Dr. Vivien Brown, Vice-President Medical Affairs at Medisys visits BusinessCast to discuss corporate healthcare issues and strategies with Robert Gold, Managing Partner, Bennett Gold LLP and Andrew Brown, President, RightOnTheMoney.com.
Among other things, Dr. Brown discusses the cost of healthcare to Canadian corporations, the top 3 corporate health trends and strategies for companies of all sizes to create a healthier workforce.
Investing in targeted wellness initiatives need not break the bank. There are many free or low-cost initiatives that can be driven by internal employees or your wellness committee.
Many of these initiatives are not only cost-effective, but also very simple to implement.
Free Employee Wellness Initiatives
- Launch a needs questionnaire (this should always be the first step—as it is in our Fresh Start wellness program)
- Launch health challenges (i.e. steps walked, kilometres run, weight lost, etc.)
- Create a walking group
- Send health tips by email
- Provide flexible work schedules so that workers can take part in programs
- Instead of sitting in a conference room, have walking meetings (this is my favourite)
- Encourage employees to take the stairs instead of elevators
- Encourage employees to park farther away from work, or get off public transport a few stops before and walk the rest of the way
- Encourage employees to blog their achievements for others to follow (on your corporate Intranet, WordPress, Blogger, etc.)
*Almost* Free Initiatives
- Ask your wellness supplier to present on various health topics of interest (based on survey responses and medical results of aggregate reports)
- Incentivize for wellness networking (many companies provide incentives for program participation… take this one step further and incentivize employees for bringing someone who has not yet participated)
- Vending machine/cafeteria food audit
- Provide healthy snacks for free
- Set up education centres or distribute brochures and info available from organizations such as the Heart and Stroke Foundation, Diabetes Association of Canada, etc.
- Encourage use of your EAP
- Make your wellness programs visible in high-traffic areas
- Organize lunch-time group activities, i.e. volleyball, tai-chi, yoga, etc…
Just implementing a few of these suggestions can have a significant impact on your workforce and allow you to keep your program visible throughout the year.
View our Employee Wellness Viral Video
Have other suggestions for free initiatives?
Share yours by leaving a comment at the top of this article.
The Group for Promotion of Prevention Strategies (GP2S) is a non-profit organization based in Quebec whose mission is to promote health and wellness in the workplace.
GP2S has created the first-ever “Healthy Workplace” corporate certification process—similar to an ISO certification—to acknowledge the efforts by Canadian employers to make their workplace truly healthy.
GP2S is making strides in Canada and internationally in the promotion of health and wellness in the workplace.
We sat down with Dr. Mario Messier, an occupational health physician and Scientific Director of GP2S, to find out more about the organization and what lies in store for the future.
Q: How would you describe GP2S and its mission?
A: GP2S is the abbreviation of Groupe de Promotion pour la Prévention en Santé, or Group for the Promotion of Prevention Strategies. Its mission is to promote health, wellness and productivity in the workplace. To do that, GP2S operates on several levels. On the corporate side, it helps businesses to understand that the health of their employees is a major strategic concern. We remind companies that they need well trained, motivated and healthy employees in order to prosper and grow, and that it is therefore in their best interests to factor employees’ health and wellness into their business plan. In other areas, GP2S interacts with different partners and stakeholders in business (public authorities, media, service providers, insurers, educational and research bodies, and others) to facilitate knowledge transfer and concerted action. The aim is to create an environment that favours health, wellness and productivity in the workplace.
Q: What spurred your involvement in GP2S?
A: I started my career as a family physician before branching out into occupational health. As much in family medicine as in occupational medicine, I came to realize over time that my true passion in life was not in treating illness, but rather in helping people to live healthier lives.
Since our health depends mainly on our behaviour and the environment in which we develop, it seemed logical and natural to me to seek to promote health in an area that I was already very familiar with, the corporate world.
The workplace is the main environment in which most of us lead our lives, which makes it a perfect place in which to carry out prevention and health promotion. It is a place that we go back to day after day and employers have every interest in paying attention to health and wellness because their actions in that direction will pay plenty of dividends in decreased absenteeism, increased productivity, greater employee engagement, a more positive work environment, easier recruitment, etc.
Q: What would you say is GP2S’s greatest achievement to date?
