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Concern regarding those around them biggest issue for employees in returning to workplace

·7-min read

Three-quarters (72%) anxious about contracting COVID-19, with about one-in-eight (13%) extremely anxious

Pandemic impacts included weight gain (41%), increased feelings of anxiety, sadness/depression (34%) and increased alcohol consumption (15%)

Mental-health claims (49%) anticipated to be the biggest long-term pandemic impact on health benefits plans

Two-thirds (66%) reported feeling less connect to their organization and colleagues during the pandemic

TORONTO, Oct. 20, 2021 /CNW Telbec/ - According to the new 2021 Benefits Canada Healthcare Survey report, Where We Go From Here: Frontline views to help understand COVID-19's impact on health benefits, wellness supports and the work environment, released today, after more than a year of working from home, two-in-five Canadian employees with a workplace health benefits plan (aka plan members) report that their top concerns in returning to a physical workplace are others not following public health guidelines (42%) or the possibility of working or interacting with people who have not been vaccinated (38%).

2021 Benefits Canada Healthcare Survey (CNW Group/Benefits Canada)
2021 Benefits Canada Healthcare Survey (CNW Group/Benefits Canada)

This concern is understandable, given that close to three-quarters (72%) of plan members reported that over the pandemic they were anxious about personally or a family member contracting COVID-19. Thirteen per cent (13%) were extremely anxious, 22% were very anxious and 37% were somewhat anxious. Just under three-in-10 (29%) were not very or not at all anxious.

At the time of data collection in May 2021, uptake for vaccination was high among respondents. Close to nine-in-10 (89%) indicted they had already been vaccinated (71%) or would be as soon as they became eligible (19%), leaving just 11% who said they had made the choice not to be vaccinated (8%) or could not be vaccinated (3%).

The pandemic has had many negative impacts on Canadian employees which may result in longer-term impacts on both their physical and mental health and wellness; and subsequently impact their workplace health benefits programs. Two-in-five (41%) plan members report having gained weight over the course of the pandemic, while other wide-spread impacts include increased feelings of anxiety or sadness/depression (36%), decreased physical fitness (34%), poorer eating habits (31%), and increased trouble sleeping (29%). One-in-five (19%) reported a higher level of alcohol consumption (15%) and/or increased use of recreational drugs (7%).

While already high pre-pandemic, the level of personal stress over the course of the pandemic has increased significantly. The level of extreme or high daily stress has risen significantly (35%, up five points from January 2020), with some distinct changes in the causes. While the top stressors remain similar as in previous years, finances (36%, down three points) and workload (34%, unchanged), there is a definite pandemic impact with a significant increase in respondents citing personal relationships (31%, up eight points) and personal or family health concerns (including COVID) (31%, up nine points). Similarly, other stressors have declined year over year: interactions with people at work (20%, down seven points) and commuting to work (8% down eight points).

According to organization representatives with responsibility for group health benefits plans (aka plan sponsors), the longer-term impacts of the pandemic on their plans will be much more wide-spread than just claims directly associated with employees who have had COVID-19. The mental-health impacts from the pandemic and associated claims by their plan members (49%), and/or their dependants (36%) over the next five years are viewed as likely the larger longer-term costs to group health benefits. Other concerns include claims for serious diseases or chronic conditions such as diabetes, arthritis, cancer, obesity, etc., that may have been worsened due to delayed diagnoses and/or delayed treatments (33%) and claims for chronic conditions due to pandemic-related factors that may have helped cause or worsen the condition (e.g., lack of exercise, increased alcohol consumption, etc.) (29%). Just 19% cited the direct costs for employees that contracted COVID-19. Approximately one-quarter (23%) of plan sponsors report they don't foresee any long-term cost impacts to their health benefits plans.

Two-thirds (67%) of employees indicated that the actions taken by their organizations during the pandemic has resulted in an improved opinion of their organization. However, a similar proportion (66%) reported that over the last year they have felt less connected to their colleagues and firms.

These are just some of the findings of this year's Benefits Canada Healthcare Survey report entitled "Where we go from here: Frontline views to help understand COVID-19's impact on health benefits, wellness supports and the work environment".

