Workers looking for flexibility in healthcare benefits

Virtual plans tailored to individuals help with productivity, reduction in costs: expert

Workers looking for flexibility in healthcare benefits

Three out of four Canadian workers value better health benefits over a higher salary, according to a survey of 2,000 Canadians by Hill and Knowlton Strategies Research Group in 2018.

Making those benefits accessible for an increasingly tech-savvy workforce may be just as important as what is offered — both to employee health and the employer’s bottom line, according to Maria Prairie, vice-president of sales and marketing at Wello who will be presenting the upcoming webinar Virtual Healthcare Benefits: Improving Employee Wellbeing and Performance.

An evolving workforce is changing the way many employers are providing benefits, as younger workers enter the workforce and place a high value on work-life balance, she says. And millennials accustomed to using technology to facilitate their lives want a healthcare benefits system that is flexible and hassle-free to use. 

Canadian workers in both the millennial and “sandwich” generations also face more pressures between their work and home lives that can cause them to neglect their own healthcare needs, such as child care and elder care. These pressures can not only affect employee health, but also lead to absenteeism and presenteeism — when employees come to work sick — that can negatively affect productivity, says Prairie.

“Employers are being directly impacted by the pressures that their employees are under, whether that’s at work or at home.”

For example, employees who have to take care of  their parents or children have to attend doctor’s appointments and deal with other issues as they come up.

There has also been an increase in mental health costs as mental health becomes more of a priority and the effects of stress become more known — particularly related to short-term disability (STD) and long-term disability (LTD) leaves.

With many different healthcare needs for employees, there’s a push for flexibility in health benefits, says Prairie.

"Employees are looking for more flexibility, they’re looking for easier ways to make things happen and we’re starting to see that result in new service offerings including the use of digital technology.”

Virtual healthcare plans tailored to the individual and the digitization of benefits management are ways in which employers can address the demand for flexibility, she says.

A key element of virtual healthcare is that it allows busy employees to not only address their own health issues, but to do it earlier. The ability to access healthcare at any time of the day, and to receive support in real time — whether it be setting up an appointment for a physical issue or obtaining counselling for a mental health issue — allows for earlier intervention, which leads to better health outcomes and a reduction in costs related to STD, LTD and absenteeism, says Prairie.

“Because of early intervention, we actually start to see STD and LTD rates decrease, and so the employer not only ends up with a healthier and happier employee group but productivity increases because they feel well,” she says. “So the whole value of a virtual healthcare system is to make it easy to get help when you need it.”

Wello will be hosting a free webinar on Oct. 30 @ 12:00 p.m. (ET). For more information on this webinar, HR professionals can register here.

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