Optimax Benefits

Most Highly Valued Group Benefits

The latest Benefits Canada survey indicates that employees continue to highly value all aspects of their group benefit programs. Many items that are of higher importance are Extended Health Care and Dental benefits. Things such as prescription drugs, massage therapy, chiropractic services, psychologist, vision care and dental top the list.

However, in recent years, the need for and use of Mental Health benefits coverage has grown significantly. Mental health challenges have moved up the list to be top of mind for most companies and their employees. The Benefits Canada survey says that mental health coverage has joined the others on the main stage.
With the pandemic amplifying issues like loneliness and isolation, mental health challenges are increasing in frequency and intensity. In previous years, most employees felt there was a stigma attached to speaking about their mental and emotional struggles. At present, more men and women are able to share more openly about those challenges with others.

The American Psychological Association said that 71% of workers feel tense or stressed out during the workday. The main sources of stress are personal finances, heavier than normal workloads, health concerns and work-life balance.

How can employers help their employees when they experience these types of issues?

Some of the mental health supports that most people seek out are increased counselling services, virtual healthcare and wellness services.

Increased Counselling Services

Employees seek help from counsellors when they need it. They can be faced with struggles, whether they are at work or home.

Most Employee Assistance Programs only provide 3 counselling sessions, which is just not adequate for many of the challenges that workers face. Increased and unlimited counselling is available and EAPs can be increased to accommodate growing employee needs.

Another solution that some employers use is the contracting of private psychologists to assist their employees with mental health issues. They often provide 6-10 additional sessions on top of what their benefits and EAPs cover.

Virtual Healthcare

We love skipping the waiting room and getting right in to speak with our doctors. This can easily be done online now with web browsers and mobile apps. Virtual Healthcare can help employees speak to medical professionals without leaving their homes or offices. This reduces absenteeism and helps to increase productivity.
Approximately 50% of all Canadians are already using Virtual Healthcare services.

Over 66 2/3% of employees want to have the availability of these services even as the pandemic subsides. There is a great deal of room for other employers to add Virtual Healthcare to their benefits.

These services will help companies stand above their competition and be seen as preferred employers.

Wellness Services

Here are some of the areas that companies are investing in wellness:

  1. Emotional or mental health
  2. Prevention of wellness
  3. Management of chronic illnesses
  4. Financial health
  5. Social health, such as volunteering
  6. Addiction

More training is required for leaders in organizations to help those workers who are experiencing mental health challenges.

First, they need to be aware that these issues are increasing in frequency.

Then they need to learn true listening skills so they can both hear and understand what their employees are sharing about their struggles. It is not taboo to talk about them anymore. It is much better for the health of the organization to share these issues as they are going through them.

In addition, leaders should have mental health training, such as Mental Health First Aid programs. They may also benefit greatly from taking courses in basic counselling so they can empathize with those who are feeling anxious, depressed, or just down about life and everything going on.

Approximately 48% of all companies surveyed have some type of training for managers and employees as it related to mental health support. Larger companies have more financial investment in these types of programs.

A solid plan of action needs to be established in order to help employees with their mental health struggles.

Recently, we helped one of our clients increase their mental health supports. Their workers now have access to crisis counselling as they experience stressful and traumatic situations with the at-risk population that they serve daily. They have an unlimited number of counselling visits per year with trained professionals. All of these services are helping our client with retention of employees as well as hearing from their workers about their appreciation of the increased mental health services.

Mental Health is on the main stage in terms of what employees highly value. Employers also need to join the main stage and increase their supports for the total health and wellness of their workforce.

About Earl Shindruk

Successful businessman and community leader, Earl Shindruk, launched Optimax Benefits in 1998 after a vast career at TransAlta, Laidlaw Waste Systems and with Lafrentz Road Services.

He has grown Optimax by harnessing people skills, ‘being accessible’, ‘getting to know your client’, and ‘being innovative’.

Earl is a key contributor to his community, donating many hours and much expertise to charities and not for profits. He is past board chair of the NPO Collective and board member of the Edmonton Business Association, as well as being a founding board member of the Meningitis Foundation of Alberta.

His legacy includes sharing knowledge and expertise. For over 11 years he was an instructor in Employee Benefits and Human Resources at MacEwan University, and is often a guest speaker there as well as at the University of Alberta, CPHR Alberta and IPMA.

Website: www.optimaxbenefits.ca
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