ABOUT THE STUDY: The 2021 Benefits Canada Healthcare Survey checks in with plan members and plan sponsors more than a year into the COVID-19 pandemic, capturing their opinions and preferences around health benefits plans, personal health and the work environment. This year's report builds on more than 20 years of historical survey data from the Sanofi Canada Healthcare Survey research. To download the full report please go to:

This project would not have been possible without the generous support of our sponsors:

Diamond sponsors

"We are always looking to understand how we can deliver a personalized experience for plan members to make sure they can access the benefits to support them now and into the future — even more so now given the extent of how the needs of the workforce are changing in light of the pandemic. Insights from the 2021 Benefits Canada Healthcare Survey help guide our product development and provide valuable perspectives on customer needs and expectations." Loretta Kulchycki, senior vice-president, product, AI & digital strategy, Canada Life

"Based on the changes we have seen in our health care system as a result of COVID, the need for Nurse Case Managers and services like CAREpath is more acute than ever. The Benefits Canada Healthcare Survey allows us to better understand Canadians' health needs." — Christine Korczak, National director, corporate accounts and strategic partnerships, CAREpath

"At Desjardins, we take a holistic approach to wellness. We support plan members and give them proven prevention tools that help reduce health problems and absenteeism. We encourage them to make healthy lifestyle choices that promote good physical, mental and financial health. That's why we're delighted to sponsor the Benefits Canada Healthcare Survey. We believe that this kind of comprehensive health-care survey can help drive change and enhance industry standards in the best interests of our clients and their plan members. We hope you find the survey results interesting and helpful." — Denis Johnston, Group and Business Insurance Vice-President, Marketing, Ontario, Atlantic and Western Regions, Desjardins Insurance

"Now more than ever, research and data have become powerful tools in understanding the experience of benefits plan members, so we can continue to adapt and respond to their evolving needs. The Benefits Canada Healthcare Survey offers the latest trends to help drive informed decision-making, create efficiencies, and modernize benefit plans for today's realities. Blue Cross is a proud partner of this important study." — Alaina MacKenzie, Regional Vice-President, Business Development, Medavie Blue Cross

"At Sun Life, our purpose is to help Canadians live healthier lives. Our sponsorship of the Benefits Canada Healthcare Survey is one of the ways we do this. We firmly believe that these survey insights can help employers best support the health and productivity of their employees." Marie-Chantal Côté, Vice-President Market Development, Group Benefits, Sun Life

Platinum sponsors
Green Shield Canada
HealthSolutions by Shoppers
iA Financial Group
people corporation
RBC Insurance
Teledoc Health

Founding Sponsor
Sanofi Canada

Survey Methodology: The results are based on an online survey of a nationally representative sample of 1,000 primary holders of a workplace group health benefit plan conducted in May 2021. The questionnaire was developed by Contex Group/Benefits Canada and fielded by Ipsos on behalf of Contex Group using a random sample drawn from the 200,000+ members of the Ipsos Canadian i-Say Panel. The total results of a probability sample of this size would be considered accurate to within +/-3.1%, with 95% certainty of what they would have been had the entire population of Canadian plan members been polled. The data has been statistically weighted to ensure that the age, gender and regional composition of the sample reflect those of the adult working population according to the 2016 Census data. In addition, Contex Group and Maru/Blue fielded a separate online survey for Contex Group with 524 benefit plan sponsor decision-makers from across the country, from May 31 to June 30, 2021. The data was statistically weighted to accurately reflect the geographic distribution of business and business size according Industry Canada.

About Benefits Canada: Benefits Canada is the country's original and most influential pension and benefits publication for key decision-makers in Canadian workplaces. Senior finance executives, pension board trustees, benefits professionals, managers and industry specialists have turned to the magazine for more than 42 years to help them make informed decisions about their pension and benefits plans.

About Context Group: Contex Group is a Canadian leader in the creation of conferences, exhibitions and training, and a publisher of prestigious publications and websites, aimed at a variety of business audiences. The company, operates through several major brands, including Benefits Canada, Avantages, Les Affaires and Contech Bâtiment. Contex enables Canadian business leaders to realize their full potential through increased knowledge of their environment and providing networking opportunities within the many industries it serves.

SOURCE Benefits Canada


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