CAA honoured for wellness programs that include remote workers

With some employees in the office during traditional working hours, others on overnight shifts and some working remotely, CAA Club Group wants to ensure its wellness program is accessible to everyone. That dedication to all employee groups helped clinch the company’s win for the best health and wellness program for an employer with more than 1,000 staff at Benefits Canada’s 2017 Workplace Benefits Awards in Toronto last week.

Last year, employees in many CAA Club Group departments switched to working from home full-time, which gave them increased flexibility and a better opportunity for work-life balance. Currently, 15 per cent of staff work remotely, guiding members through car accidents, and their jobs can be stressful. So the company has developed several programs focused on employees’ mental health.

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“An employee who works at our Thornhill campus may participate in a wellness program in a different way than an employee who works from home or in a retail store,” says Mara Notarfonzo, director of human resources operations and total rewards at CAA Club Group. “For this reason, we need to deliver the same programs and content in unique ways that reflect different environments.”

So while on-site employees can attend yoga classes on campus, remote workers receive links to curated yoga lessons they can try on their own, participate in guided meditations via conference call, take stretch breaks during virtual team meetings and receive guidance on developing ergonomic home offices.

In terms of physical wellness, CAA Club Group has developed a program focusing on diabetes prevention and education: meetings with dieticians, grocery store tours with lessons on choosing healthier products, quizzes and live cooking demonstrations. To reach remote employees, the company shares resources on its intranet site.

When developing its wellness strategy, CAA Club Group examined its claims history to see if the general prevalence of diabetes is present among its employees as well. “The data showed us that drugs to treat diabetes have continued to be in the list of the top three most utilized among associates for the last several years,” says Notarfonzo. “This insight, along with broader trends, reinforced a need to develop programs focused on education and increasing associates’ physical activity.”

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The company also encourages physical activity by bringing in a fitness instructor three days a week, and wellness champions lead stretch breaks within their own departments. It also hosts step challenges — it offered a Fitbit subsidy to staff — as well as learn-to-run clinics and running groups. For remote workers, the running instructor sent out weekly emails with an outlined plan.

These programs motivated many employees to get moving: before the step challenge, just 28 per cent of participants met the daily recommended amount of physical activity. Afterwards, that number rose to 63 per cent. Among participating employees, 89 per cent felt the challenge positively affected their well-being and 87 per cent thought it strengthened the connection between colleagues.

And the results are making a difference to CAA Club Group’s bottom line as well. It has seen a 25 per cent decrease in the use of diabetes medications and a 24 per cent decrease in the cost of diabetes drugs. Furthermore, in the dispatch department, mental-health and short-term disability claims fell by 20 per cent, and sick days dropped by 40 per cent. About a quarter (24 per cent) of department employees also reported a reduction in stress; 27 per cent reported an increase in mood; and 19 per cent reported an increased awareness of their own personal health.

A full list of the 2017 Workplace Benefits Awards’ winners is available here. will feature more winners throughout the week.