchildren.

A key component of Red Deer Primary Care Network’s healthy workplace strategy is the inclusion of employee input, said Milkovich.

“Our staff is very engaged in everything that we do, and all of our programming and our quality improvement kind of stuff.

“That actually contributes to people being really engaged and healthy.”

Twenty-three Alberta workplaces applied for recognition under the Premier’s Award for Healthy Workplaces program for 2011.

hrichards@bprda.wpengine.com