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Innovative Wellness Tools to Empower Your Team


When a company sponsors health and wellness benefits for their employees, they benefit from a healthier, happier and more productive team. However, as an employer, are you overlooking these unique wellness tools that are taking corporate healthcare to a new level? Take a look at what an HSA, private clinic and personal gym can do for you and your team.


HSA: The Health Spending Account

“A health spending account (HSA) is a group benefit that provides reimbursement for a broad range of health-related expenses and complements a conventional benefits plan by offering more value and flexibility for employees,” says Jesse Monck, director of the group division with Alberta Blue Cross, Alberta’s largest benefits provider. “The list of eligible expenses tends to be much more comprehensive than those benefits provided under the base plan, and benefit maximums often associated with traditional benefit offerings are replaced with an overall maximum, as determined by the employer contribution into the employee’s HSA.”

“HSAs are administered in accordance with Canada Revenue Agency guidelines, and as such, contributions made by the employer to the employee are not deemed as taxable income,” adds Monck. “For the employer, contributions offer a measure of cost containment and predictability in the fact that contributions can be set and budgeted for each year. As well, the flexibility of an HSA is appealing to most employees and helps to attract and retain top talent.”

Monck continues, “HSA plans are very popular in Canada today, and many employer-sponsored benefit programs include an HSA as part of their package. The flexibility and tax advantage provided by an HSA makes them appealing to both employer and employee.”

One thing Monck notes, however, is that HSAs are best as a complement to conventional employee benefit plans—not a replacement. “While offering great flexibility, they do not offer the protection or amount of coverage available through benefit plans. HSAs operate like a bank account. A pre-determined allotment is assigned to an employee, and he/she cannot exceed that allotment. Any employer contributions revert back to the employer if not used by the employee after two years. HSAs on their own offer no assistance for unexpected or catastrophic incidents, such as a family member suddenly needing a high-cost drug or requiring disability coverage. Also, if an employee’s health care costs are quite high, he/she may not have enough money in the HSA to cover the expenses. A good benefit plan can be designed to fit an employer’s budget through coverage maximums, co-insurance, deductibles and per-visit maximums—with a health spending account as a value-added option.”

The value of HSAs for employers is cost control, says Monck. “With a greater focus on business costs in Canada today, the ability to help control plan costs and provide greater predictability in future costs is more needed than ever. HSAs help to achieve this by offering a very flexible addition to a company’s employee benefit plan.”


Private Health Care Clinics

Les Jickling is the senior director, marketing & communications, at Copeman Healthcare Centre, where primary care is delivered through a team of specialized healthcare professionals. The Centre’s collaborative and whole-body approach to wellness includes nutrition counselling, exercise medicine and personal training, physiotherapy, mental and cognitive wellness and more. Copeman has clinics in Edmonton, Calgary and Vancouver.

“Healthy, happy employees drive superior results. That’s been proven time and time again!” says Jickling with his signature enthusiasm. “Providing health benefits is also about risk mitigation,” he adds. “For example, imagine you are in a law firm and there are 40 partners. Every partner shares in the bonus fund. Suddenly, one guy is off for a year and a half because of a cardiac event. He’s not going to be very popular!”

He notes that providing health benefits is also valuable to the company itself.

“You hear companies talk about how employees are their greatest asset. Any asset is appreciating or depreciating. If your employees are healthy, they are appreciating. If they are getting unhealthier, they are a depreciating asset – and you will carry those assets either way. In an ideal scenario, all your assets are appreciating.”

Jickling is pleased to see many executives and their teams take advantage of Copeman’s private facilities, and points out how this is serving companies well.

“The number one commodity executives don’t have is time. When it comes to things like going to the doctor, physiotherapist, or booking travel vaccinations, you’ve got two choices: book time during the work day, or schedule it before or after work. Those appointments cut into your life when you only have one or two free hours a day and have to spend that time going to a doctor. That’s why Copeman strictly adheres to a firm booking schedule. When you arrive at our clinic, you are seen within 7-15 minutes. Ninety-five per cent of our clients are seen within 10 minutes or less, according to our monitored metrics.

“A dedicated team of clinicians are assigned to each client, and by limiting the amount of patients they see, each patients has ample time to speak with their medical care team at every visit.

“We also use technology to coordinate everything. There is nothing more annoying than going to the doctor, having him or her write a notation, having that notation go into the file, and getting the distinct impression that nobody looked at the notes by your next visit. To avoid that, the founder of this company said, ‘We need collaboration among all our caregivers.’ Our on-site caregivers work together so they can provide a different perspective on each case. Also, patients can log in at any time to see their lab results and other health markers.”

Speaking of lab results, patients of this private clinic don’t have to wait very long for their results because the lab is in the Copeman facility; yet another detail taken by the clinic ensure the best in private health care.

A whole-body approach to wellness that is delivered in a state-of-the-art facility where your entire medical team is on site is a key driver in the success of any busy executive, and those that take advantage of this high level of care for themselves and their team learn to build resilience physically, cognitively and psychologically.


Private Gyms

Tim Borys is the CEO of FRESH! Wellness Group, where coaching, support and accountability are used in tandem to transform their client’s beliefs, habits and daily behaviours.

Borys explains, “Executives should look beyond fancy equipment and beautiful spaces. While these are nice, in the absence of effective programs to meet your health, fitness and wellness needs, even the most exclusive facility may not be a good fit. I often remind clients that health and fitness are free. Your financial investment should be in the knowledge, coaching, accountability, programs and community that help you reach your unique goals in the most effective, expedient, engaging and safe way possible. Typically, private studios offer more detailed expertise and targeted coaching, but that’s not always the case. Find the right fit for you and remember that health is wealth, then invest in your personal growth. This is the key strategy that successful executives use to achieve optimal health and wellness.”

When it comes to helping their team with the cost of gym memberships, Borys recommends for employers, “private facilities, since those smaller boutique gyms typically have greater usage and retention rates. This will ultimately benefit both the employee and the company.”

However, he also cautions with great honesty, “As a health and wellness advocate, I believe that wellness spending accounts and gym subsidies are a great marketing and recruiting tool, but they make little impact on employee health and end up costing companies billions of dollars every year. The usage stats for gym memberships paint a dismal picture. While many employees have memberships covered under the company plan, they don’t use them enough (or properly) to improve their health. The employees that use them regularly would likely be exercising whether their membership was subsidized or not.

This is not to say that flexible memberships and subsidies have no place, but merely to say that there are often better options for organizations of all sizes. At FRESH! we work with clients to make smarter, more effective and fiscally responsible choices that have a greater impact on employee health and workplace wellness.

Taking advantage of the innovations in what, where and how corporate wellness solutions are offered to executives and their teams makes for a healthier and more engaged work force across Alberta. Take the time to empower yourself and your employees with the gift of health. It’s the gift that never stops giving.