When one thinks of wellness, thoughts often turn to physical and mental health. But the Workplace Safety and Insurance Board (WSIB) in Ontario takes a different approach.
Through a mental health strategy launched in early 2017, the board is looking to address each of the areas of wellness: emotional, intellectual, physical, social, environmental, spiritual — as well as financial.
In any given week, 500,000 Canadians are unable to work due to mental health issues — and for many Canadians, personal finance is one the top causes of stress.
Understanding that financial health plays an integral role in employee wellness is an important first step.
Over the past year, the board has been thinking about how it can raise awareness about the links between financial and mental wellness among its employees.
The good news is that WSIB leadership is firmly behind this approach and has taken the lead on starting the conversation.
For Financial Literacy Month last November, CFO Pamela Steer helped lead an interactive session with employees across the province that tackled practical advice.
Speakers talked about quick wins to reduce financial stress and the tools available to help employees take control of financial planning.
The sessions got people thinking about the simple things they can do to save money every day — such as bringing a homemade coffee and tea to work with them instead of stopping by the local coffee shop.
People really connected with that.
Post-session survey results showed the key elements attendees took away from the sessions were:
• Don’t be frightened of finances. Get comfortable having open and frank discussions.
• Shop around for things you pay monthly like cable, phone, insurance and banking. Keep an eye open for better terms and rates.
• Know your credit score. If you know it, you can figure out how much you should be paying in interest on a loan before you apply. The better your score, the lower your interest rate on a mortgage or car loan.
• Saving money doesn’t have to only be about the big things — every little bit counts.
• Plan ahead: Have a budget and make a will to ensure the people closest to you are protected legally and financially in the event of your death.
WSIB’s HR team is already busy planning an educational workshop on the topic for this fall.
Meanwhile, ensuring the WSIB management team has received mental health training has been integrated into organizational goals. So far, 64 per cent of managers have been trained, with the goal of 100 per cent completion by the end of the year.
Employees are also offered other resources to improve their financial literacy. For example, there is a series of videos available on the WSIB intranet site that staff can access at any time for expert advice.
Since 2017, 12 different videos on the topic of finance have been made available to employees, covering topics such as finances at various life stages, budgeting, saving and mortgages.
At new employees’ orientation, the onboarding team discusses the various tools and supports available to cover each area of wellness.
WSIB has about 50 wellness ambassadors across the organization in each of the regional offices.
The board is very proud of its volunteer wellness ambassador team. Members ensure staff are aware of the videos and other supports like the employee and family assistance program (EFAP) and encourage them to take advantage, if required.
Through the EFAP, employees have access to financial support services, including advice from financial experts offering support for debt and credit counselling, financial planning, wills, estates and more.
Several retirement readiness sessions for staff were also held, where in addition to financial readiness, mental preparedness was discussed.
The sessions helped people get a sense of key considerations during retirement. The earlier people start thinking and planning for their retirement, the better — and the less stress they will feel as it approaches.
To help people learn more about retirement planning, WSIB sends out a quarterly newsletter for all current staff called the Nest Egg.
It deals with topics such as retirement planning for the future in an effort to reduce insecurity, and offers helpful tips for financial planning in retirement.
There is also an edition of the Nest Egg geared towards retirees that covers financial planning during retirement, and coping strategies for making most of this major life change.
WSIB is excited to continue building more resources around financial literacy to support its employees.
The board has firmly established supports and resources for many of the other areas of wellness, so when it comes to financial wellness, this is only the beginning.
Lilian Riad-Allen is senior mental health and wellness program consultant at the WSIB in Toronto. For more information, visit www.wsib.on.ca.
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