Employers identify sedentary lifestyle as top employee health risk: Survey

Almost one-quarter (24 per cent) of Canadian employers say work-related stress and sedentary lifestyles are the top major health risks affecting their employees, according to the Sun Life-Buffett National Wellness Survey.
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. Noticing an increase in lifestyle related health conditions and the opportunity for illness prevention, 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, at Sun Life Financial. "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."

Ninety-two per cent of organizations surveyed recognize that the health of their employees influences overall corporate performance. The survey finds that 62 per cent of organizations currently offer wellness initiatives with 51 per cent reporting an increase in employee morale and a 40 per cent 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, at Sun Life Financial. "Workplace wellness programs are effective in supporting the well-being of employees while creating a more engaged and productive workforce. 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."

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.