The workplace has an impact on healthy behaviours, particularly when it comes to stress management. The Sanofi Canada Healthcare Survey also found that job satisfaction can make a difference when it comes to employees choosing to do something to improve their health. However, currently the workplace falls short on certain key indicators for psychological health and safety, such as reasonable workloads.
- Plan members with access to health and wellness programs at work are far more likely to be satisfied with their current jobs (80%) than those without such programs (66%).
- Dissatisfied employees who also have chronic diseases are much more likely to report that their illnesses have caused them to miss work or be less productive (52%, versus 36% among satisfied employees). And dissatisfied employees are more than twice as likely to report that the work environment negatively affects their ability to manage their condition (63% versus 26%).
- 40% of plan members report that their work environment has a negative impact on stress management, jumping to 68% among those who are dissatisfied with their jobs.
- 67% of employees overall report their workloads are reasonable and 66% say their supervisors support them in getting their work done—results which fall below the recommended level of 85% for psychological health and safety in the workplace.
Workplace wellness programs
Flexible work arrangements are first on plan members’ wish list for wellness support; plan sponsors, meanwhile, would like to take more direct action on health through personal services such as healthcare coaching. “Flexible work arrangements and other HR policies are practical actions that can make an important difference, and where costs need not be a barrier,” says Nathalie Laporte, advisory board member and Vice-President of Product Development, Marketing and Strategy, at Desjardins.
It’s also important to note that privacy issues may be less of a barrier than previously thought. A notable number of plan members would give their consent to insurance companies to use their personal benefits claims data (for example, the drugs they are taking) to generate personalized healthcare supports (for example, educational material on a particular chronic disease).
- To support personal wellness, plan members would most like their employers to offer flexible work arrangements (41%), subsidies for gym memberships or fitness classes (36%) and healthy foods and snacks at work (36%).
- If they could, employers would most like to support employees’ wellness by offering access to healthcare professionals who would assess personal health and risks for illnesses (35%), by having a fitness centre or gym at work (29%) and by offering access to coaching sessions with a healthcare professional (27%).
- 58% of plan members would consent to receive personalized health-related information, based on their own use of benefits, from insurance companies.
Future of health benefit plans
Plan sponsors want to put health ahead of cost containment—but need more guidance and practical tools from providers. The time is right to integrate benefits and wellness to create health management plans, built upon the principle of employees’ personal accountability. “We have a tremendous opportunity to stop thinking about wellness and benefits as two separate things and to start thinking about an integrated health management plan,” says Lori Casselman, member of the Advisory Board and Assistant Vice-President, Integrated health solutions, at Sun Life Financial.
Adds Board member Lisa Callaghan, Assistant Vice-President of Product Group Benefits at Manulife: “It’s important that plan sponsors step back and articulate the prevention of future claims as an objective, and then strategically look at that in the context of current plan design.”
- Plan sponsors are more willing to invest in programs or services that prevent future claims (43%) than they are in programs/services that reduce current claims (18%).
- If they could change their benefit plan, setting aside all barriers, plan sponsors would most like to see more benefits that prevent illness (36%) and support chronic disease management (31%).
- 81% of plan sponsors would like a better understanding of where benefits costs are coming from based on their health profile of their organization.
Much has changed since benefit plans first came into being in Canada more than 30 years ago, yet plan designs have not kept pace. “We could be bolder. We have the knowledge, tools and technology and frankly, the market’s expectation, to do more to create a better benefits plan. Health metrics should be built right in,” says Chris Bonnett, Advisory Board member and Principal, H3 Consulting.
- Plan members most often state that benefits for prescription drugs (94%), basic dental services (93%) and vision care (91%) are very or somewhat important to them.
- 43% of plan members submitted at least one claim for massage therapy in the past year, for an average of 5.1 claims. Younger employees (18-34 years) more likely get massages to relax or relieve tension (47%), while older employees (55-64 years) more likely get massages to help treat an injury or health condition (58%).
- Plan members with access to wellness programs are much more likely to agree that their health benefit plans meet their needs (64%, versus 41% among those without wellness programs).
- Plan sponsors with wellness programs are more likely to indicate they will invest more for health benefits over the next five years (41%, compared to 27% among those not active in the wellness arena). – CNW