Five Strategies For A Healthy Workforce

Authored By: Shaun Francis | Publish Date: September 1, 2017

How do you keep your workforce healthy? There are five strategies employers should implement to make sure their workforce is healthy, engaged and productive.

Workforce health initiatives that support prevention and treatment make business sense ‒ research has tied productivity with an active and healthy lifestyle, and good mental and physical health.

As well, preventive health strategies are essential for any business and employers must support their employees through behaviour change initiatives, including exercise programs, nutrition counseling and stress reduction, and help for their employees to navigate a complicated and sometimes frustrating health system.

Here are five strategies for shifting your organization to one that focuses on health as a lever for competitiveness.

  • Understand and tailor health initiatives

Most companies have five generations working alongside one another, each with unique healthcare needs. Medcan’s data confirms that there are clear health trends for each of the decades. For those in their 20s, mental health issues, such as anxiety and depression, affect the highest numbers; 30- and 40-year-olds show diseases related to diet and exercise – cardiovascular issues, cholesterol, and diabetes. People in their 30s also show high percentages of skin conditions, like eczema, which can largely be attributed to diet. When you get into your 50s, chronic conditions increase across the board, also much related to lifestyle, and osteoporosis is a pressing issue for employees in their 60s, affecting one in 16 employees. Encourage your employees to take care of their health, seeking medical treatment quickly for illness and adopting a healthier lifestyle.

The growing use of Health Spending Accounts gives employee the opportunity to select programs tailored to supporting their health needs and lifestyle changes. Preventive screenings, coaching, and convenient medical support through virtual visits are ways employers can help employees achieve their best health.

  • Manage employee health efficiently.

Too much time is wasted in doctor’s waiting rooms, trying to get appointments or traveling to appointments – time employees spend away from work. Virtual health is a growing field and stands to save employers, and benefits plans, a lot of money. Medcan physicians are able to solve around 90 per cent of concerns by video visit – the top conditions resolved by virtual visits include joint and musculoskeletal issues, gastrointestinal issues, skin issues, and flu and colds. Increasing numbers of employees are using digital care. In 2017, 12 per cent of visits by millennials were done virtually. Employers should provide digital care as part of health benefits.

  • Have a mental health plan.

One in four Canadians leave their job due to stress; one in five Canadians suffer from a mental illness. Mental wellbeing assessments to proactively screen for concerns should be commonplace in your workforce, and can be done by Ipad visits. An integrative approach ‒ including memory and cognition tests followed by consultation with a psychotherapist to assess sleep quality, relationships, stress, and emotional resilience ‒ should be taken. A mental health plan gives your company a competitive imperative as an engaged workforce is critical to a business. Above all, employers should be taking care of their employees’ mental health as a moral imperative.

  • Think both prevention and treatment.

Chronic conditions affect over 56 per cent of your workforce; that number rises to 77 per cent over the age of 55. Many chronic conditions can be avoided by adopting a healthier lifestyle. Diabetes and prediabetes peak in the 50s. Lifestyle changes, such as healthy eating, exercise, and stress reduction, can reverse or stop this condition and prevent the onset of diseases.

Our data shows that many of our clients in their 50s suffer from non-alcoholic fatty liver diseases, which affects nearly seven per cent of our population. Much of this is diet related. We try and encourage younger employees to embrace healthier eating as part of their lifestyle, to prevent the costs of not doing so later on. If the disease never develops, you never have to treat it.

  • Leverage medical advances

Forward thinking companies can leverage preventive screenings by offering employees genome testing. While there are government guidelines for when to screen for certain tests (such as breast and prostate cancer), province-covered testing can be quite limited in its criteria for coverage.

However, there are certain people who may benefit from getting these tests sooner. Personal genome testing can reveal a predisposition for a number of diseases, many of which can be successfully treated if they are caught earlier. Including this kind of testing in your benefits plan can go a long way to ensuring your employees most at risk of serious illness receive the early screening that provides them with the knowledge they need to be more proactive in managing their own health and preventing illness.

Shaun Francis is CEO of Medcan and chair of True Patriot Love Foundation.

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