We all benefit from our nation’s universal health care plan. However, it doesn’t cover all the medical services that you or your employees need. You can help your workforce stay healthy, recruit health-minded employees, and improve your retention rate with an employee wellness program.
As part of a wellness program, you can develop customized, in-house plans to encourage healthy behaviours in your staff. You can also strengthen your new wellness plan with supplement health insurance products. Let’s go over what a wellness program can do for your company, along with some ideas as far as what you can include in your program.
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What Is a Wellness Program?
Wellness programs represent an initiative to improve employee health through incentives, medical coverage, and more.
Once upon a time, most wellness programs existed as part of an overarching health insurance scheme. However, many businesses have started developing their own programs to increase employee satisfaction, loyalty, and productivity. When implemented correctly, a wellness program can lead to lower absenteeism and turnover, too.
Types of Wellness Programs
Wellness programs come in all shapes and forms. You can establish your company’s wellness program with a truly unlimited range of creative solutions. The open-ended nature of an in-house workplace wellness program allows you to tailor employee incentives in response to specific health issues observed in your workforce.
For instance, if you have several employees who would like to lose weight or quit smoking, you can customize your plan to focus on providing resources for them to achieve those goals.
Here’s a brief overview of some common additions to wellness programs in Canada:
Smoking Cessation Program
Helping your employees stop smoking can reduce your supplemental insurance premiums, improve productivity, and reduce employee break times. Smoking cessation programs often include some form of incentive or reward to stop smoking as well as pharmacological and counselling assistance as needed.
On-site Fitness Center
A small, on-site fitness center can help your employees improve their overall health and reduce their stress levels in the process. Not every business can afford a full-size gym on company premises. However, a few pieces of cardio and weightlifting equipment can provide multiple benefits. Not only will it help your current employees maintain a healthy lifestyle through physical activity, but it will also attract healthier recruits.
Healthy Food Program
Most companies already provide some form of snacks and beverages for their employees. Unfortunately, the food selection often consists of bagels, donuts, chips, candy, and other unhealthy items. You can encourage healthy eating behaviours by offering free healthy options or even food vouchers so employees can do their own shopping.
In-office Wellness Challenge
A little healthy competition between colleagues can go a long way, especially when it promotes their wellbeing. Many companies set up wellness challenges to help their employees reach their fitness goals. Typically, the winners receive some form of wellness-related prize to take their health to the next level.
Even adults love a good field day. It allows them to get paid without working and provides them with an opportunity to socialize with coworkers. This form of team building creates long-term memories that will stick with them for years. They could play a few tennis matches, a couple of rounds of bowling, or anything else that gets their bodies moving.
Benefits of a Wellness Program
A wellness program will keep your operations running smoothly and increase employee satisfaction. However, the perks do not end there. Here’s just a small sampling of the benefits of a wellness program:
- Lower absenteeism
- Increased productivity
- Improved profitability
- Reduced risk of an on-the-job injury
- Lower supplemental insurance premiums
- Decreased workers’ compensation premiums
- Improved company morale
- Strengthened employee loyalty
- Better recruitment and retention
How to Establish a Wellness Program for Your Company
Creating an in-house wellness program can present several challenges. However, but you can avoid many of them by taking a systematic step-by-step approach to the process. While that process may vary from company to company, you can use the steps below as a rough guide.
Step 1 – Assess Your Employees
First, you’ll need to gather information about your employees to provide your new wellness program direction. Surveys provide valuable insight into the habits of your workforce. Careful observation of your employees during working hours also proves helpful when crafting a wellness program. After all, if none of your employees smoke cigarettes, then a smoking cessation program would be a significant waste of time and money.
How do you assess your employees? Here are some useful information-gathering techniques:
Voluntary health surveys serve as one of the best tools to obtain information on the health practices of your employees. You can draft your own survey or search for a number of high-quality questionnaires found on the internet.
Health Risk Assessments
Conducting a health risk assessment can prove invaluable when devising a wellness program. However, remember to respect the medical privacy of your employees. It’s also best to consult with an attorney familiar with privacy laws before performing the assessment.
Review Supplemental Insurance Claims
Taking a look at supplemental health insurance claims filed by your employees will let you know which health issues your employees have addressed in the past without invading their privacy. Contact your insurance carrier for an aggregate overview of previous insurance claims.
Various governmental agencies provide templates for environmental assessments that cover company culture and the physical workplace. Find out if a toxic health culture or misuse of floor space has caused a dip in your workforce’s overall health.
Step 2 – Circle the Wagons
Next, get your management team together in one room and make sure everyone remains on board regarding your new wellness program. Like any rollout, you need all your managers on the same page to implement the new rules and create enthusiasm at the lowest levels of the company. They will serve as your mouthpiece to explain the program’s usefulness and how it relates to productivity and employee satisfaction.
To galvanize your management team, point out how the new wellness program advances company goals. Emphasize that healthy employees call out less often and work more productively in general. Relate the wellness program to the success of your managers’ pet projects or explain how it will alleviate some of the problems that bother them the most. By doing so, you should find it rather easy to gain their support.
