Canadian Employers See Growing Need for Wellness Programs

October 29, 2013 ( – Almost one-quarter (24%) of Canadian employers said work-related stress and sedentary lifestyles are the top health risks affecting their employees, according to a new survey.

The Sun Life-Buffett National Wellness Survey found that an aging workforce, coupled with the introduction of a younger generation of workers, has businesses taking a closer look at what they are doing to support the well-being of their employees. Having noticed an increase in lifestyle-related health conditions and the opportunity for illness prevention, the survey revealed that many companies are seeing the need to invest in the health of their employees.

“With an increase in illnesses relating to both stress and sedentary lifestyles, the need for employer-sponsored wellness programs is growing rapidly,” said Lori Casselman, assistant vice president, Health and Wellness, Group Benefits, Sun Life Financial, Toronto. “Employers can positively influence the health of the workplace by implementing initiatives that encourage employees to understand their current health risks, and ultimately to lead healthier lives.”

Most (92%) of organizations surveyed said they recognize that the health of their employees influences overall corporate performance. The survey found that 62% of organizations currently offer wellness initiatives with 51% reporting an increase in employee morale and a 40% decrease in absenteeism.

“A growing number of employers are making the connection between the health of their employees and workplace productivity,” said Stuart Monteith, senior vice president, Group Benefits, Sun Life Financial. “Workplace wellness programs are effective in supporting the well-being of employees while creating a more engaged and productive work force. Major health issues are not only taking a toll on the overall well-being of employees, but also have a significant impact on the sustainability of our health care system.”

The survey also found that successful wellness programs must include initiatives that address the health concerns of employees, such as heart health and diabetes screening clinics, smoking cessation programs, fitness subsidies or onsite fitness programs, nutrition and stress management education.

Conducted since 1997, the Sun Life-Buffett National Wellness Survey investigates the prevalence of worksite wellness in Canada, examines changing views and provides an overview of the current well-being promotion practices among Canadian organizations.

The 2013 survey was conducted over the spring and summer of 2013. A national sample of 400 Canadian employers participated in the online survey. Respondents represented public, private and nonprofit organizations ranging in size from less than 50 employees to those with more than 2,500 employees.

Sun Life Financial is a provider of financial services with operations in Canada, the United States, the United Kingdom, Ireland, Hong Kong, the Philippines, Japan, Indonesia, India, China, Australia, Singapore, Vietnam, Malaysia and Bermuda.

More information about the survey and its findings can be found here.