When asked whether they’d take advantage of 13 possible wellness programs or policies, 41 per cent of employee respondents chose flexible working arrangements, the 2016 Sanofi Canada Healthcare Survey found.

Other benefits on respondents’ wellness wish lists included: discounts for off-site gym memberships or fitness classes (36 per cent); healthy foods and snacks (36 per cent); and flu shots at work (35 per cent), particularly in Atlantic Canada (49 per cent).

“Right now, most employees probably don’t view flexible work arrangements as an example of a wellness program,” said one of the report’s advisory board members, Serafina Morgia, senior consultant of health and group benefits at Willis Towers Watson.

“Employers can be more strategic about what they’re delivering and how they’re communicating it.”

Read: IWK Health Centre boosts wellness programs following 2015 award

According to the employers that responded to the survey, 38 per cent would address wellness through human resources policies and 36 per cent would implement more healthy personal work spaces. But for the most part, employers’ offerings tended to parallel member preferences, with 32 per cent focused on flexible work arrangements and 28 per cent planning to offer flu shots.

Employee respondents’ opinions on their current benefits tended to deem coverage of prescription drugs (94 per cent), basic dental services (93 per cent) and vision care (91 per cent) as very important. Their least valued benefits were employee assistance programs, which only 60 per cent considered to be very important.

Satisfaction with coverage of these favoured benefits mostly matched their importance ratings, with some notable exceptions. “Drug plans and basic dental coverage earn top marks,” said Barbara Martinez, practice leader for benefits solutions and group benefits at Great-West Life Assurance Co. and a member of the survey advisory board, during the survey’s launch event in Toronto on June 14. “But plan members and sponsors alike are less satisfied with vision and major dental coverage.”

In fact, the survey found only 35 per cent of members were satisfied with their current vision coverage and only 41 per cent were satisfied with their dental plan when it comes to major and orthodontic coverage.

Read: Understanding the costs of dental benefits

“Plan sponsors would like to create opportunities to engage in wellness that are more personal to employees,” said Anne Nicoll, vice-president of business development at Medavie Blue Cross and a member of the advisory board. “It’s about providing more choice and more tools for employees.”

How do the 2016 results compare to related questions five years ago?

Both the 2016 and the 2011 Sanofi surveys asked plan members to rate the overall quality of their health benefits plan. In 2016, the most highly rated components were prescription drugs (60 per cent), basic dental plans (53 per cent) and services from health-care professionals other than doctors (43 per cent).

The 2011 survey found employees in Atlantic Canada were the most satisfied (56 per cent) with the quality of their health plans, followed closely by those in Ontario (55 per cent). With a satisfaction level of 52 per cent, Quebec employees were the least satisfied.

Sanofi 2016 rating of plan componentsSanofi 2011 quality of health benefits

Read more findings from the 2016 Sanofi Canada Healthcare Survey