Employee Health and Wellness Programs: Can You Really Afford Without Them?

Employee Health and Wellness Programs: Can You Really Afford Without Them?

According to an adage, work is Health and Wellness… Without going so far, the working environment can, in fact, influence health, which is why companies have every interest in providing their employees with tools to promote their well-being.

This is part two of our series on integrated health.

Businesses today face increasingly fierce competition. To succeed, they must ensure that their employees are both productive and engaged. However, physical, and mental health problems or financial worries have a significant impact on the employees. “Absenteeism generates costs of $16 billion a year for Canadian businesses, to which must be added the negative effects of presenteeism, which are more difficult to quantify,” explains Sophie Ouellet, regional vice-president at business development for group benefits, Quebec, and Eastern Ontario, at Sun Life Financial.

And when a worker is less productive or takes sick leave, it usually increases the workload of their colleagues, who then risk burnout.

Business leaders frequently doubt how much it costs to execute workplace health and transform health and wellness programs. The question that should be asked is rather how much it costs not to have one. Tackling the problem at the source and carrying out prevention pays off much more,” underlines Ms. Ouellet.

Tangible benefits

Active and healthy people are more motivated, productive, and invested in their work. “A study by Hewitt Associates showed that engaged employees take 50% fewer sick days than others and run a four times lower risk of suffering from psychological distress,” says Ms. Ouellet. These figures speak for themselves and constitute a good argument to encourage its employees to engage in regular physical activity, promote healthy eating and have a healthy lifestyle. And since commitment also comes with a taste for excellence and innovation, these are all good reasons to improve the company’s performance.

Another tangible benefit: attracting and retaining employees. 86% of workers believe their business supports their mental and physical health. Moreover, one out of two people would be willing to change companies to improve their health and quality of life. This is clear evidence that workers place tangible value on better physical, mental, and financial Health and Wellness.

However, according to Ms. Ouellet, it is possible to implement measures at little cost. “We can start on a small scale, implement a few initiatives at a time and build on these achievements later. It also gives time to see that the results are convincing, which encourages you to continue,” she says. For example, you can offer relaxation activities to your employees or encourage them to move. Afterward, we add a workshop on nutrition, stress management, and personal finances, to broaden the range of activities. “It is crucial that the offer is made on an ongoing basis and that senior management believes in it and actively engage in the process,” says Sophie Ouellet.

Where to start?

For the process to be crowned with success, it is preferable to begin by identifying the health problems of the employees. A personalized assessment will provide a clear picture of the situation. To carry out this work, resources are generally available within the framework of group insurance plans. If the company does not have one, it is possible to have this task carried out internally, for example by the human resources department.

By registering the days and excuses for absence, the income rate, sick leave, etc., we can highlight recurring cases and establish priorities. Are we dealing with chronic illnesses, challenges related to financial insecurity, and mental health? We will base our strategy on this information, targeting the most appropriate activities.

The action plan must adapt to the needs of the company and may contain, for example. A review of management policies to promote psychological healthcare and well-being. Group insurance and well-being programs, employee assistance programs, or group retirement savings. The range of resources is vast and affects physical and mental health as well as financial security.

Some resources are free or inexpensive, but you can also contact an advisor in the field. Your insurer, or even a specialized firm to set up a program. The crucial thing is to begin somewhere and have got an administration team that leads by example!

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