Should you be increasing your employee health investment?

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More than three-quarters (76%) of Canadian organizations are planning to increase their support for workforce health programs in the coming years, as more recognize the connection between health and workplace productivity.

According to Towers Watson’s Staying@Work Survey,  the commitment, which is similar to other countries in the survey, is seen as a way to keep workers healthier and improve workplace productivity.

"The survey indicates that over the next few years we will continue to see organizations commit both financial and human resources to transform their current programs from a patchwork of wellness tactics into a more cohesive, integrated strategy," said Wendy Poirier, Towers Watson's Canadian Health and Group Benefits Leader. "A focus on expanding and developing a culture of health in the workplace will be critical to optimizing the return on investment."

Many Canadian employers already offer a range of basic health awareness and prevention services including health risk assessments (45%), biometric screenings (40%), vaccination programs (80%) and web-based health information tools (65%).

However, some experts suggest HR should make sure they’re getting true value from such programs before expanding, even if the tools are being offered as a free add-on from vendors.

“HR needs to ask what value is actually being delivered to my employees and do my employees value what they’re receiving?” SOS Resources president Don Thomson said. “There needs to be a shift away from ‘give me more stuff’. It’s about how is it being used and valued by employees.”

The Towers Watson research confirms Thomson’s concerns showing despite almost half having the resources available, just one in four employees is participating in health risk assessments and biometric screenings.

Thomson recommended making the most of data that was already available, such as absence and disability data, to determine what was causing the most absenteeism and then working to address specific issues. It was also important to scrutinize reports from providers. Having a good understanding of the baseline numbers meant any changes and improvements in productivity lost to absenteeism or disability could be attributed to wellness programs.

“There are always going to be the latest and greatest new tools and we’re just encouraging HR, before you jump on the next trend, make sure you understand where you are now and what that trend is going to do for your business,” Thomson said.


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