Why individualized health resonates with employees

'Data is power and knowledge is power,' says expert citing merits of employee data in crafting benefit programs

Why individualized health resonates with employees

Employers in Canada are not keeping up with the latest trends in offering benefits to employees, according to one expert.


In Canada, employers are still going for benefits plans featuring flexible benefit spends and “robust benefits” for workers from different generations, says Pascale Mapleston, CEO and founder of The Benefit Code.

But employees are putting a greater focus on “individualized health” and making sure that they have “knowledge and supports around each individual managing their health from a very individual perspective,” she says.

“From an individual level, they want to know what's happening within their own body, their own minds so that they can manage their own health.”

Nearly two in five (39 per cent) of Canadian mothers said they did not receive employer financial top-up during their maternity leave, according to a previous report.

What can an employer do to better inform employees about their benefits?

The solution? Turn to employee data, says Mapleston. With the use of employee data, “we're able to see trends can lead to rolling out different programs,” she says.

For example, if there’s a high level of usage of antidepressants among workers, “we know that, potentially, we want to roll out some accessibility programs for employees so that they can deal with the high level of stress.”

If employees are supported in their journey of health, “they're going to be better human beings at home with their families and better workers as well,” Mapleston says. 

“That data is power, and knowledge is power. When employers find out that there are usually fairly simple programs or educational material that they can roll out, they're all over it. As soon as [employers] know that there's something that they can do to have a positive impact on their workers’ journey, they're definitely open to that conversation.”

Employers stand to benefit from meeting workers’ benefits needs based off employee data, she says, citing a Manulife study on pharmacogenetics.

“Access to individualized test had a positive effect on 80 per cent of employees who were currently on medication,” she says. “And 86 per cent of those reported an improved outcome in terms of how they're feeling, their energy level, their stress, whether they went on disability or not. 

“And this was all because they had access to information.”

As a result, employees are not going on disability leave, plus there was a 17 per cent decrease of cost spent on “wasted medication,” says Mapleston.

“That return on investment is huge just for that one tiny little program.”

Canadian employers are struggling to meet employees’ benefit needs, according to a previous report.

Best practices for offering employee benefits

To provide benefits that meet workers’ needs, employers should be as inclusive with their benefits offerings as they can, says Mapleston.

“You are looking at every single aspect of your workplace. And that's not difficult to do. If you aim [to be] as inclusive as you can… it just makes everybody feel like they're part of the organization. You don't have to have the most expensive benefit plan as long as you deliver it in a way that people know what they have access to.”

It’s also important for employers to over-communicate the benefits available to workers, she says. At The Benefit Code, they use comic strips to do that, says Mapleston, who asked an illustrator friend of hers to develop characters for the comic strips.

“Whether we're talking about gender, whether we're talking about sleep, whether we're talking about oral health, and the benefits of having good oral health, you know, reducing inflammation, chronic disease, etc, we'll use a comic strip.

“Whenever we send out a comic on a weekly basis, we have a very simple message. The idea… was for them to be fun.”

Sending out simple things like this can have a huge impact on workers, she says.

“For an employer, if they're sending something like that every week, employees naturally start thinking about the fact that their employer cares about their health.”

Amid rising stress, more Canadians are prioritizing financial well-being, according to a previous report.

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