Step 3 – Create a Wellness Task Force
Put together a wellness task force to implement your wellness program and monitor its progress. Ask your entire company to volunteer for the task force, and try to select a group that represents all department levels. This task force will help maintain your wellness program, which remains especially crucial in the early stages.
Some of the duties of the wellness task force might include:
- Organizing wellness events and activities
- Creating a wellness mission statement and setting goals
- Working with employees to determine their needs and attitudes
- Reviewing the wellness policies and recommending changes
Consider the following ideas when forming your task force:
- Set term limits for your task force members
- Decide how to choose new volunteers in the future
- Keep your vision fresh with new ideas from rotating volunteers
- Consult with management regarding the time allotted for subordinate volunteers
- Choose volunteers who have the respect of their peers
Setting up a task force makes your employees feel like they have a say in your company’s direction. It also allows managers to assess their employees’ leadership skills. And finally, it increases the chances that your wellness program enjoys long-term success.
Step 4 – Create Goals for Your Wellness Program
You’ll need to keep your wellness plan on course with company-specific goals. Based on the information you gathered by distributing and collecting surveys, you can create wellness goals for your employees. Typically, the main goal involves improving the health of your employees for their own benefit, but it will also reduce your company’s supplemental health insurance premiums.
Secondary goals may include:
- Reducing absenteeism
- Increasing productivity
- Retaining a higher percentage of employees
- Reducing the number of employees who smoke
- Increasing the number of employees who join certain programs
- Reducing obesity
- Lowering the blood pressure of your employees
- Avoiding chronic diseases
Make sure that you state your company goals clearly and include deadlines to reach each goal. Goals should reflect specific, attainable achievements, not vague or ambiguous ideas. For example, “Reduce the number of smokers by 10%” represents a clear goal, whereas “Emphasize the reduction of smoking among employees” remains too indistinct.
Step 5 – Fund Your Wellness Program
Give your wellness program a head-start towards success by developing a sustainable budget. Your company will likely need to contribute funds to the wellness program, but you can also get creative and find other ways to put together a viable budget. Some outside-the-box funding ideas include:
- Voluntary employee contributions
- Incentive programs provided by supplementary health insurance carriers
- Local and provincial government programs
- Paid clinical health studies
- Free or inexpensive exercise activities
Even if your company utilizes some of the above ideas, your wellness program will still require in-house funding. Some common products and services purchased for most wellness programs include:
- Yoga, pilates, or other instructor fees
- Employee participation and achievement rewards
- Exercise equipment
- Medications, nicotine patches, and dietary supplements
- Marketing materials
Step 6 – Promote Your Wellness Program
It’s crucial to clearly communicate your new wellness program to all employees to encourage employee engagement and ensure the program’s future success. To promote your wellness program, you might want to consider:
- Creating a logo and slogan
- Demonstrating active involvement by executives and managers
- Utilizing different media, like emails, bulletin boards, and meetings
- Repetitive reinforcement
- Acknowledging the wellness achievements of employees
- Providing regular updates on progress towards company goals
To change the culture of your workplace, it will take a sustained and coordinated attack. Employees will need time to realize that the wellness program represents a long-term project, not something that will fade away within a few weeks. Once your employees witness the regular occurrence of wellness events and see their colleagues’ participation, the reality of a healthy culture shift will begin to take shape.
Support Your Wellness Program with Supplemental Insurance
One of the best ways to bolster your wellness program is by coupling it with supplemental health insurance. By filling the gaps in provincial plan coverage, you’ll help your employees thrive under a turbocharged wellness program. Like wellness programs, group benefits packages also offer a plethora of options:
Extended Health Care
Extended health care policies cover your employees’ health care costs related to prescription drugs, paramedical services, medical supplies, vision, and more! Purchasing extended health care coverage shows your employees how much you appreciate them.
Here’s a full list of the medical services and products covered by extended health care insurance:
As the cost of prescription drugs continues to increase, some of your employees may find themselves unable to afford the medicine they need. Rather than let them go without, why not offer a helping hand by providing extended health care coverage?
Most prescription drug plans provide employees with a drug insurance card to use as a direct payment method for their medicine, simplifying the claims process. Coverage levels typically fall between $3,000 and $10,000 per year, but some plans are unlimited.
While our healthcare system does a good job of providing basic health care, it doesn’t cover paramedical services. With extended health care coverage, a wide range of much-needed services becomes more freely available to your employees. Some of the paramedical services covered by extended health care insurance include:
- Chiropractic medicine
- Nutrition services
- Speech therapy
Coverage limits often range between $200 and $1,000, either by provider, service, or year, depending on the policy type.
A lack of access to proper medical supplies can prolong the healing process—help your employees get back on their feet and at work sooner with extended health care coverage. Some of the medical supplies covered by extended health care plans include:
- Hearing aids
- Hospital beds
- Insulin syringes and needles
- Dialysis equipment
- Orthopedic shoes and orthotics
- Oxygen and related supplies
- Braces for arms, legs, neck, and back
- Support hosiery
- Compression socks and stockings
The maximum annual benefit for medical supplies depends on the individual insurance provider selected.
