By Claudine Kapel
Many employers acknowledge employee wellness is important for a healthy bottom line.
In fact, 97 per cent of respondents in the 2011 Buffett National Wellness Survey agreed employee health is directly related to corporate success.
But many organizations are struggling with how to create a more positive connection.
The survey found improving employee health and improving organizational culture were the top two reasons why Canadian employers offer wellness initiatives. Survey respondents also reported that work-related stress was the top health concern affecting their organizations, followed by mental health issues, high blood pressure, smoking and diabetes.
The Buffett report shows work-related stress can hit the bottom line in numerous ways. Quoting research by the Industrial Accident Prevention Association, the report notes stressed employees are more likely to rate their health as poor and spend more on prescription medications. In addition, stressed employees result in higher levels of absenteeism and turnover, as well as higher disability costs.
Nevertheless, a key finding from the survey is that organizations are not using wellness programs to full advantage. For example, while 72 per cent of respondents offer at least one wellness initiative, only 26 per cent said they are taking a strategic approach to improving employee wellness.
The most common wellness initiatives include:
- Employee Assistance Program initiatives (72 per cent);
- Flu shot program (70 per cent);
- First aid/CPR courses (64 per cent);
- Employee recognition (61 per cent);
- Ergonomic/workstation assessment (58 per cent);
- Time off in lieu of overtime (57 per cent);
- Flexible work program (55 per cent); and
- Staff appreciation events (54 per cent).
The survey report, however, notes key disconnects between the health concerns raised by employers and the wellness initiatives they offer. Specifically, the report highlights that the majority of the top health concerns identified by respondents are direct risk factors for a number of chronic diseases, yet most of the top initiatives identified do not address these risk factors.
For example, the report observes that nutrition education, which directly addresses the top health concerns identified by employers, was offered by only 40 per cent of respondents.
How does your organization address employee wellness? Why do you offer particular programs and not others? Is there an underlying intent that defines how employee wellness connects to your organization’s vision, values and culture?
What health issues are your employees contending with? How are health concerns affecting the organization in areas such as productivity, absenteeism or health care costs? Are your wellness programs focused on helping employees in areas that matter to them? Or are programs more generic in nature?
It may help to consider employee wellness within the broader context of your total rewards strategy. How does a commitment to wellness relate to your broader objectives around attracting and retaining talent and driving organizational performance?
A more strategic focus – with an eye to achieving real results for both employees and the organization – can help improve the health and vitality of your wellness initiatives.
Claudine Kapel is principal of Kapel and Associates Inc., a Toronto-based human resources and communications consulting firm specializing in the design and implementation of compensation and total rewards programs. For more information, visit www.kapelandassociates.com.