If you’re like many employers, sometimes sponsoring an employee health benefits plan is just something you do. There may not have been a lot of thought into why you sponsor one, nor what exactly you’re getting out of doing so. It can easily become status quo, and it’s easy to lose sight of the positive outcomes these benefits can inspire. One crucial outcome is your ability to improve the well-being of your employees.
Well-being can generally be thought of as the extent to which a person is comfortable, healthy and happy. Improving a person’s well-being could mean that the person experiences positive outcomes and an internal perception that their life is going better than before.
There are both physical and mental elements to well-being. Improving physical well-being may come as a result of exercise or treatment of physical ailments. Improvement of mental well-being may come with meditation, counselling or other means of introspection and reflection.
The COVID-19 pandemic has really shone a light on well-being, possibly because many people feel that during these past pandemic years their well-being has declined. Physical well-being may have been affected directly as a result of contracting the virus, or because of other factors related to the pandemic (such as gym closures). Mental well-being has also been affected largely because of restrictions and uncertainties surrounding all aspects of life.
Unfortunately, for many people, there are monetary and other barriers that stand in the way of improving their well-being. This is where employee benefits become so important.
Core Employee Benefits
There’s no doubt that employee benefits help improve the well-being of employees. When you look at the core of an employee benefits program (the first benefits that come to mind) it’s easy to see a connection.
Benefits like extended health, dental and vision care all help address the physical aspects of health. Coverage means that employees may pursue health treatments that they may not otherwise pursue without coverage. Things like prescription drugs, massage therapy or preventative dental services are examples that all can help improve the well-being of employees.
There are some benefits that go further than traditional employee benefits and these benefits can have a very real impact on well-being.
The idea of wellness is to actively pursue a lifestyle that nourishes good mental and physical health. Wellness and wellness benefits can make a real difference in the well-being of employees. As an employer, there are a number of ways you can support wellness in your organization.
- Employee and Family Assistance Program (EFAP)
Including access to an Employee and Family Assistance Program (EFAP) as part of your employee benefits plan is a critical way to promote wellness in your organization. An employee and family assistance program provides free, confidential counselling to employees and their families. This is an important way to help your employees maintain good mental health.
A good EFAP not only provides free counselling, but it also helps remove barriers to getting help. For instance, the program is available 24/7; it gives employees one single point of contact; it makes the arrangements needed to get employee counselling; and it provides crisis management services if waiting for counselling is not an option.
In addition, a good employee and family assistance program also includes an extensive online presence. This means employees can access articles, podcasts and calculators to help with common sources of stress and anxiety. Examples of topics include: elder care, divorce, financial challenges, infertility, obesity, anxiety and more.
- Corporate Initiatives
Making wellness a focus in your organization is another way to help improve your employees’ well-being. Many corporate wellness initiatives are inexpensive, and easy to set up. Examples include:
a. Free healthy snacks for employees
b. Yoga breaks
c. Running club
d. Walking club
e. Mental health training for managers
f. “Lunch and learns” for employees
These types of initiatives help encourage employees to improve their physical health, while also improving company culture and cohesion. Providing training about mental health is also important because it helps remove the stigma around mental health (which can be a barrier to getting help).
- Wellness Spending Account
A wellness spending account is another option. It’s an employee benefit that functions like a bank account for wellness expenses. You choose the amount, and employees can spend the money on eligible wellness expenses. They’ll submit their receipt and be reimbursed from their wellness spending account. Examples of eligible expenses can include: gym memberships, sports classes or running shoes. The great thing about a wellness spending account is that it encourages employees to be proactive in improving their health – it removes financial barriers to getting active.
Support Well-being with a Health Spending Account
Similar to a Wellness Spending Account, a Health Spending Account (HSA) is a great way to give employees choice around where their benefit dollars are spent.
As an employer, you set the amount available in the health spending account for each employee. Eligible health-related expenses (as defined by the Canada Revenue Agency) can be reimbursed from the Health Spending Account. Just like a bank account, employees can “spend” the money in their health spending account until it is depleted.
When used in conjunction with “traditional” benefits, a Health Spending Account can be an important way to improve the well-being of employees. The money in the HSA can be used on benefits that matter the most to the employee and their specific health-situation. It can also be used to cover the unpaid portion of other benefits.
At the end of the year, any unused money in the health spending account can be returned to you (the employer). The money you contribute to a Health Spending Account (HSA) is a tax-deductible business expense.
Good Advice is Key
Have you ever considered if your employee benefit plan is designed to improve your employees’ well-being? Have you included an Employee and family assistance program (EFAP) along with Wellness and Health Spending Accounts to maximize the potential to improve their lives? Review your options with one of our licensed advisors on the phone, or contact us for a comparison quote.
Whether you’re looking for extended health and dental coverage, disability coverage, or life and critical illness coverage, GroupHEALTH has affordable benefits packages that work as hard as you do.