Peel Police Locks Up Holistic Well-Being Strategy

November 19, 2018
Peel Police staff

The second largest municipal police service in Ontario cracks down on staff health.

A truly holistic workplace well-being strategy encompasses every single aspect of health and wellness, from physical fitness and mental health to financial and spiritual well-being, within a safe and social work environment. Leading employers are covering these facets, from an organizational level all the way down to the requirements of a single employee.

There are many Canadian workplaces that strive for, and even achieve, this completely rounded well-being strategy. But there is arguably no workplace that requires physically, psychologically, spiritually and socially sound employees more than a police service, like Peel Police.

Peel Regional Police Chief’s Ceremonial UnitFor the past 15 years, the Peel Regional Police (PRP) has had numerous health-focused offerings in place for its staff, including fitness programs, a peer support program, an award-winning employee and family assistance program, and occupational health and safety. But each of these units had been managed by different parts of the organization, with no unifying tie linking them all together.

Six years ago, Peel Police developed an Organizational Wellness Bureau to consolidate all of these units under a single wellness umbrella, demonstrating its commitment to providing employees with a healthy workplace and a supportive environment, and ensuring there was a range of programs and benefits in place to meet employees’ physical, psychological, spiritual and social health needs.

Since the introduction of the Bureau, employee engagement has continually increased, from 54% in 2009 to 60% in 2013 [the 2014 figures are not available yet]. The organization’s employee engagement model consists of 10 pillars, and the highest growth areas were advancement (+16 points) and trust (+9 points).

“The Organizational Wellness Bureau’s mandate is to promote the health, wellbeing and safety of all employees, maintain employee satisfaction and well-being, and strengthen organizational capacity to meet the needs of the future,” says David R Jarvis, Peel Police’s deputy chief, corporate services.

The launch of the Bureau also included the addition of two new units: infection control and a chaplaincy program.

Health - well-being - spirituality and diversityHealth, well-being, spirituality and diversity at Peel Police

When Peel Police was creating its holistic well-being strategy in 2009, it recognized that spirituality was an integral part of wellness. As a result, it added its 24-hour chaplaincy program as an integral thread in its Organizational Wellness Bureau. The program employs four multi-faith chaplains who are available to all employees as resources for spiritual support, emotional care and practical wisdom.

Any one of these chaplains can be called upon for the following: to provide personal and spiritual counsel, to contact or visit sick or injured employees, to supplement the Peel Police’s peer support program and employee assistance program, to assist families of employees involved in traumatic situations, to assist with critical incident stress debriefings, to liaise with other clergy in the community, to offer non-denominational prayers at ceremonial functions, and to preside at weddings, funerals and memorial services.

Peel Police is fully aware that it operates in a very diverse community, so it has a range of priorities in place to ensure it is attracting a diverse workforce — an integral step in creating a workplace environment that complements employee’s social health. Its 2013 annual report stated that 59% of Peel Police’s population are visible minorities, and its top five non-English languages spoken are Punjabi, Urdu, Polish, Spanish and Tamil.

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One of the ways in which it achieves its goal of attracting a diverse workforce is through the provision of career fairs, information sessions and recruitment presentations specifically directed at attracting diverse candidates in the Greater Toronto Area.

Its Recruiting Bureau has also developed a new recruitment campaign focusing on inclusiveness. “Through displays, advertisements and pamphlets, this campaign highlights the phrase ‘Policing…It’s More Than You Think’,” explains Jarvis. “The diversity of our organization and the community is reflected in the images used in the advertising. A new recruiting video was created and released, which focused on the realistic portrayal of policing duties and showcases the many career opportunities offered by Peel Regional Police.”

Peel Regional Police Youth In Policing Initiative ProgramPeel Police also hosts Student Career Days, the second of which was held in 2014. A hundred students were selected to participate in interactive workshops with various bureaus within the police service, including the Forensic Identification Unit, Road Safety Services, Use of Force Training and Tactical/Explosive Disposal Units. Jarvis adds: “With the success of this initiative, the organization will continue to expand that program and make it available to more students.”

Let’s get physical and psychological

Physical fitness is not a necessity in many workplaces, but for the police service it is an entry point that leads organically into other areas of well-being. All Peel Police employees have access to a wide range of outdoor facilities, including trails for walking, running or biking, tennis courts and baseball diamonds, and local community centres for lunchtime swimming and skating.

