Healthy work environments: Canada’s Next Big Idea

Nachemson Lecture, Institute for Work & Health, 21 June 2004, Toronto
What would it take to make healthy work environments a top national priority? For this to happen, employers, employees, unions and professional associations, and governments must find common ground. The goal of a healthy work environment must be energized by a shared vision. The elements of that vision can be found in today’s parallel discourses. Employers want efficiency, productivity and adaptability. Employees want decent jobs that offer dignity, respect, personal development and economic security. Communities and citizens want ethical corporate behaviour. Unions want equity and fairness. Governments are promoting innovation and skills as the route to a better quality of life. And not least, researchers want the best evidence on healthy workplace determinants translated into practice. While now separate, these discourses actually are highly complementary. They converge in a composite picture of what a healthy, productive and responsible organization looks like. This vision points the way to positive workplace change and can be a rallying point for a societal project – the Next Big Idea that, over time, can shift how we think and act at work.
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