A: Although GP2S is still relatively new, it has already succeeded in bringing together businesses, service providers and public health agencies to address a common concern: how best to improve the health of workers in Quebec and to help to increase business productivity. Since its creation, GP2S has contributed to the growing awareness in the workplace of the importance of investing in promoting health and wellness.
Of course, the “Entreprise en santé” (“Healthy Business”) standard is our best known achievement. This ISO-type standard is a world first with regard to promoting health in the workplace. It is a structured process based on best practices in the field that allows businesses to take action on prevention, promotion, and organizational practices that favour health. At present, twelve companies have received their certification and more than a hundred are working towards it.
Q: What factors would you say are crucial to the success of a wellness program?
A: The most important factor is the engagement of the company’s different stakeholders. Senior Management’s engagement is essential because management allocates the budget and authorizes (or not) employees to participate. Senior Management is also best situated to overcome obstacles and exercise leadership. The engagement of managers at all levels is also necessary because they act as the point of contact between Senior Management and employees. They have daily contact with the employees and can have a significant influence on employees’ participation. Finally, it goes without saying that the engagement of the employees is essential because they are the ones who will decide whether or not to take part in a wellness initiative. Whether the program works or not comes down to them. To get employees to participate, you have to consult them, take their needs and ideas into account, and, above all, win their confidence.
Q: What would you say is the main component that employers should include in a wellness program?
A: To succeed, a wellness program must enhance employees’ job satisfaction. It is therefore important to gather data so as to understand thoroughly the main irritants for employees, and to design a well structured program that takes employees’ needs and opinions into account and that is carried over into appropriate management practices.
Q: What lies ahead for GP2S?
A: We often hear in the media that Quebec lags behind in productivity compared to its main business partners. Lots of explanations and suggestions to improve the situation are made, but I note that promoting health and wellness in the workplace hardly ever is put forward by our opinion leaders as a solution to improve business productivity.
However, we now know that employees who have a healthy lifestyle, feel good about themselves, and have little stress at work, are much more engaged and productive than others.
With the help of its partners, GP2S must continue to promote awareness and educate the corporate world so that there is a greater understanding, firstly, of how and why investments in health and wellness are good business decisions and, secondly, that this is a major strategic issue because promoting employees’ health is a significant source of productivity that remains largely under-utilized.
Of course, an employer who is aware and ready to act needs support, tools and effective programs. GP2S and its partners must ensure that a relevant, well structured service offering is available in the marketplace.
Q: Finally, what does “wellness” mean to you?
A: The concept of wellness generally refers to the social and psychological aspects of people’s health. However, for me, it is difficult to separate the notion of wellness from the notion of overall health. I see wellness as the modern incarnation of the classical notion of a healthy mind in a healthy body and of the more recent concept of resilience.
The World Health Organization defines health as “…a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity.” Health is viewed as a resource in our daily lives, a positive notion that optimizes our individual and group resources and our physical abilities. It is a resource that allows us to realize our goals, objectives and dreams.
For me, wellness is intimately connected with the concepts of health, serenity and balance.
Mario Messier, MD
Occupational Health/Health Promotion
Scientific Director, GP2S
By Randy McCaig
Director, Product Management
Employee Wellness Programs
Lifestyle behaviours are deeply ingrained and making changes can be difficult. Introducing the right incentives at the right time can play an important role in motivating your employees to take action now and in the future.
The perceived value of each incentive will vary from company to company and individual to individual. Incentives can be classified in two categories: tangible and intangible.
Immediate Cash Reward
Examples: Get $10 upon completion of HRA, get $20 upon completion of screening clinic, obtain a $25 gift certificate for a local healthy restaurant, etc.
- Can produce high initial participation
- A good percentage of employees perceive this as a worthwhile benefit
- Getting financial support from local business (gift certificates, etc.) can increase value, while mitigating costs
- Does not drive participation in future initiatives
- No lasting value; money is spent and gone
When they should be used:
These incentives are generally most effective to obtain high participation in “one-off” initiatives aimed at collecting data for use in benchmarking and tracking. For example, completion of Health Risk Assessments (HRAs), medical testing, etc.
Future Cash Reward
Examples: Get $200 upon completion of program in cash, RRSP contributions, stock options, reduction in health insurance premiums, contributions to Flex plans/wellness banks, etc.
