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SAP Canada Inc. is accelerating the expansion of virtual wellness offerings through its benefits package amid the coronavirus pandemic.

“The pandemic has essentially pressed fast-forward on a direction that the market was already going,” says Megan Smith, vice-president and head of human resources at the software company. “It forced the issue of remote work, causing employers to assess to what degree they’ll support hybrid work arrangements and everything connected to it, like benefits. It’s recognizing that not everyone wants to — or has to — return to the office full time, that the future of work is here and there’s a revolving and ever-changing way of operating. Benefits need to align with that.”

Read: Employers planning for post-pandemic future focusing on employee well-being, virtual health care

These enhanced wellness offerings include a telemedicine and physiotherapy services, app-based nutrition and fitness programs and cognitive behavioural therapy targeting sleep problems. SAP is also participating in a U.S. trial of Peloton’s new corporate wellness program, she says.

The key considerations when moving benefits to the virtual space are speed, accessibility, flexibility and a low barrier to use, says Smith. “We want to make benefits accessible [24 hours a day], because people work at different times. Also, no one wants to sit on hold, so it should be accessible online or as an app on their phone.”

Read: Half of Canadians increasing use of virtual health care amid pandemic: survey

And by considering all aspects of wellness — mental, physical and financial — in a holistic and preventative approach, Smith says SAP encourages employees to take proactive measures with their health, while reinforcing employer support and improving productivity.

“It’s important for employees to know their employer is invested in their holistic health. It demonstrates to the employee that their contribution comes with a support system we’ve put in place to make sure they’re successful. . . . Everything we do is to the benefit of the whole company — and if employees are at their best, we expect the company to be as well.”

Read: Paramedical benefits sector riding virtual health care wave