The Healthy Outcomes Conference, hosted annually by Benefits Canada, is an excellent opportunity to learn what leading Canadian employers are doing to achieve their wellness goals. As conferences go, it is an intimate gathering — only 60 invited participants — so there are many opportunities for discussion and shared learning. I had the pleasure of giving a plenary talk, ‘Maximizing Wellbeing and Performance’, which was based on my recent Wellness Dividend report (which you can download free from www.grahamlowe.ca). I also facilitated an interactive workshop on how to link wellbeing and wellness.
Brenda Bouw has done a great job of summarizing the highlights of the conference, including my plenary talk. You can download this special feature from the September 2014 Benefits Canada issue from the www.grahamlowe.ca homepage.
My point of comparison was the Healthy Outcomes conference 10 years ago in Whistler, where I was invited to give a talk on the business benefits of healthy workplaces. Remarkable progress has been made in Canada on the wellness agenda over the ensuing decade. Most large employers now realize that investments in the health and wellness of their employees is a direct contribution to their organization’s success (small and medium sized employers lag behind in this regard, for a variety of reasons). The 2014 Healthy Outcomes conference documented the innovative steps some leading employers, and benefits providers, have taken to more fully understand and address employee health and wellness needs. Included here would be mining health claims data, the use of incentives, mindfulness training, focusing on getting a good night’s sleep…and more.
And there also are signs that employers are addressing the organizational dimensions of wellbeing. That means more are actually putting into practice the language of ‘healthy organizations’ — which is easier said than done. For example, there is wide recognition that both wellness and engagement goals are important for corporate success. Yet in response to the question “How can managers and HR specialist better engage employees through wellness initiatives?”, there was general agreement during workshop discussions that more needs to be done. Specifically, the interactive workshops I facilitated on this topic identified 3 actions in this regard: break down the silos separating corporate engagement strategies and wellness initiatives; use data from engagement surveys, HR and benefits utilization to paint an integrated picture of organizational health; and empower employee-management committees to make connections across engagement, wellness and OHS areas.
The take-away for conference participants: be ever-mindful of opportunities to enhance wellness goals by challenging the status quo. In short, lead healthy change!