- Dollar value is typically much higher than for immediate cash rewards, so these incentives attract more attention
- The future reward may promote high participation throughout several initiatives
- Timelines may be too long for employees to recognize the reward
- Cash loses value over time
When they should be used:
These incentives are generally most effective in increasing participation for a group of events/activities, or when the outcome of the initiative cannot be immediately tracked. For example, “Participate in 10 of 12 wellness initiatives this year,” or “Lose 5% of your body mass in 12 months.”
GOODS OR SERVICES
Examples: Trips, TVs, MP3 players, etc.
- High perceived value
- Long shelf life
- More memorable
- Having only one or a few winners can be a de-motivator
- Irrelevant merchandise can be a de-motivator
- More expensive than the average incentive
When they should be used:
These incentives are generally most effective in increasing participation in large group events of high importance. The promotion and hype around this type of incentive should be emphasized in employee communications.
Examples: water bottles, pedometers, company-branded merchandise, mugs, etc.
- Low cost to employer
- Can be distributed to all participants
- Can be easily adapted to events/employee groups
- Can be a good program reminder (water bottle on desk, mouse pad with health tips, etc.)
- These incentives can be used to recognize groups and teams and build team spirit
- Can be perceived as cheap or gimmicky
- Irrelevant merchandise can be a de-motivator
- May only attract individuals who are already proactive about their health
When they should be used:
These incentives are generally most effective in increasing participation in smaller group events, such as walking groups, or in seminars, lunch and learns, etc.
Examples: Accumulate X points and earn a “wellness day”; allow employees to use a flex time schedule (when possible) to use fitness facilities during lunch breaks, etc.
- Is usually a very popular incentive among employees
- High perceived value
- Cost can be low
- Having only one or a few winners can be a de-motivator
- Cost can be high (replacement costs, overtime, productivity, opportunity costs)
When they should be used:
Due to their positive impact on employee morale, these types of incentives should certainly be considered by employers. However, they should only be used if the time off does not have a significant ripple effect on the business.
Examples: Recognition in company newsletter, public sharing of the employee’s story/success, commendation from management, creation of internally recognized groups (e.g. “The Medisys Walking Warriors”) etc.
- Very low cost – if not free
- Gives a sense of accomplishment to the employee
- Makes your program more personal
- Shows other employees that results are attainable
- Can enhance team-building
- Can enhance corporate image/corporate culture
- Employees might not perceive this incentive as valuable (check with them first)
- Strong existing niche groups can create an unfavourable barrier-to-entry for other employees who may be interested in joining
When they should be used:
These incentives should be used wherever appropriate. They act as a constant reminder of the existence of the program and can help to significantly improve corporate image at very little or no cost.
GETTING INTENDED RESULTS
Incentives are great when used correctly, but do be careful—despite the best of intentions, some incentives may end up deterring participation or producing other unwanted results.
For example, if the goal is to decrease absenteeism and an incentive is therefore given for perfect attendance, employees may actually show up to work sick. Such employees will 1) not be very productive despite being present at work and 2) may risk infecting their co-workers. It would be preferable to provide an incentive for not exceeding a certain number of absence days, thereby helping to reduce costs without encouraging presenteeism.
Remember, one of the best incentives is program relevancy—and that also costs nothing.
So, what incentives would work best in your situation? Ask your employees . . . they know.
Feedback or Comments
What do you think? What incentives have you used? Have they been successful?
Please post your comment or question at the top of this article.
By Randy McCaig
Director, Product Management
Employee Wellness Programs
The ultimate goal of implementing wellness programs is to aid employees in making lifestyle changes to achieve a better work-life balance and improve their individual health. It is these changes over time that result in the many benefits of the program – including your ROI. Without employees’ participation, there is little benefit in launching your initiatives.
This article will outline how to effectively communicate your program to maximize participation.
- Promote it from the top
I know that I have mentioned it before, but I can’t stress this enough. If there is one thing that you must take away from all of my articles on wellness, let this be it: having C-Level executives (CEO, COO, CFO, etc) promote and participate in the events shows not only that health is an important part of the company’s culture, but that team building and group activities are important to them too.If you don’t already use C-Level involvement in the promotion of your program, start doing it. In our employee wellness white paper, we showed that 17% of companies whose C-level executives took the lead in spearheading a wellness program achieved participation rates in excess of 75%. No respondent that had launched a wellness program without C-level involvement managed to achieve this level of participation.Important note: Emails must be sent by the C-level team and not merely sent on their behalf.
