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Commitment to health, productivity

Wednesday December 16, 2015 Written by  Retain Canada
Employers are starting to connect employee health with financial health and the workplace experience.

According to a recent survey by Towers Watson, workplace health and productivity improvement remains a priority for Canadian employers. Driven by their concerns over worker stress (85 per cent), sedentary lifestyles (46 per cent) and unplanned absences (45 per cent), the majority of Canadian employers identify health and productivity improvement as essential or moderately important to their health strategy (cited by 82 per cent of respondents). Additionally, the Towers Watson Staying@Work survey found 86 per cent of Canadian employers expect their organization’s commitment to employee health and productivity improvement to increase or significantly increase by 2018.

While employer commitment to health and productivity remains strong, 60 per cent of employers have not yet articulated a health and productivity strategy. However, more than two-thirds (70 per cent) expect that building a culture of health will be their primary means to promote healthy employee behaviours. Over the next three years, nearly one fifth of employers plan to build a strategy (18 per cent) and plan to promote the value proposition behind their health and productivity program (23 per cent). Close to half of all respondents (48 per cent) plan to customize their strategy for critical workforce segments and use organizational analytics to assess program effectiveness.

“Canadian employers have long recognized that the health and productivity of their workforce can influence business success and create a competitive advantage,” said Wendy Poirier, Canadian division leader, health and group benefits at Towers Watson. “However, many organizations continue to struggle with a fragmented set of programs in the absence of a health and productivity strategy, and even fewer measure the impact of health and well-being programs on health risk, costs or employee productivity.”

Canadian employers have typically relied on a number of traditional well-being programs (such as employee assistance programs, onsite vaccinations, worksite diet/exercise activities) as well as emerging programs such as mental health risk assessments, health risk assessments and chronic condition management. However, there is now growing interest among employers to incorporate financial well-being into their wellness strategy. The vast majority of respondents (91 per cent) are offering employees access to general financial counselling through their employee assistance programs, close to half offer or promote the use of call centre resources (45 per cent) and 42 per cent bring third-party counsellors/educators on-site to promote financial well-being.

“Canadian employers are beginning to take a broader view of well-being by connecting employee health with financial health and the workplace experience,” said Julia Graham, Canadian division leader, absence, disability and health management at Towers Watson. “We know from our research that lack of financial health is one of the key causes of stress affecting workplace productivity. By recognizing the connections between physical, psychological, social and financial health, employers can adopt strategies and programs that allow for a more holistic approach to employee well-being and workplace productivity.”

“Although there is somewhat of a disconnect between what employers want to achieve and the ways in which they are developing and delivering their health and productivity programs, our Staying@Work research shows that high-effectiveness organizations experience the benefit of increased financial performance, reduced voluntary turnover, and higher revenue per employee,” Poirier added. “These organizations do a number of things differently: they develop and communicate a strategy with objectives that address the key health concerns of the employee population; they adopt best practices in operations management, including setting measurable objectives and analyzing outcomes; and they embrace new technologies.”

The 2015/2016 Towers Watson Staying@Work Survey was completed between May and July 2015 in North America, Latin America, Europe, Middle East, and Asia by 1,669 employers. The survey captures details on each organization’s health and well-being strategy and programs in their respective local markets. Additionally, 42 multi-national firms responded to a complementary survey, capturing the perspective of the global headquarters. In total, the data include responses from 34 countries/markets. The countries with the most number of responses are: United States (487); Mexico (118); Canada (111); Philippines (91); Indonesia (66); and China (65). Seventy-three percent of respondents operate in multiple countries and respondents are in all major industry sectors.

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