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Fostering wellness at (remote) work

Many employees have spent the better part of the last year under tremendous stress as they deal with disruption to their normal routines while isolated from traditional support networks. 

To help local business owners support the well-being of their employees, OBJ and sponsor Meldrum Horne recently teamed up to explore new approaches to employee benefits and how they can increase employee health, productivity and retention.

This is an edited transcript of a discussion between Meldrum Horne partners Jamie Meldrum and Michael Horne and OBJ publisher Michael Curran. To hear the full interview, please watch the video above. Prefer an audio version of this podcast? Listen to it on SoundCloud or Spotify.

CURRAN: Why are employee assistance programs so essential for organizations? 

HORNE: Before the pandemic, if an employee had an issue, they could sit down and talk it through, but now people are isolated. Companies are now realizing their most important assets are their employees, so why not have a program in place that can support them in their time of need. That EAP program provides them access to counselling for stress, depression, bereavement, all sorts of issues that the employee shouldn’t be navigating on their own.

CURRAN: Many employers are used to setting and forgetting their benefits, but the plans have evolved quite a lot recently. Tell us about those, Jamie. 

MELDRUM: The cookie-cutter approach is no longer cutting it – employees want choice. What was traditionally reserved for companies with more than 500 employees can now be offered to companies with as few as five employees. Flex plans set a specific budget for an employee, and they can use a digital tool to choose what kind of benefits they want and how much coverage they want to pay for. This really makes employees feel like they’re being listened to and can go a long way to creating a stronger workforce. 

CURRAN: Let’s explore how employers can approach remuneration in a way that’s more tax-efficient and gets people engaged. Michael, how do these typically work?

HORNE: When we think about remuneration, most employers would approach this structure as a base income followed by cash bonuses based on jobs to be done or growth metrics. That would typically be paid out at the end of the year, and a lot of that money gets eaten up by taxes and other deductions. We want employers to take a fresh approach by providing a wellness account that employees can use to pay for things they need whether that’s gym equipment, sports gear for kids or even orthodontic treatment.