Managers should also reinforce the C-level communication by promoting the program to their employees in person. This will play a part in reinforcing wellness as part of your corporate culture.
- Frequency is key
Promote, promote, promote, and then promote some more. Aim to promote your program and the individual initiatives at least once per month. Our research shows that frequency of promotion correlates directly with program participation.The few companies surveyed for our white paper that used C-level involvement at all stages and communicated their program at least once per month all achieved participation rates of over 75%.
- Form an Internal Wellness Committee
It is important to form an internal wellness committee consisting of members across all divisions of the company. Internal wellness committees help to take some of the planning burden off of the HR team and facilitate the promotion of the program across all divisions. Having broad involvement also helps to allay any suspicions that there might be an ulterior motive to the wellness programs. This is especially important in unionized environments. Having roots in all divisions also helps to collect feedback from participants across the company.
- Use incentives
The use of relevant promotional items is a cost-effective way to stay front of mind and to raise awareness for the program. They can also be used to motivate employees to participate now. Given the importance of this point, the use of tangible and intangible incentives will be discussed in greater detail in an upcoming article.
- Stress the relevancy of each initiative… and keep it relevant
All the time and effort you put into benchmarking, medical testing and HRA analysis is now going to pay off. Using phrases like “Based on your feedback/aggregate report/questionnaire/etc…”, “There has been a lot of interest in…”, etc. shows employees that the initiatives are being created for them, and with their feedback.Re-survey your employees on an annual basis. Your employees’ needs and wants evolve; so should your wellness initiatives. Just because something has worked in the past, it does not mean it will be successful in the future.
- Get real-time feedback and use it
Once an initiative has been completed, survey your participants to find out what they liked and what they did not like about the initiative. This way, your programs can be fine-tuned. If an initiative is not as successful as you were hoping, don’t shy away from sharing negative feedback. Showing that you have acknowledged the feedback from the event and that you have taken steps to address those issues in future events will have a positive effect on future participation.Don’t expect to get everything right. It is a learning process and you can’t make 100% of employees happy 100% of the time.
- Make it exciting. Name it. Give it life!
How you introduce programs is just as important as the initiatives themselves. If you introduce initiatives as just another wellness option, you will get lacklustre results. Assuming that the initiatives you introduce are based on the wants and needs of your employees, they should already be interested in participating. Creating a buzz around the initiatives will result in enhanced interest and word-of-mouth support. Employee communication should not be militant or formal in nature; it should have an exciting and informal tone. Be creative. At Medisys, we used a play on words with our slogan “Its all about health” à “Its all about my health”.
- Keep it alive
Don’t allow your program to stagnate. If initiatives are only planned once per quarter, there is a lot of time for employees to forget what they have learned or lose interest in the program entirely. Having monthly, weekly or daily initiatives such as walking groups helps to keep the buzz going and builds healthy behaviours.
- Be transparent
If you are doing medical testing or collecting personal information through a third party, make sure the employees understand that their results will remain confidential and that you will not have access to them; it is critical to be upfront about the use of their information and who will have access to it. Some of our clients have actually shared their aggregate report with their employees to show them what information they have access to. This sharing of information can be especially important in unionized environments.
- Invite spouses
This may not always be possible, but what better way to encourage participation than to get the whole family involved? This strategy may also help to ensure that learned behaviours get adopted at home. It will also significantly enhance corporate image.
- Be visible
Emails, Intranet, brochures, posters, promo items, screen savers, lunchroom table-top cards, internal voicemails, pay stub attachments, annual benefit enrolment package, health fairs, kiosks, mailings to employees’ homes etc. will all play a part in keeping the program alive.
As is the case for individuals, it is not easy for organizations to change their habits. Adding some or all of the points above to your employee wellness communication plan will play an important role in increasing participation, enhancing your corporate image and, over time, it will aid in changing your corporate culture.
It is important for the management team not only to believe in the benefits of the initiatives, but to show their support of the program by taking part. Change takes time.
What do you think?
Have you done something else that has been successful?
Leave us a comment through the link at the top of this article. We would love to hear from you.
How to get your employees engaged, how to keep them engaged, and how to reach those who just don’t care
Have you ever noticed that the only people who take part in wellness initiatives are the ones that seem to need them the least?