Employees appreciate vision plans in particular, as 1.2 million Canadians suffer from some level of vision loss. The vision plan included in most extended health care plans covers the following services and products:
- Eye exams
- Prescription eyeglasses
- Contact lenses
For each employee, you can choose vision coverage between $100 and $350 per year.
Emergencies place a significant burden on members of your workforce, but you can make things easier for them with emergency coverage. Some of the emergency services covered under an extended health care plan include:
- Hospital stays in private and semi-private rooms
- Out-of-province emergencies for 30 to 90 days of continuous travel
- Ambulance trips
- Emergency dental services – annual coverage ranges between $2,000 and $5,000
- Private nursing – annual coverage ranges between $5,000 and $25,000
Group Dental Insurance
The only coverage option more popular among employees than vision coverage is dental coverage. You can select three different dental insurance plans: Basic, Restorative, and Orthodontic.
Let’s take a closer look at each:
Basic Dental Services
Basic dental service plans give your employees coverage for some of the most common dental procedures. They typically cover routine dental services, as well as minor restorations. Some of the dental services covered under the basic plan include:
- Oral exams
- Fluoride treatments
- Periodontal treatment
- Endodontic services, including root canals
The maximum annual coverage for basic dental plans is often between $1,000 and $3,000.
Major Restorative Services Plan
Restorative Service Plans go a step further and include more complicated, invasive dental services aimed at restoring health or functionality. These services aren’t cosmetic. Under the major restorative services plan, you can cover your employees for:
- Dental bridges
- Dental crowns
- Inlays and onlays
You can stack a major restorative services plan with a basic dental services plan, providing comprehensive dental coverage for your employees. The maximum restorative coverage per employee sits between $1,000 and $3,000 annually.
Orthodontic Services Plan
Especially for employees with children, orthodontic plans can be extremely helpful. They also attract top talent, as many employers don’t offer them. These plans cover braces and appliances commonly used to straighten teeth and correct other orthodontic issues. Again, most plans require these services to have some medical need rather than being strictly cosmetic.
Orthodontic service plans frequently provide maximum lifetime coverage of $1,000 to $3,000 for each employee dependent.
Group Disability Insurance
Workers suffer new injuries and illnesses every day. Sometimes, they lead to an employee’s inability to work, either in the short term or long term.
Short-term disability insurance provides benefits to employees who find themselves temporarily unable to work. Long-term disability insurance covers about 60% to 70% of an employee’s usual income during an extended absence from work.
The coverage employees receive will remain bound by rules relating to:
- Benefit periods – The lengths of time employees can receive benefits, usually two or five years, or until 65 years of age.
- Benefit maximums – The maximum benefits employees can receive based on the size of the group, the type of business, and whether employees show proof of good health or not.
- Benefit schedules – Formulae that determine long-term disability benefits, usually as a percentage of the employee’s pre-disability monthly income.
- Elimination periods – Waiting periods that must terminate before an employee can receive long-term disability benefits, usually 105, 119, or 180 days.
You can also enhance your group disability insurance by adding riders to the policy, such as:
Own Occupation Rider
The own occupation rider provides benefits to employees who remain unable to work in their former profession, even if they could find employment in another line of work.
Future Increase Rider
The future increase rider allows employees to invest additional funds in their disability insurance policy to receive more benefits if they need to file a claim in the future.
Lifetime Extension Rider
The lifetime extension rider ensures benefits continue past the age of 65 or after retirement.
Accidental Death Benefit Rider
The accidental death benefit rider provides additional benefits to your employees’ dependents upon the accidental loss of life, eyesight, hearing, or limbs.
Automatic Benefits Increase Rider
The automatic benefits increase rider expands your employees’ disability coverage as their salaries rise over time.
Cost of Living Adjustment Rider
The cost-of-living adjustment rider increases your employees’ coverage based on rising rental costs and other consumer prices.
Health Care Spending Account (HCSA)
If you truly want to cover all your bases, an HCSA could be your best bet. An HCSA is a flexible solution that employees can use to pay for medical services not covered by private or provincial health insurance. In most cases, HCSA benefits serve as a fixed amount that employees can claim, making it easy for employers to plan their budgets.
Health care spending accounts can cover medical expenses not fully covered by your employees’ existing health insurance, including:
- Cosmetic surgery
- At-home medical care
- Over-the-counter medications
- Home modifications for medical purposes, like wheelchair ramps
- Prescription drugs
- Prescription eyeglasses and contact lenses
- Paramedical services, like massage therapy or chiropractic medicine
- Restorative dental services, like bridges and crowns
As the employer, you determine how much is available to your employees. You can also create the conditions under which your employees become eligible for access to the funds. However, eligible employees enjoy full discretion regarding the use of HCSA funds once you disburse them.
Even if you don’t have employees, you can still benefit from an HCSA. If you get sick or suffer an injury, withdrawing the funds to pay for medical services avoids incurring a new tax burden. HCSA funds are tax-free on withdraw, and funds put in the account provide a business tax deduction.
Call Us Today to Discuss the Perfect Group Health Plan for Your Company
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