With a wellness strategy focused on complete employee health, Nav Canada was recognized with the Sanofi Canada Wellness Pioneer Award at Benefits Canada’s Workplace Benefits Awards in Toronto on Oct. 17.

The award is open to Canadian plan sponsors that have provided plan members with a wellness program for at least five years. It acknowledges an organization that’s developed innovative and effective health or wellness programs, demonstrating improved health outcomes for employees.

“I think [Nav Canada was nominated] because of all the things we’ve done in the wellness space, focusing on mental health and our peer programs in particular,” says Lyne Wilson, the organization’s assistant vice-president of talent management.

Read: Who are the winners of the 2019 Workplace Benefits Awards?

The air navigation services provider has more than 5,000 employees. Its air traffic controllers are in safety-sensitive positions, requiring an intense, two-year training period, but once they’re on-boarded, most employees stay with the organization for their whole careers. Therefore, investing in employee health made good sense from a business perspective, noted the award entry.

The organization’s peer support program includes critical incident stress management and chemical dependency education/rehabilitation programs — both of which have been in place for about 25 years. Further, it introduced a peer mentorship program called Thrive in 2012, followed by a mental-health peer support group, Light the Way, in 2016.

Light the Way trains volunteers who have lived through their own — or a loved one’s — mental-health challenge to provide confidential support to a fellow employee who’s struggling with similar issues.

According to Wilson, the program has been the most impactful when it comes to Nav Canada’s employees. “I think like most other organizations, we could see an increase in mental health,” she says. “So we just wanted to see how we could improve the workplace, how we could get people to come forward to ask for the support before they went off on sick leave. That was the drive behind the program.”

Read: York Region wins with multi-faceted, tech-savvy wellness strategy

The overall impact of these wellness initiatives on plan members has been measurable, with more than 500 peer volunteers in all programs, a reduction in health stigma, improved workplace wellness survey scores and increased employee engagement and connectedness.

Since the launch of Thrive and Light the Way, Nav Canada has also tracked exceedingly positive results, including a 20 per cent reduction in short- and long-term disability cases related to mental health, an increase from nine to 23 per cent in employee assistance program utilization and a turnover rate of 1.5 per cent. Further, employee use of psychological benefits has doubled and more than 20 per cent of employees have found support through Light the Way.

“Right now, we’re focusing on resiliency, mindfulness and the financial,” says Wilson. “There’s always more to do, but we’re continuing to focus on mental health. We continue to look at the total health of employees, looking at where we need to pay attention and putting initiatives and programs in place to address those areas.”

Read: Carleton University recognized as wellness pioneer for decade-long health programming

Copyright © 2019 Transcontinental Media G.P. Originally published on benefitscanada.com

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