Canadian employers may be missing opportunities to demonstrate their commitment to employee health and well-being, finds a Conference Board of Canada survey. It reports that just one-third of employers report having a formal wellness strategy in place, while closer to half are taking a more informal approach to their wellness initiatives.

“Healthy workplaces consider employee well-being broadly and consider aspects of employees’ physical, psychological, and social health,” said Allison Cowan, Director, Total Rewards and Workplace Health Research, The Conference Board of Canada. “Investing in a comprehensive health and wellness program is an essential part of a healthy work environment and makes good business sense.”

Some findings:

  • Healthy workplaces consider employee well-being broadly and address more than employee physical health. Just one-third of Canadian employers have a formal wellness strategy in place, while closer to half have informal strategies in place.
  • Employers are making investments in employee health promotion and wellness initiatives that target health broadly not only because they want to be responsible employers, but because the cost of doing nothing is too high. Recent Conference Board research has found that lost productivity due to depression and anxiety alone are costing the Canadian economy billions.

A comprehensive approach to a healthy workplace encompasses employee health promotion and wellness initiatives for both physical and mental health alongside more traditional and well-established programs for occupational health and safety and absence and disability management. Employee wellness efforts focus on reducing behaviours that have a negative impact on employee health and promoting those that have beneficial health outcomes.

The report, Wellness Initiatives: Trends in Organizational Health Management, examines investments by Canadian employers in employee health promotion and wellness initiatives.

Just 32% of survey respondents had a formal corporate wellness strategy in place. These organizations were more likely to have a wellness committee, stand-alone organizational policy about employee health and wellness, and were more likely to evaluate their strategies annually or more often. Nearly half (48%) of respondents reported having only informal wellness strategies. A further 20% of Canadian organizations have no wellness strategy at all.

While Canadian organizations appear to favour informal approaches to wellness programs, comparisons with a previous Conference Board of Canada survey show that overall most workplace wellness initiatives have increased in prevalence since 2009. A breakdown by sector reveals that many of these gains are being fueled by growing numbers of private sector employers making investments in wellness initiatives, while the number of public sector employers remains steady.

Copyright © 2021 Transcontinental Media G.P. Originally published on

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