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A Different Approach to Health Benefits: From Reactive Programs to Prevention and Health Promotion

Jan 07, 2016
Monica Haberl Monica Haberl
Research Associate
The Conference Board of Canada

Despite the balmy temperatures enjoyed across Canada throughout December, the cold and flu season will surely rear its ugly head over the winter months. In addition, the “post-holiday-emotional-hangover” is still to come. Holidays not living up to expectations, separation from loved ones, and the financial strain that many consumers struggle with in January can all turn into sources of anxiety or depression.

This may become a significant cost to organizations that provide benefits to their employees—costs are increasing with no signs of slowing down. Benefits are an important component of the total rewards package, and although it is crucial to maintain basic drug, health, dental, and disability coverage, organizations are beginning to take a more proactive and preventative approach to their benefits programs. A recent Conference Board benchmarking report on the benefits programs of Canadian organizations outlines that companies are gearing their programming toward health promotion, early assessment, and early intervention.

It is widely known that stress can be a risk factor for many health challenges—both physical and mental. Employee Assistance Programs (EAPs) continue to be a common cornerstone of mental health support. Other initiatives being introduced to help mitigate these challenges include providing yoga and personal training classes, building on-site gyms, and even reimbursing weight-loss program fees. More and more organizations are introducing healthy cafeteria options, encouraging walking meetings, or providing ergonomic assessments to employees.

Moving forward, it is important for organizations to build a culture of wellness. How do we keep the wind in the sails? Employees and employers alike need to do their part.

What Can Employees Do to Stay Healthy?

  1. Take stress in stride. Work toward attainable goals and understand that circumstances can change—if some goals become unattainable because of circumstances outside of your control, focus on the goals that can be attained. Keep things in long-term perspective.
  2. Take the stairs. Try to keep moving throughout the day, even in short intervals. Host walking meetings, take the stairs, or get off the bus a stop early and walk a longer distance. Even the short stints of exercise count!
  3. Encourage your peers. Start a workplace walking group or yoga class at lunch. Stir up some friendly competition and track steps with your colleagues.
  4. If you’re sick, stay home! This one speaks for itself—you’ll be back on your feet faster, and your cubicle mates will thank you!

What Can Employers Do to Encourage Healthy Behaviours?

  1. Educate your employees. Provide monthly lunch and learns outlining the benefits of healthy living; build awareness about mental health and share information on how to reduce stress.
  2. Make it easy for employees to be healthy. Offer a variety of healthy cafeteria options; sponsor workplace sports teams; provide flu shots and smoking cessation programs.
  3. Demonstrate a culture of wellness from the top down. Healthy behaviour shouldn’t be just an HR initiative. Work to get senior leaders to buy in and commit to their own wellness plans, and encourage managers to do the same.
  4. Communicate! Many organizations provide health benefits that employees are unaware of—communicate the value and services an EAP can provide; make sure employees are aware of healthy activities they can join, or that they are eligible to have an ergonomic assessment done.

Related Webinars

The 2015 Benefits Benchmarking Webinar: Containing Costs, Maintaining Coverage

Dealing with Workplace Stress—Proven Strategies for Employee Well-Being

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