In recent decades, the health of working-aged Canadians has become an issue of mounting concern to governments, healthcare professionals, and employers. A Statistics Canada survey that examined population trends from 2012 to 2015 found that approximately 1 in 4 Canadians Aged 40 to 59 displayed signs of hypertension, a stress, diet, and lifestyle-related illness.[efn_note]https://www150.statcan.gc.ca/n1/pub/82-003-x/2019002/article/00002-eng.htm[/efn_note]
Diabetes is another prevalent issue correlated with lifestyle factors such as diet and exercise. According to findings posted on the Government of Canada website, 1 in 10 adults over the age of 20 is affected by diabetes.[efn_note]https://www.canada.ca/en/public-health/services/publications/diseases-conditions/diabetes-canada-highlights-chronic-disease-surveillance-system.html[/efn_note]
These numbers have raised a red flag for employers in Canada and the US as evidence of the withering effects of compromised health on bottom-line profit has come to light in the form of lower productivity and increased payouts for employee medical bills.
The Cost of an Unhealthy Workforce
According to a report by Health and Safety Ontario, “Canadian employees with two or more lifestyle risk factors (eg. being sedentary, being overweight or obese, smoking, or high alcohol intake) are absent 50% more often than those without the risk factors, and cost their employers 2-3 times more in health benefit costs. Mental health problems cost employers $33 billion per year if non-clinical diagnoses are included (eg. burnout, sub-clinical depression etc.).”[efn_note] Ontario, H.S., The business case for a healthy workplace, W.S.P. Services., Editor. 2011.[/efn_note]
In a word, an unhealthy workforce is expensive.
75% of healthcare costs are lifestyle-related according to Barbara Schaefer, senior vice president of human resources at Union Pacific.[efn_note]https://www.benefitscanada.com/benefits/health-wellness/boost-employee-health-and-productivity-with-a-wellness-program-19628[/efn_note] This points to sedentary living, poor dietary habits, and flagging mental and emotional health, issues which are often reversible through positive changes in lifestyle and habit.
Employers have been waking up to the reality that modifications to the working environment and improved benefits with better wellness resources are pivotal for optimizing employee health.
Worker retention is another red herring for many HR managers. A recent report by TLNT found that 74% of workers are transient job seekers apt to consider a move to another company.[efn_note]https://www.benefitscanada.com/benefits/health-wellness/boost-employee-health-and-productivity-with-a-wellness-program-19628[/efn_note] Expectations around healthcare and benefit packages, particularly among millennials, have risen, and premium healthcare packages have become a massive bargaining chip for employers.
Over the past 10 years, more and more companies have been offering lunch, healthy snacks, exercise breaks, meditation programs and an array of wellness incentives in a bid to get employees to stick around. Have these costly programs moved the needle on worker loyalty?
In 2016, The Economist published a report that examined the impact of corporate wellness programs on employee culture in the EU. One of the more telling data points measured the extent to which employees saw wellness culture as having a positive influence on engagement with the employer’s mission and goals. Workers in companies with strong wellness cultures reported a 67% significance versus 31% in those without.[efn_note]https://eiuperspectives.economist.com/sites/default/files/EIU_Humana_Wellness_fin_0.pdf[/efn_note]
The advent of Covid-19 has created more stress on top of the already stressful work-a-day reality that many employees face. One of the unintended consequences of social distancing is the need for online consultation as people look to their phones and computer monitors for wellness resources and virtual appointments.
WellnessWrx is a leading online integrative corporate wellness platform that offers a customizable program to seamlessly mesh with your company’s brand and culture. Our website and app offer you the best of the best in accredited and insurance-approved Wellness Providers, locally and virtually, with services, resources, and so much more, 24/7. We are a great addition to any health and wellness program you may have in place.
And of course, if we are talking about millennials, it almost goes without saying that technology is part of the conversation. Millennials have grown up with the knowledge that any information they need can be found on the internet, and that includes medical advice. A recent article in Forbes tells that 93% of millennials are likely to turn to their friends or their phones before consulting a doctor when health issues arise.[efn_note]https://www.forbes.com/sites/andrewarnold/2018/02/25/millennials-and-healthy-living-its-about-online-content-not-doctors-visits/#2148a00c32f2[/efn_note] Thus many employers are seeking ways to integrate app-based tech solutions into their benefit programs.
There is another layer to this discussion independent of fiscal considerations that demands attention. Canadians share in the concern for the well-being of friends, family members, neighbours, and fellow citizens. It behooves us all to take an interest in matters pertaining to quality of life.
Exploring Integrative Wellness Options
Fortunately, there are various wellness options to help reduce the effects of stress, anxiety, depression, and other conditions through holistic and integrative methods that alleviate symptoms while targeting underlying causes.
One such modality is Reiki, a form of energy work done by a practitioner laying hands on the patient’s body to balance their energy system.
Dr. James Lake is an integrative health specialist at the University of Arizona College of Medicine who specializes in the evidence-based uses of alternative medicines. In a 2018 article in Psychology Today, Dr. Lake describes the findings of a 6-week, single-blind, sham-controlled trial involving 73 subjects on the effectiveness of Reiki on depression::
“Patients who received hands-on or distant Reiki treatments experienced significant and equivalent improvements in depressed mood and stress, which were sustained one year after treatment was terminated. No one in the sham Reiki group improved during or following the study.”[efn_note]https://www.psychologytoday.com/ca/blog/integrative-mental-health-care/201803/reiki-and-energy-psychology-in-mental-health-care[/efn_note]
Another non-medical form of intervention for depression with proven results is mindfulness-based cognitive therapy (MBCT), a psychotherapeutic modality that combines talk therapy with mindful awareness to treat a wide range of issues including insomnia, depression, overeating, and addiction, to name a few. A meta-analysis from 2014 published by the NIH on the efficacy of MBCT to prevent depressive relapse concluded that “mindfulness-based cognitive therapy appears efficacious as a treatment for relapse prevention for those with recurrent depression, particularly those with more pronounced residual symptoms.”[efn_note]https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/27119968/[/efn_note]
These days, many forms of non-medical treatment are available as a first-line therapeutic response to a variety of symptoms. It is a question of getting the word out to the public about the viability of these wellness options.
WellnessWrx is an online platform designed to help HR managers streamline their existing frameworks for employee wellness. Our platform brings together holistic and mainstream services and resources for employee benefits that can be accessed, all in one place, through our website and mobile app. All of our providers are accredited and insurance-approved. Visit WellnessWrx.ca to find a range of self-care tools, educational resources, expert wellness providers, and information about how our platform can be adapted to meet the needs of your workforce.
Employee stress is at an all-time high. It is our mission to create, through our app and website, healthy working environments in the corporate world by offering a customized wellness experience to employees that reflects our clients’ unique company brand and culture.
Seth Feldman, WellnessWrx Sage Copywriter, Inkslinger and PR Strategist