A wellness program is only as good as the quality of the wellness initiatives and the number of people who use them.
I have already discussed how to target programs to address root causes of your business issues in past articles; this time I would like to focus on how to achieve high initial participation rates in wellness programs, how to keep participants engaged, and how to reach those who don’t seem to be interested at all.
Let’s tackle these issues one at a time:
Achieving High Initial Wellness Program Participation
One of the most important parts of implementing a wellness program is the initial introduction. Using an ‘if you build it they will come’ strategy may work in the movies but it will never work with wellness. Never.
If you have made occasional wellness offerings, but have never had a formal wellness program in place, the initial communication is critical to the program’s short-term success. Just launching the program through a general email to all staff and providing information about how to sign-up as if it were a ‘new employee introduction’ will have very limited success.
In order for employees to get excited about a program, you need to give them a reason for excitement. Assembling employees to have a C-Level executive introduce the program is the best way to raise awareness for the program. When this is not possible, we use a series of emails to introduce our program in the month leading up to the launch to pique people’s interest. The first email in our series is a ‘teaser’ that does not even talk about wellness . . . just that something is coming and to ‘stay tuned’. The next emails build employees’ awareness of the benefits of the program and make it clear that their participation is critical in developing future initiatives that are relevant to them. Focus the message on the employees and the importance of their input, not on the company or its goals.
Regardless of how you introduce the program, the message should come from a C-Level executive. (Need proof? Look no further than our Employee Wellness Whitepaper.) The messages should be in a fun tone that gets the message across to employees that this program is for them. Be sure to emphasize the fact that you need their help and input to build fun and relevant activities that they will want to participate in.
Now, if you have already analyzed your internal health-related business problems and have completed your benchmarking and your employee needs/wants analysis, you should have a clear understanding of what your employees want and need from the program.
This next part is probably the easiest part of the entire process . . . give them what they want and what they need.
- Build relevant programs
- Form an internal committee
- Frequent communication from upper management
- Keep sharing information
- Make the program visible
- Provide incentives
- Change of culture
In our next article, we will take a closer look at the points above and give tangible examples of how they can be achieved through effective promotion.
How to Increase Wellness Program Engagement
Wellness is not one-off nor even a once-a-year event. Once your program is launched, it is important to keep up the momentum and grow participation in the various initiatives launched throughout the year.
- Communicate, Communicate, Communicate – Frequency is key
- Keep the management team engaged
- Keep the program relevant
- Get real-time feedback
Again, how to achieve these points will be discussed in more detail in the next article.
What about those who just don’t care? (yet…)
Let’s be realistic. Some people will not be the least bit interested in taking part in company-sponsored wellness initiatives. Going after these individuals directly may not be the best way to get them engaged – in fact, this approach will most likely push them further away. The best thing you can do is to build a highly relevant and well-organized program that is promoted frequently and from the top down. Word-of-mouth from program participants and the excitement surrounding the program will eventually pique their curiosity.
The Bottom Line
If your initiatives are built to be relevant to all employees, are promoted correctly and are supported by a strong corporate culture, the participation in your program should not only start off strong, but increase over time.
Stay tuned for the next article where I explain how a well planned communication strategy can help maximize program participation.
“How much for a nutrition lunch and learn?”, “Can you provide us with a seminar on stress management?”, “Can you send us a nurse for our annual health fair?”
I get these types of questions all the time. My simple, one-worded answer is usually followed by five- to ten-seconds of awkward silence –“why?”
Two years back, we created a wellness whitepaper on the expectations and outcomes of the wellness initiatives implemented by 60% of the 2008 Canadian Top 100 Employers. It was interesting to see that employers are relatively happy with their programs – that is, until they actually start tracking the outcomes – then they get even happier. If you have not already read it, what are you waiting for?
With over 90% of Canadian companies having at least one wellness initiative in place–in addition to an increasing number of case studies on attractive ROIs from around the world–there is no doubt that wellness has not only caught on, but it is here to stay.
But there are still many companies out there that think that they have to implement wellness programs for their employees because it is the right thing to do or because everyone else is doing it or because they have heard it is a good investment. In these cases, a budget is allocated, a program is developed, initiatives are launched and everyone is happy. Success! Right? Not so fast.