Besides the physical, there are also many psychologically-focused programs available to staff. “Encouraging employee involvement in healthy workplace programs is accomplished by offering an abundance of fitness and health-related programs, facilities and equipment to employees,” adds Jarvis.

“Access to free, on-site personal fitness coaching permits employees to have a program of diet and fitness tailored to their specific needs and limitations,” adds Jarvis.

“Blood pressure kiosks are available at all locations for employee use and information, as well as cholesterol and blood sugar screening, regularly conducted at various sites to provide immediate feedback to employees around their personal health.”

Peel Police has also created a five-year initiative of varying levels of fitness and healthy lifestyle changes to promote a more long-term lifestyle change among its employees. While this is not mandatory, it is a personal challenge for each individual employee to track his or her changes from a physical, psychological and lifestyle improvement perspective.

“The five stages are progressive in the addition of the lifestyle changes and are all based on the base-level qualification of the Ontario Police Fitness Pin test,” adds Jarvis.

“As each level is completed staff are awarded with the intrinsic reward of the knowledge and satisfaction of completing that level, as well as a nominal extrinsic reward that is related to fitness. The underlying driver for the program is the individual’s desire for self-improvement toward a healthier, more balanced life.”

To focus on its employees’ financial well-being, Peel Police offers “lunch and learn” sessions, whereby a representative from insurer Sun Life presents information to staff on how to create financial plans and how to plan for retirement.

The Annual Diversity Cup - This basketball tournament promotes physical health diversity and interconnectionEarly intervention

While a focus on financial, spiritual, social, psychological and physical well-being are all integral limbs of the police service’s holistic wellness strategy, its Early Intervention Services lie at the very heart of its strategy.

Launched in 2007, the program provides the organization and its employees with confidential and non-disciplinary services that track, monitor and mitigate potential atypical performance issues, which present Peel Police with the opportunity to intervene at an early stage where necessary.

“Early Intervention has the ability to proactively recognize work performance issues and/or behaviours that indicate when an employee might be at risk. It uses software that pulls from a variety of established data-points so that assistance can be offered using such strategies as coaching, mentoring, training and/or counseling,” explains Jarvis.

The Early Intervention Services often work in partnership with the Organizational Wellness Bureau to assist employees with referrals to the peer support team, one of the in-house chaplains or any other service through the employee and family assistance program, demonstrating how all Peel Police’s health and well-being units work together.

“The Early Intervention Services are instrumental in the success of employees through the use of a positive approach and the increase in open communication between supervisors and their staff,” says Jarvis.

Continual evolution through feedback

In any organization, processes, programs and initiatives develop and change over time, as do the priorities of individual employees. For an employer to really focus on achieving a holistic well-being strategy, these should continually evolve.

Peel Police makes it a priority to continue to introduce healthy lifestyle programs and initiatives. “Supporting the health and wellbeing of our employees is a priority and that’s why we continue to introduce healthy lifestyle programs and initiatives,” Jarvis adds.

For instance, Peel Police is exploring the introduction of a Target Life Incentive Program to encourage more participation in its Fitness Pin program, which it hopes will lead to a long-term change in lifestyle and fitness.

And, finally, Peel Police introduced A Healthy Living Committee and an online Healthy Living Committee Suggestion Box in 2009. These welcome input from all employees throughout the organization, ensuring that employees get value out of the range of programs and initiatives on offers through the workplace.

“These avenues provide an opportunity for employees to voice suggestions or concerns through a variety of sources that all come together within the Organizational Wellness Bureau where they are considered, researched and implemented if found to be viable,” says Jarvis.

From its multitude of fitness and emotional health offerings, its focus on continuing to be a diverse and inclusive workplace, and its chaplaincy program, the Peel Regional Police highlights the four corners of a holistic well-being strategy. It is an award-winning approach, thanks to its Gold award for Quality and Healthy Workplace at the 2014 Canada Awards for Excellence, and it is one that continues to evolve its promotion and support of employees’ physical, psychological, spiritual and social health.

PHOTOS: Courtesy of Peel Regional Police


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Jennifer Paterson
Jennifer Paterson is a freelance business writer who has specialized in employee benefits, rewards, HR issues and trends in the U.K. and Canada for many years.

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