The connection between physical health and mental health is impossible to ignore, especially when it comes to chronic disease — people who report symptoms of depression also report experiencing three times as many chronic physical conditions than the general population. Conversely, people with chronic physical conditions are twice as likely to experience a mood or anxiety disorder. The impact of financial health is just as powerful. A person’s financial health has been found to influence both mental and physical well-being.
While employers are making resources available, such as EAPs and wellness programs, there’s still more work that needs to be done to connect and align programs to support all aspects of health including employees living with chronic conditions.
Chronic disease is more prevalent than you think
The 2017 Sanofi Canada Healthcare Survey indicates that 57% of people with a health benefits plan are living with at least one chronic condition, like heart disease, diabetes or depression. These conditions can have serious consequences to employee health and pronounced impacts on workplace productivity and benefit plan costs. Yet according to a Sun Life Financial 2017 Bright Paper, “Chronic Disease in the Workplace: Focus on Prevention and Support,” employers believe that just 32% of employees are affected with a chronic condition.
This gap in awareness means that many employers are greatly underestimating the impact of chronic disease in their workplaces. But there’s good news — chronic health conditions are more preventable and manageable than ever. By cultivating a strong organizational culture of health, identifying key health challenges and taking targeted actions to address them, employers can help secure a healthier future for their employees, increase productivity and help manage benefit costs.
A strategic roadmap
The great news is it doesn’t have to be complicated. You can begin with evaluating organizational health needs and opportunities, based on both employer and employee level data streams. Armed with those insights, it becomes easier to develop a clear vision, measurable goals, and the roadmap to meet those objectives. Finally, with a plan in place, you can take action that may include a cultural shift, programs and tactics.
Perhaps the most critical element of any organizational health strategy is to determine how you will define success — and this is different for every organization. What’s most important to your organization? It’s clear that preventing the onset of chronic disease, preventing an LTD claim, or increasing productivity are all important returns on your investment in wellness. Employees expect support for their health; are wellness programs table stakes for your industry, or a differentiator? Consider the value when an employee feels their workplace wellness program helped them live a healthier life, or even saved their life.
If you’re considering the implementation of a wellness strategy and program, you’ll want to review key strategic elements like leadership commitment, practices and policies, and employee communications to ensure that your foundation is strong. A proactive culture of health — one that reflects policies and practices that are aligned with health — is a essential to achieve your objectives. When employers get it right, the results are powerful and can include a reduction in the health risks that drive costs.