The employee wellness gap: Why health benefits aren't measuring up

There's a discrepancy between the health plans employees want and the health plans they're getting—and they're willing to quit for better benefits

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Work-life balance seemed like an abstract concept until the pandemic brought it into focus. Increased stress and health concerns led many people to reevaluate their priorities, including finding workplaces that support their health and wellbeing. According to a  recent survey conducted by the Conference Board of Canada and TELUS Health, employees aren’t getting the health benefits they’re looking for. Specifically, there was a significant gap of up to 83 per cent between the benefits they had, and the benefits they want. 

“Besides being disappointed, some employees say they‘d be willing to leave their job over it,” says Lauren Florko, senior research associate at The Conference Board of Canada. The research, Seeking Support: The Future of Employee Health found that between 33 and 59 per cent of employees surveyed said that the health and wellness support offered by their employers does not reflect their current needs. “The same number of respondents reported that they may seek out new job opportunities in pursuit of improved or more holistic health and wellness support provided by the employer,” says Florko. 

This trend continues to grow: in 2020 LifeWorks found that more than half of Canadian employees said they would leave their current organization for one that better supports their personal wellbeing, even if it meant taking a hit on their salary. 

That’s why health benefits have become a hot topic. According to Fractl, employees see their benefits as a sign of how their employer is going to treat them. If benefits are lacking, employees may perceive that their employer is not concerned about their wellbeing and may lack incentive to remain at the company. 

So what can employers do? Based on research, they should provide more coverage of the basic health requirements, so employees have more flexibility to use their benefits on personalized or virtual care that offer preventative health services and mental health services. As we move towards doing everything digitally, employees want on-demand access to doctors, psychiatrists, counsellors, and to be able to access these services via apps and online. In fact, the Conference Board of Canada and TELUS Health survey found that 40 per cent of respondents used the virtual healthcare services provided by their benefits for either physical or mental health.

“Employers who want to fill in any gaps in their current health benefits package now have a roadmap on how they can better support the needs of their employees, such as providing employees with access to preventative, personalized care including virtual care,” says Sonya Lockyer, vice president Pharmacy and Care Centres, TELUS Health, which offers a number of integrated health services. Leveraging technology, its clinical team members work in partnership with patients to create a tailored plan to optimize health and longevity, which helps clients achieve their health goals. Services are offered virtually to ensure the ultimate convenience. Employees who prefer in-person care can lean on TELUS Health’s connected network of health and wellness Care Centres across the country.

“At the end of the day, employees want more choices, more control, and more ways to stay healthy,” says Lockyer. “As the global approach to work evolves, so too must employers, ensuring the needs of employees are met, particularly when it comes to their overall health and wellbeing.” These trends and employee preferences are likely to continue as Canada enters year three of the pandemic

To learn more about TELUS Health Care Centres and how its preventative approach can support happy, healthy, and productive employees with convenient and timely access to high quality wellness programs and services, visit: https://www.telus.com/en/health/care-centres/corporate-care

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