Buffett & Company Worksite Wellness Ltd.

October 26, 2006 09:00 ET

Canadian Organizations Are Not Doing Enough to Keep Their Workplaces Healthy According to a New Survey

October 23 to 29 is Canada's Healthy Workplace Week, a celebration of workplace health in Canadian organizations

TORONTO, ONTARIO--(CCNMatthews - Oct. 26, 2006) - Employees are an organization's most valuable asset, yet most Canadian organizations are not making employee health a priority. The National Wellness Survey Report 2006, by Buffett & Company Worksite Wellness Ltd., reveals that only 15 per cent of organizations develop an operating plan for wellness program offerings. In addition, the survey shows that less than 30 per cent of organizations are actually evaluating the success of their program offerings. An analysis of the status of workplace wellness and health promotion in Canada is found in The National Wellness Survey Report 2006.

"Wellness programs need to be taken more seriously," says Ed Buffett, President and C.E.O., Buffett & Company." Too few senior executives appear to appreciate the link between health, productivity and profitability and the importance of human capital in a knowledge-based economy."

The National Wellness Survey Report reveals that companies are not making wellness programs a strategic imperative in the workplace. Less than 50 per cent of organizations make an effort to acquire senior level support for their wellness programs. In fact, fewer than 33 per cent actually develop a budget associated with their wellness program offerings. A lack of financial resources and adequate staffing, as well as the inability to quantify the results are identified as major barriers to implementing wellness programs.

"Canadian employers are about to experience a significant worker shortage as baby-boomers leave the workforce, and too few Canadians are entering the labour market to replace them. Organizations should use wellness programs as a motivation factor to attract candidates," says Buffett. "Unfortunately, fewer than 10 per cent of organizations are using wellness initiatives as a primary motivation factor for employee retention and employee attraction."

Brigitte Parent, Vice President, Group Benefits for Sun Life Financial, the Survey's co-sponsor, echoes Buffett's concerns. "We need to step away from focusing only on the traditional methods of benefit cost management and look at employee health and illness prevention as an investment with solid returns on a number of levels," says Parent. Sponsoring the National Wellness Survey Report was a welcome opportunity for Sun Life Financial's Group Benefits division, which has recently launched its HealthyReturns™ strategy. A key focus of that strategy is to build metrics and measurement tools to show the correlation between health management and employer benefit and operating costs.

According to Statistics Canada, absenteeism costs employers in excess of 15 billion dollars a year. The Canadian Mental Health Association estimates that one in five workers will experience a stress-related illness during any given year, and depression is rapidly becoming a major health issue.

Shoppers Drug Mart, another major sponsor of the National Wellness Survey, and an organization that has invested hundreds of thousands of dollars in promoting prevention in the Canadian workplace, was disappointed to learn that wellness is not being viewed by Senior Management as a strategic imperative. According to Aubrey Browne, a recently retired Shoppers Drug Mart executive, Canadian employers must approach employee health the same way they would any other business imperative.

The National Wellness Survey Report 2006 does include some encouraging results. In 1997, only 44 per cent of organizations were offering at least one health promotion or wellness initiative, whereas in 2006, that number has risen to 90.3 per cent. As well, a significant proportion of organizations are now offering these types of programs for reasons that are more closely tied to their organization's business performance. Wellness or health promotion is starting to be seen as an important component of an overall strategy to lower short and long-term disability costs, improve productivity, and influence overall health care costs. The organizations that are running successful wellness programs are seeing reductions in absenteeism, fewer disability claims, decreased health risks and reduced extended health care costs. The problem is that few are approaching this from a strategic perspective.

About Buffett & Company's National Wellness Survey Report 2006:

This survey report is an analysis of the status of worksite wellness and health promotion in Canada. The survey has been conducted every three years since 1997. In early 2006, Buffett & Company forwarded surveys to 3,417 employers across Canada. A total of 512 completed responses were returned by organizations who employ approximately 883,000 employees, representing a statistically significant response rate.

The survey report is being released in conjunction with Canada's Healthy Workplace Week (October 23 to 29, 2006) which is a celebration of workplace health in Canadian organizations.

About Buffett & Company Worksite Wellness Ltd.

Buffett & Company Worksite Wellness Ltd. is a leading Canadian consulting firm that specializes in worksite wellness and health promotion. Located in Whitby, Ontario, Buffett & Company has a network of professional associates throughout the country. Clients include major private sector corporations, large, medium, and small-sized public sector employers, unions and not-for-profits.
Buffett & Company Worksite Wellness Ltd. recently changed its name from Buffett Taylor & Associates. Buffett & Company was recognized as one of Canada's leading Healthy Workplace Organizations in 2005, by winning the National Quality Institute's Gold Award of Excellence Small Business - Healthy Workplace.

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