Why workplace health clinics should be part of your wellness program
January 11, 2024
For business owners, plan sponsors and administrators
Organizations can use on-site health clinics as a keystone in their wellness programs and as a way to encourage employees to take a proactive approach to their health. Workplace health screenings can play an important role in helping your employees access routine medical care at a time that’s convenient to them, and it can also prevent work absences by decreasing the number of off-site health appointments.
In fact, workplace clinics have been an integral part of Manulife’s long-term support of its own employees.
“We feel that it's important to offer the screenings year-over-year so that participants can monitor their health status on a regular basis. That allows them to improve lifestyle behaviors and seek care from a health care professional for identified risks,” says Tina Wiskow, Manulife’s Director of Global Wellness.
Backlogs and delays
The Canadian Medical Association says the pandemic created backlogs in the healthcare system and many medical tests, screenings, and procedures were delayed or missed.1 With the system still catching up in many ways, and with many people currently without a primary care doctor, employers have the unique opportunity to connect their employees to the care they need.
“On-site workplace health clinics are designed to make health risk assessments convenient and accessible for employees. These assessments are intended to provide a snapshot of their general health. The goals are often to identify areas of concern and to facilitate positive changes in order to reduce the risk of common chronic conditions, such as diabetes,” says Dr. Steve Pomedli, of Cleveland Clinic Canada, Manulife’s Medical Director.
Our Health and Wellness team sees this when they support workplace health clinics.
“You don’t wake up and notice you have high cholesterol,” says Maarika Arget, Workplace Well-being Consultant at Manulife. “I’ve talked with employees who thought they were healthy, but their screening shows blood sugar concerns or high blood pressure. In the absence of a family physician and regular health check-ups, workplace clinics can help employees get the tests they need to understand where their health really stands.”
What should employers offer in a workplace clinic?
There are several different types of screenings and assessments that can be part of workplace clinics offered by vendors. Clinics should be tailored to the needs of the employer and the demographics of the employee population.
Cleveland Clinic Canada, Manulife’s Medical Director, notes that there are a range of screenings and assessments that employers might consider offering:
|Description and potential benefits
|Vital signs and measurements
|These typically include measurements like heart rate and blood pressure, height, and weight. This can be useful for detecting abnormalities like high blood pressure, for example.
|Blood samples can provide quick information, such as cholesterol and blood sugar levels, which can indicate risk for chronic conditions like cardiovascular disease or diabetes.
|Specific surveys around day-to-day habits such as sleep, stress levels, activity, nutrition, smoking, alcohol use can indicate areas where employees would benefit from further education, resources, or support.
|Mental health assessments
|Short questionnaires that assess emotional well-being can highlight concerning mental health-related symptoms and provide opportunities to connect with mental health supports, if needed.
|Cancer screening review
|Assessments can review recommended cancer screening tests based on individual factors such as risk level, age, etc.
|These are intended to review key vaccines that may be beneficial for employees, based on factors such as age or health status.
“For best results, management needs to take full ownership of the clinic and walk the talk,” says Arget. “This includes communicating with employees to endorse, promote, and encourage participation in the event, scheduling appointments, and having representatives from management or HR on site throughout the day of the clinic to greet participants, answer questions, liaise with the clinicians, and ensure a smooth-running operation.”
Arget adds, “It also means that team leaders need to be aware of the clinic and give employees time, space, and permission to step away from their regular work to take part in the clinic.”
Supporting employees beyond the workplace clinic
The results and insights employees get from a workplace clinic can motivate them to prioritize their health, but they may need additional support from the workplace as well as connections to other resources.
“Workplace clinics are just one part of an employee’s health journey. Employers should consider what follow-on and ongoing support looks like for their employees beyond the workplace clinic,” says Dr. Pomedli.
To start, employees might not know what’s available to them in their group benefits plan.
“We suggest that employers have benefits education resources on hand at the workplace clinic,” says Arget. “Screenings can spur employees to act on their health, so let them know if their benefits plan covers meeting with a dietitian or physiotherapist to help guide them. That’s why it’s important that employers plan workplace clinics into their broader wellness program strategy.”
In addition, during a workplace clinic, clinicians on hand may recommend follow-up with the employee’s family doctor for further assessment, monitoring, or testing. In the absence of a regular family doctor, employees can be directed to community clinics, virtual healthcare options, or other avenues to receive follow-up care.
Workplace clinics can also provide data employers can use to consider improvements to their wellness program and benefits plan offerings.
“We receive insightful aggregate results that include a high-level executive summary, engagement metrics, biometric measurements, demographic results, health status reporting, risk stratification, risk factor prioritization, participant feedback, and comparison to national norms,” says Wiskow.
As a leadership team, review aggregate data (if available) to understand your employee population’s needs. Ensure the benefits plan and other employee resources are addressing these areas of need. Keep these results in mind when planning or enhancing other initiatives to support a healthy workforce.
Building a culture of well-being
Adding workplace health clinics to your employee wellness program can add a tangible, visible, and easy-to-participate-in element to your organization’s overall wellness culture. It can also be used to complement other initiatives such as flu vaccination clinics, team wellness challenges, and other activities.
“We believe that offering health screenings demonstrates that we care about the wellbeing of our employees which drives employee engagement and we've seen correlating improvements in overall engagement results,” says Wiskow.
Getting leadership to rally behind workplace clinics (and your overall wellness program) can have benefits too. A Manulife survey of plan members finds that organizations in which leaders are perceived to participate in the culture of health also saw reduced absenteeism and presenteeism reported by their employees. The ‘top 3’ organizations in the survey had employees report an average of 39 days of productivity lost per employee, compared to 48 days of productivity lost per employees in ‘all other participating’ organizations.2
“Thankfully, employers have control over culture,” says Arget. “When senior managers show the health of their employees is important to the success of the organization, and when employees see those leaders making healthy lifestyle choices themselves, it creates an atmosphere that can in turn drive employees to engage in the wellness program.”
This engagement from leaders and employees can set the stage for even more successful workplace health clinics in the future.
“We've seen a significant increase in year-over-year participation of our workplace clinics,” says Wiskow. “We survey participants and nearly everyone reports that they would recommend the clinic to a colleague.3 Importantly, most participants who need to improve their health status report being motivated to do so because of the screenings.”
2 Manulife’s 2022 Wellness Report, results of an online survey of plan sponsors and their employees: 47 participating Manulife group sponsors and 4,921 employees responded to the surveys conducted in February, May, and October 2022.
3 Feedback received from members of Manulife Staff Plan, 2023