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Wellness, group benefits and the evolution of employee expectations

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Employees happy with their group benefits

For the employers that think about wellness when designing their employee group benefits plans (which nowadays is the majority), their thoughts usually turn to traditional offerings: health, dental, pension plans. Typically, the goal is to provide benefits that focus on addressing their team’s physical and financial needs to help employees live better lives and bring their best selves to work. But a recent survey by Desjardins Insurance underscores a point that the Bridgewell Financial Group Benefits practice has been driving home since our firm’s inception: fostering wellness means considering a broader spectrum of group benefits solutions.

Most notably, employees expect their employers to not only understand, but to cater to what the survey calls their ‘five dimensions of well-being’: physical, mental, financial, social (“the ability to maintain meaningful relationships and networks, and to interact with individuals and communities”) and environmental (“the ability to live and work in a safe and healthy environment”).

While three out of four individuals surveyed by Desjardins rated their wellness as good, that number dropped to one in four among those who said their wellness was very good (or a score of at least 9 on a 10-point rating scale). The higher the wellness rating, the more likely they are to remain engaged and maximize their contributions to the organization. For various reasons, individuals unhappy with their weight, experiencing chronic health issues or members of the LGBTQ+ community were more likely to post a lower overall wellness score.

Some of the most notable findings of the survey revolved around Canadians’ expectations of their employment experience. Specifically, they expect their employer to make a concerted effort to enhance their overall well-being, with more than three quarters of respondents believing their employer “… plays an important role in the financial and mental dimensions of their wellness.” Canadians younger than 30, women and first-generation Canadians expected more support on the social wellness front than other groups surveyed.

Rest assured that group benefits choices matter on the employee retention front. Eight in 10 Canadians surveyed said that better benefits offerings would influence their decision to remain with an employer over the long term.

“We’re seeing consistent data that supports the importance of organizations taking an innovative and deliberate approach to the design of their group benefits offerings,” explains Bridgewell Financial Partner and Group Benefits Practice Lead Michael Wortsman. “It’s important for top employers to understand that attracting and retaining talent in today’s market, especially in competitive sectors, means taking a 360-degree approach to group benefits planning that positions employee wellness at the forefront of the conversation.”

So, what does that mean from a group benefits perspective? The survey noted three things that employers should consider:

  • Investing in digital group benefits programs such as online mental health or remote learning supports can be a flexible way for employers to offer much-needed wellness enhancement tools to their teams, but without the traditionally steep overhead costs
  • Wellness accounts that provide allowances for everything from fitness memberships to more traditional offerings such as dental coverage allow employers to fix their group benefits budgets, while giving employees a range of options that address their specific lifestyle needs (and aligning with Desjardins’ five dimensions of well-being)
  • Wellness isn’t only about conventional benefits programs, but also considering time and convenience as a value-add offering. That means embracing hybrid work schedules, providing personal days that allow employees to tend their own mental health or the well-being of family members, or even providing enhanced vacation allowances. All come at a cost, but can go a long way to creating a culture of wellness and to helping an organization position as an employer of choice (the kind of company that has a strong workplace reputation and attracts the very best talent their industry has to offer)

The Bridgewell team

For assistance with your group benefits planning needs, contact a member of our team today.

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