Only one-third of employers take strategic approach to wellness: Sun Life

But many looking to boost initiatives

While employers understand the importance of workplace wellness, they are struggling to create a comprehensive workplace wellness infrastructure to improve employee health and the bottom line, according to the 2011 Buffett National Wellness Survey.

Almost all (97 per cent) employers that offer wellness programs recognize employee health influences overall corporate performance. And while 72 per cent offer some sort of wellness initiatives to employees, only 34 per cent are taking a strategic approach to wellness.

"The majority of employers surveyed recognize that their employees' health affects productivity and performance," said Lori Casselman, assistant vice-president of health and wellness in group benefits at Sun Life Financial. "However, while many organizations offer wellness initiatives, most aren't creating a strategic plan to improve employee well-being and ensure sustainable outcomes."

Health issues continue to be a dominant concern among the 677 Canadian employers surveyed. They identified the top health risks facing employees in their organizations as:
•work-related stress (56 per cent)
•smoking (35 per cent)
•mental health issues (35 per cent)
•high blood pressure (35 per cent).

Employers identified the key barriers to offering workplace wellness programs as lack of budget (51 per cent), lack of staffing (36 per cent), and lack of ability to quantify results (36 per cent).

Only 10 per cent of organizations indicated they always offer incentives to encourage participation in wellness efforts while 52 per cent offer incentives at least some of the time, found Sun Life.

Almost two-thirds (65 per cent) of employers continue to embrace workplace wellness despite economic conditions, with many (43 per cent) looking to increase health and wellness activities in the next six months.

Financial measurement and return on investment (ROI) are identified in the survey as being important, yet 64 per cent of organizations that offer wellness initiatives do not evaluate results and 69 per cent do not calculate ROI.

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