The Ottawa Community Housing Corp. is continuing to see employee engagement in its health and wellness programs following its win in Benefits Canada’s 2022 Workplace Benefits Awards.

The organization’s flexible well-being strategy won in the Health/Wellness program category for employers with fewer than 1,000 employees. In 2021, the OCH added more flexibility to its wellness programs by overhauling its employee benefits programs, adding two virtual services at no cost to employees and enhancing its employee assistance program to make it possible for them to conveniently access a counsellor. It also added a peer support program, implemented a healthy living account and added three additional paid days off.

The win increased employees’ awareness of their health and wellness benefits and has led to higher utilization, says Michael Dimaano, the organization’s manager of total compensation and human resources policy. “I’m proud to say . . . employees are knowledgeable about the programs and are using [them] to find ways to keep [themselves] and their families healthy.”

Read: Ottawa Community Housing Corp. wins award for flexible employee well-being strategy

The benefits with the highest increased utilization are the healthy living account and employee discount programs, he adds. “We want employees to use these benefits for preventative care to help lower the effects of their stressors before they’re already at a point where they need to dive further into more acute care.”

The OCH has now turned its attention towards building ease of use and convenience into its employee well-being programs, including making it easier for employees to allocate funds within the healthy living account between wellness programs and their health-care spending account.

The organization also increased the frequency of its peer support group meetings to a bi-monthly schedule and changed the format to be more interactive. The meetings are critical to helping the organization’s frontline staff take care of their own mental health. “We invite our frontline employees to talk about stressful events . . . and . . . provide them with support by telling them about resources available to them,” says Dimaano, noting the importance of giving employees coping mechanisms.

“Whatever work we’re doing within Ottawa Community Housing, it’s not just impacting our employees, but also the tenants that we serve, so we have to make sure that our employees are well supported so they can do their jobs and help more people within our communities.”

Enter the 2023 Workplace Benefits Awards here. The deadline is June 30.