Before launching wellness initiatives it is important to do some leg-work to find out what problems need solving and where your money would be best invested (notice I said “invested” and not “spent”?). No company is in business to lose money… why should it be different with wellness? Building a business case to reduce costs and business problems will not only earn you ‘brownie-points’, but it will also aid in obtaining management’s buy-in and involvement (which our whitepaper has shown to be critical in obtaining high program participation).
There are still some glaring problems being made by employers when it comes to building an effective program with a tangible ROI. I see it every day.
I would like to outline the two biggest problems and lay down a clear path on how they can easily be avoided:
1) The Dartboard Mistake
Building a program around what you don’t know
If you were to launch initiatives without knowing what your needs are (or if you only assume what your employees need), your programs themselves may be great, but they may not provide you with the expected outcome.
There is no doubt that virtually any wellness initiative will have some positive tangible or intangible outcome (increase corporate image, employee engagement, employee retention, reduce turnover, etc.), but your outcome and ROI would be maximized if the implemented programs are based on the needs, wants and willingness to change of your employees and to address the underlying causes of your biggest business pains.
|Without needs analysis
||With needs analysis
|Implemented initiatives may be precise (well developed and launched), but odds are, they will not be accurate (what is really needed)||Carefully targeted programs based on employee needs, wants and business issues will almost always hit the mark and deliver a desirable ROI|
For example: Company ABC has 60 smokers on staff and the company launches a smoking cessation program. The program is well launched and well run, but only has minimal success and a negative ROI. Hey, I thought targeted wellness initiatives were a good investment? Well, if the employees would have been surveyed prior to the initiative Company ABC would have known that 80% of the employees were not willing to quit prior to the program being launched.
In this case, an isolated smoking cessation program would have been indicated for the employees willing to quit, along side a global smoking education program to move the rest along the cessation process.
2) The Iceberg Mistake
Building a program around what you know
I applaud the *few* companies who are able to provide us with some statistics on their employees prior to implementing any of our employee wellness programs. A recent client sent us the age distribution of their employees, as well as the drug costs and absenteeism costs by division for the last 2 years. Jackpot! This information is critical in the ROI tracking of a long-term wellness initiative and is useful in the decision making process for what initiatives to implement, but be careful… it does not tell us the whole story.
Numerous studies (and common sense) have shown us that it is more cost effective to keep healthy employees healthy rather than to help unhealthy ones turn the corner.
For Example: Company ABC would be tempted to implement a heart health and cholesterol reduction initiative to reduce their drug costs knowing that their highest expenditures were for statins (cholesterol lowering drugs).
There are four problems with this scenario:
- the participants in the initiative will be only the ones who already know they have high cholesterol;
- the root causes of the problem may not be addressed (which could be due to numerous factors including diet, exercise, family history, smoking, etc.);
- this does not do anything for the employees who don’t know they have high cholesterol; and
- this approach does nothing to identify the oncoming diseases and costs related to the health of employees that it may not be too late to have a dramatic impact on
Basing your programs just on part of the story (just drug costs or just absenteeism) may not give you the results you are expecting. Sometimes wellness initiatives spend too much time on trying to change behaviors on people that will never deliver a huge ROI, at the expense of offsetting or avoiding costs associated with those who have yet to acquire a chronic disease.
Like my parents used to always tell me, ‘don’t believe everything you read’.
The Path to Success
Here are a few steps to ensure a highly targeted, relevant and successful wellness program, as well as a high participation rate:
- Collect Internal Data
STD/LTD/absenteeism causes and rates, drug/benefits costs, turnover rates, employee engagement and satisfaction, etc.
- Survey Your Employees
Understand their needs, wants and willingness to change
- Identify Health Risks
Provide confidential medical testing to identify current and upcoming health risks
- Educate Your Employees
Provide face-to-face feedback session with a medical professional trained in change management to equip your employees with everything needed to facilitate change
- Educate Yourself (on all 4 above points)
Obtain and understand your aggregate report (both the medical results and HRA questionnaire results)
Now that everyone is educated and engaged (employer and employees), it is important to set an internal expectation of the initiatives that will be implemented
- Create an internal committee
This committee should be in charge of keeping the program alive.
- Develop Targeted Programs
Lunch and learns, health programs, etc. based on aggregate report and corporate goals
- Promote, promote, promote…
Wellness is not the case of “if you build it, they will come”… nor should it be “if I build it, I am going to force everyone to use it.”
