Employers tweaking health plans to appeal to millennials

TORONTO - During his three-year tenure as a financial analyst at one of Canada's biggest banks, Devon Wright never once used his company health plan.

See Full Article

"There was just nothing there that was of any interest to me," says Wright, 28.

So when Wright quit his job in 2012 to launch technology company Turnstyle Solutions, he decided to create a benefits package tailored to his needs.

Turnstyle is one example of how Canadian companies are tweaking their health plans in order to appeal to a new generation of employees in the coming years. PwC predicts that millennials - who it defined as people born between 1980 and 2000 - will comprise 50 per cent of the global workforce by 2020.

In addition to the standard drug and dental benefits, Turnstyle covers naturopathic medicine, mental health counselling and provides employees with a fitness subsidy that they can spend on anything from a gym membership to yoga classes to participation in a Frisbee league.

The Toronto-based startup also offers free, healthy meals several times a week - a major perk for 23-year-old Sam Hillman.

"Some mornings we have soup, or avocados and eggs," says Hillman, an account director with the company's sales team.

"This emphasis on living a healthy lifestyle really shows the company's commitment to me as a holistic individual, and not just a Turnstyle employee."

Life insurance companies such as Sun Life Financial and Manulife Financial say a growing number of employers have been looking to implement corporate wellness programs in recent years, partly in response to the desires of millennial workers.

Wellness programs include services such as smoking cessation, on-site flu shots and biometric screening, which measures characteristics including blood pressure, body mass index and cholesterol to track employee health.

Preventative health care has become increasingly popular as employers have come to realize how it can benefit not only the individual but the company. Healthy workers are more productive, miss fewer days of work due to illness and are less likely to request costly drugs later down the road.

"We're trying to respond to what millennials are looking for, but there are also benefits to the organization for doing these things," says Joy Sloane, a partner in the Toronto health and benefits consulting practice at human resources firm Morneau Shepell.

Insurers have also started using wearable fitness trackers and incentive programs that reward customers for practising healthy behaviours, such as undergoing annual checkups or regularly hitting the gym.

Manulife, which launched an incentive program south of the border last year, announced on Tuesday it will bring it to Canada this year.

Flexible plans, such as health spending accounts, are also on the rise as employers look to recruit and retain young workers.

"The millennial generation is looking for different things than their parents had in terms of benefits plans," says Lori Casselman, assistant vice-president of integrated health solutions at Sun Life Financial.

Millennials place a much greater priority on mental health services, such as counselling and support groups, than their predecessors did, according to insurers.

"Mental health is now recognized as being one of the key factors in absenteeism and lost productivity, as well as drug claims and long-term disability," says Lisa Callaghan, assistant vice-president of products for Manulife's group benefits division.

"Mental health not only impacts the individuals, but also impacts the team, the environment and the culture, and for those reasons it is becoming more culturally accepted to have those conversations."

While much of the change to corporate health plans is being fuelled by millennials entering the workforce, Sloane says it isn't just young workers who reap the rewards of such changes.

"Although it's being targeted at the millennials, I think it's really beneficial for the whole working population," she says.



Advertisements

Latest Economic News

  • Survey says Canadians prefer shopping in store compared with online

    Economic CTV News
    TORONTO -- A survey done for BMO Capital Markets suggests Canadians prefer shopping in store to ordering online. The bank asked Canadians if they would consider buying different products in five categories from Canadian Tire, Walmart or Dollarama. Source
  • Inflation rate rose to 1.6% in September, led by gasoline price hikes

    Economic CBC News
    Canada's inflation rate rose to 1.6 per cent in September, up from 1.4 per cent the previous month, as the costs of transportation and shelter went up. Clothes, shoes and furniture, meanwhile, got cheaper in the past year, Statistics Canada said. Source
  • Inflation accelerates to 1.6 per cent in September

    Economic CTV News
    OTTAWA -- Canadian consumer prices picked up their pace last month as the annual inflation rate moved up from very low levels and closer to the Bank of Canada's ideal target of two per cent, Statistics Canada said Friday. Source
  • NAFTA's demise just one potential trigger for a market crash: Don Pittis

    Economic CBC News
    As stock markets have continued their relentless rise, investors watch fearfully for something that could trigger a rush for the exits. Although the date fell on a Thursday this year, yesterday was the 30th anniversary of 1987's Black Monday, when markets plunged about 23 per cent in a single session. Source
  • Sears Canada debacle one more reason to avoid extended warranties

    Economic CBC News
    When Karen Dwyer renovated the kitchen in her St. John's home last year, she bought all new appliances from Sears and spent extra on an extended warranty for each one. "For us, with the three appliances — the dishwasher, fridge, and stove — the three-year warranty totalled about $800 dollars," she said. Source
  • How super are those pricey 'superfoods'? Marketplace puts 3 of them to the test

    Economic CBC News
    Coconut water, quinoa and chia have three things in common: they're popular, they're expensive and they're often marketed as ultra-healthy "superfoods." Marketplacerecently reviewed the labels of nearly 100 so-called superfood products as part of an investigation to see whether the trend is actually about better health or simply marketing hype. Source
  • 'Nobody was happy': Alberta coal town Grande Cache struggles with mine closure

    Economic CBC News
    For the past year and a half, Clancy Feller has watched his friends and former co-workers pack up their homes and seek new opportunities anywhere else. It's a tough move for those leaving the picturesque Rocky Mountain town of Grande Cache, Alta. Source
  • Google parent company investing US$1B in Lyft

    Economic CTV News
    SAN FRANCISCO -- Google’s parent company is throwing its financial support behind ride-hailing service Lyft, deepening its rift with market leader Uber. Alphabet Inc., which gets most of its money from Google’s digital ad network, is leading a $1 billion investment in Lyft that values the privately held company at $11 billion. Source
  • Asian stocks rise as speculation builds over next Federal Reserve boss

    Economic CTV News
    HONG KONG - Asian shares pushed higher on investor optimism over the global outlook despite uncertainties over the outcome of political events in China and Japan and speculation over Trump's choice for the next Fed chief. Source
  • Bombardier rail division president unfazed by global challenges it faces

    Economic CTV News
    MONTREAL -- None of the challenges facing Bombardier's railway business -- including the threat of lost streetcar contracts, a bribery investigation and a super-sized European rival -- will derail its plans to become a stronger, more profitable global competitor, division president Laurent Troger said Thursday. Source