Arthritis affects millions of Canadians in every aspect of their lives – including at work. While the pain, fatigue and mobility restrictions that often come with arthritis can make it more difficult to work effectively, there’s a lot that employers and employees can do – both to prevent and slow the development of arthritis, and to help workers who have arthritis stay healthy and productive members of the team.
With the support of AbbVie Canada, The Arthritis Society created Joint Matters at Work to help get that message across. The Joint Matters at Work program is delivered right in the workplace, and provides workers with awareness and education around joint health, as well as the option to receive an expert onsite screening to help identify potential joint issues. Participation in the program and any screening results are kept strictly confidential to ensure participants’ privacy is respected.
The program was first introduced to employers in communities across Canada last fall, and Horizon Utilities was one of the first organizations to participate.
Horizon Utilities is one of the largest municipally-owned electricity distribution companies in Ontario. A Hamilton-Niagara Top 10 Employer for five years in a row, Horizon provides electricity and related utility services to 244,000 residential and commercial customers in the cities of Hamilton and St. Catharines.
Why did Horizon Utilities choose to participate in Joint Matters at Work?
Doug Matthew, Manager, Healthy Workplace and Safety at Horizon Utilities: One-third of our employees work outdoors and are exposed to extreme weather conditions. As a result, we felt the need to provide a program that was targeted to assist these workers. The Arthritis Society’s Joint Matters at Work program covered our desired program needs; which were to raise awareness of the signs and symptoms of arthritis, provide information on how to prevent or delay the onset of arthritis for high risk individuals, identify those who may not know they have arthritis and provide the means by which an employee can better manage arthritis symptoms.
How was your experience participating in the program?
Horizon Utilities: The Arthritis Society partnered with us and provided tools, guidance and support to launch the Joint Matters at Work program. The program activities were selected according to our employees’ needs. Consideration was given to employee’s schedules and work locations. Many of our employees work outdoors and spend their days on the road maintaining and repairing our overhead and underground equipment.
A one-year plan was designed to allow the various programs to roll-out evenly over the course of 12 months. Initiatives were scheduled to pique and maintain interest throughout the year, supported by a variety of tactics to promote employee engagement. All-in-all it was a successful program that sparked participation from many of Horizon Utilities’ employees.
What was your key takeaway from the program?
Horizon Utilities: Many employees have busy lives with work, family and community involvement. Some have communicated that they appreciated the clinics because they often wondered about symptoms they may be having but never made the time to follow up with their physician. By attending the clinic and other programs relating to arthritis, employees have become more knowledgeable and aware of signs, symptoms, treatments and preventative measures and stated they were more likely to seek help from their treating practitioner. This type of feedback is what it is all about: motivating employees through self-awareness to become more involved in managing their own health in a preventative and proactive way is a win-win for everyone involved.
What were you hoping to get out of the program?
Horizon Utilities: We were hoping for high participation numbers in activities such as the webinar, Lunch and Learn, and Arthritis Survey in order to identify individuals at risk of developing arthritis, and assist those experiencing arthritis symptoms. The positive feedback from our employees who participated has confirmed that that they have gained knowledge of the disease and are now aware of the resources available to help them detect and manage arthritis. This positive outcome reinforces our commitment to keeping our employees safe and healthy – at work and beyond.
Did your employees appreciate the opportunity to participate in the program?
Horizon Utilities: Yes, our participating employees greatly appreciated the Joint Matters at Work program. More than 90% of participants commented that the clinics were very beneficial and informative. Here are some of their responses:
- “Excellent information and instruction for prolonged care was very beneficial.“
- “Thank you for this service. It was excellent.”
- “Great to have at the workplace. I likely would not have sought out this information on my own.”
- “Screening clinic was excellent. I hadn’t considered arthritis as a cause for my pain but after my consultation I have narrowed down my search. Great job!”
Would you recommend the program to other employers?
Horizon Utilities: Yes, we would highly recommend the program to other employers. The Arthritis Society provides a comprehensive program with all the support, tools and information needed to run a successful campaign. The program educates and motivates employees to learn more about arthritis. It also offers those at risk of having the disease the chance for a one-on-one assessment by a health practitioner, increasing the likelihood that they will seek assistance from their own physician. Employers who chose to offer this program will empower their employees by providing them with the facts about arthritis that will allow them to invest in their own health.
We thank Doug Matthew and Horizon Utilities for sharing their experience with us.
If you think Joint Matters at Work might be right for your workplace, visit arthritis.ca/jointmatters for more information.
IMAGE CAPTION: From left to right: Alyssa Zahtila, Peg Zahtila, Hannah Bagley, Doug Matthew, Monica Matthew, Nancy Capostangno, Sam Capostagno.