- Track your program ROI… because there is one
There are many case studies that place the ROI of wellness initiatives anywhere from 1.5 to well over 15 times the investment in the programs. So, what should you expect? Well, that really depends on what you are targeting, how you promote it, how many people participate, how engaged they are and how comprehensive your program is.
Important Points to Remember
- Wellness does not happen overnight. Nor does an ROI. It takes time for a program to get established and for companies to reap the financial benefit of programs. Wellness is a long-term investment that needs to be engrained in the culture of a company.
- The program has to stay alive and it has to stay relevant
- The program has to be promoted frequently and from the management team
- Most importantly, it has to be tracked and adapted
Medisys Fresh Start Program
Medisys’ Fresh Start Employee Wellness Program combines a Health Risk Assessment and medical testing to identify needs, wants and willingness to change. This information is then used to provide personal health counseling on an individual level and to educate employers on the global risks their company is facing.
For More Information: http://www.medisys.ca/healthy-workplace/employee-wellness-program.htm
Feedback or Comments?
What do you think? We would like to hear from you. Please leave a comment or question using the link at this top of this article.
By Randy McCaig
Director, Product Management
Employee Wellness Programs
I was recently talking with a client about our wellness programs and explaining to him how they allow business to identify and address the root causes of corporate health-related costs. The client’s response was not new to me, but every time I hear it, it hits me like a bullet, “Why should I spend money on the health of my employees when healthcare is provided for free in Canada? I don’t think it is my company’s role to pay to meet basic healthcare needs when employees can just go to their family physician.”
Before I give my answer, let’s take a step back and go over some *boring* stats and facts that give us some clues.
Canadian Physician Shortage
- Over 4.6MM Canadians don’t have a family physician
(College of Family Physicians of Canada, 2008)
- 2MM in Quebec (Quebec Federation of General Practitioners, 2010)
- 850K in Ontario (Ontario Medical Association, 2008)
- 500K in Alberta (Alberta Medical Association, 2005)
- 250K in British Columbia (B.C. Medical Association, 2010)
Cardiovascular Disease Risk Factors
- Nine in 10 Canadians have at least one risk factor for heart disease or stroke
- Smoking, alcohol, physical inactivity, obesity, high blood pressure, high blood cholesterol, diabetes
(Canadian Heart Health Strategy-Action Plan Steering Committee, 2009)
- 19% of Canadians aged 20 to 79 are hypertensive ≈ 4.6MM
Another 20% are pre-hypertensive ≈ 4.8MM
(Statistics Canada, 2010)
- About 1.8MM Canadians aged 12 and over have been diagnosed with diabetes. (Canadian Community Health Survey, 2005)
- Researchers project an increase of diagnosed diabetes in Canada to 2.4MM by the year 2016. (Canadian Diabetes Association 2008)
- Almost 40% of Canadian adults are classified as having high blood cholesterol levels (Canadian Health Measures Survey, 2009)
- 19% of Canadians 15 and older smoke (about 5.2MM Canadians)
(Health Canada, 2007)
- Almost 60% of adults ages 18 and over, or 14.1MM Canadians, are overweight or obese (Heart and Stroke Foundation of Canada, 2010)
- 20% of Canadians will personally experience a mental illness in their lifetime
(Canadian Mental Health Association, 2010)
- By 2020, depression alone will be the second leading cause of illness and disability after heart disease (Canadian Mental Health Association, 2010)
- In the last two decades, drug spending in Canada has increased by 721% – from $3B in 1985 to $21 billion in 2006. (Mercer, 2009)
- In 2009, the cost of drugs surpassed the $30B mark (Canadian Institute for Health Information, 2010)
Modifiable Risk Factors
- Over 70% of all healthcare costs in Canada are related to chronic diseases, many of which can be prevented or better managed through more appropriate lifestyle choices (Health Canada, 2009)
(This concludes the *boring* statistics section)
So now you are thinking . . . ‘That’s in the past, things will get better. Right???’
Well . . .
