Image credit: Hartley Lin


The case for workplace wellness programs

A recent study led by McGill’s Steven Grover, MDCM’79, points to evidence that workplace wellness programs are a good investment for the companies that offer them to their employees

Story by Sylvain Comeau

July 2018

Workplace wellness programs are still in their infancy in Canada, but a recent McGill study points to evidence that they are a good investment for the companies that offer them to their employees.

“Most of the literature about these programs [comes from the U.S.], where the government offers financial incentives,” says Steven Grover, MDCM’79, a professor of medicine, and epidemiology and biostatistics. “We wanted to know how well they work in a country like Canada, where there is already a national health care system.”

Grover and his research team recently published a study in the Journal of Occupational and Experimental Medicine, examining the impact of such a wellness program at Merck Canada, a pharmaceutical company. The researchers monitored the program for a year and tracked the progress of the Merck staff who took part. The McGill team found notable improvements in blood pressure and sleep quality in the participants. Lower levels of stress and fatigue were also reported.

“The people who benefitted the most [were] the ones who participated the most,” says Grover. “That helps confirm a strong cause and effect.”

Grover hopes that more Canadian companies will launch wellness programs, noting that the costs per employee aren’t high – sometimes as little as $50 per employee per year.

“Companies are already spending a lot of money on employee assistance [programs] and health insurance. Those premiums are far greater than $50 per employee, and they pay for people once they get sick; they do little for prevention. Unless you’re investing in a wellness program, you’re not offering anything to make your employees healthier.”

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