The fact is that 4.6MM Canadians are still without a family physician – depending on where you are located, that could be up to 1 in every 4 of your employees. For the Canadians who do have a family physician, there is a strong focus on diagnosis and not necessarily on prevention; visits with their physician usually only last from 5 to 10 minutes, and the reality is that many patients will probably walk out of their appointments with only a prescription and little-to-no preventive counselling. Fuelling this problem are the many Canadians who are conditioned to go to the doctor only when something is wrong. Usually by then, the damage has already been done.
There is no shortage of reports that note that the Canadian workforce is aging and many workers are delaying retirement. This perfect storm will inevitably cause even higher health-related costs for employers. A Mercer report in late 2009 indicated that more comprehensive benefit plans have been used as a way to attract and retain talent, but “appreciation has come with the costs associated with more generous benefits”. Furthermore, provincial governments are actively searching for ways to pass health costs to the private sector.
Now that I have painted this picture, let’s go back to the question that prompted me to write this article to start with:
“Why should I spend money on the health of my employees when healthcare is provided for free in Canada? I don’t think it is my company’s role to pay to meet basic healthcare needs when employees can just go to their family physician.”
I guess I could have just said: “Because your company is paying for it now, you will be paying more for it in the future if you don’t do anything about it, and most importantly, no one else is going to do it for you.” . . . but that would not have been as fun.
Feedback or Comments?
What do you think? We would love to hear from you.
Medisys Health Group (“Medisys”), Canada’s leading national provider of healthcare services to corporations is pleased to announce the launch of its comprehensive employee wellness program “FreshStart” as a compliment and natural extension of their existing corporate health services.
FreshStart aims to help corporations decrease healthcare-related costs, increase employee productivity and job satisfaction and enhance their corporate image by providing customized employee health guidance and ongoing support based on tangible evidence.
The FreshStart program includes:
- Health risk assessment questionnaire to determine personal risk, willingness to change and main drivers for the individual
- Complete blood draws to obtain baseline employee health data – Not finger-prick testing (blood sugar, total cholesterol, LDL & HDL and triglycerides)
- Metabolic syndrome calculation
- Blood pressure reading
- Waist measurement
- Body Mass Index (BMI)
- Individual, face-to-face health status reporting to employees by a registered healthcare professional to explain results, answer questions and provide guidance
- Email access to a healthcare professional for follow-up questions
- Comprehensive aggregate reporting to management for goal-setting
“By identifying specific employee health risk factors individually and providing comprehensive feedback to the individual, FreshStart provides employees with personalized health-related information and the tools required to take a proactive approach to their own health.” states Randy McCaig, Director of Employee Wellness Programs at Medisys. “We are finding that employees highly value the one-on-one time spent with the healthcare professional to explain their results and aid in their goal-setting process. The information received is highly targeted information that they don’t usually get to cover in a regular check-up with their family physician.”
Following the onsite health assessment, Medisys provides the company with a de-personalized aggregate report to assist them in understanding their major risk factors. This corporate health overview enables employers to better allocate their wellness dollars to address the root causes of their problems.
“Our program is different from the ‘blanket’ strategies that many other companies offer.” states McCaig, “If a company has 50 smokers, some wellness providers would propose a smoking cessation program. Our program goes further to show the employees’ willingness to change. If only 5 of those 50 smokers are willing to quit smoking, a smoking cessation program will not result in the expected ROI. A smoking education program would be better suited for this situation.”
FreshStart provide employers with 3 critical elements needed to develop an effective ongoing wellness program, 1) a current, accurate snapshot of their employee’s health, 2) information on their employees’ lifestyle and willingness to change and 3) what initiatives the employees want to see offered in the program and how they want to receive the information. This approach allows employers to develop relevant and highly targeted ongoing programs with high levels of participation.
The FreshStart program is available to companies across Canada and is supported by an extensive range of on-site services that are customized to the needs and wants of the employees and the health issues identified in the baseline assessment including: lunch and learns, workshops, travel and vaccination services and annual flu shot campaigns.
“It is important to remember that an employee wellness program is not a ‘nice-to-have’ service or a ‘one-off chair massage’, employee wellness is a long-term business initiative with a tangible return on investment,” states McCaig, “Our 2008 survey of the Top 100 Employers shows that although the vast majority of companies do not track the results of their program, those who do track the results generally find that their expectations are met or exceeded.”
The complete Medisys’ Top 100 Employee Wellness whitepaper can be downloaded for free here: http://www.medisys.ca/docs/whitepapers/wellness_top_100.pdf