#010 – Workplace Wellbeing…A Personal Success Story and Cautionary Tale (with Special Guest Jim Trobec)


Jim’s Bonus Resources

Connect with Jim

Email: jim@carebenefits.ca

Website: carebenefits.ca


Podcast Transcript


Welcome to the Working Well Podcast. I’m Tim Borys CEO of FRESH! Wellness Group. This show explores the diverse aspects of workplace health and personal performance. On the Working Well Podcast we dive into the foundations of what makes wellness work in workplaces around the world. We connect with corporate leaders, executives, and industry experts who are helping make life more awesome at work and home.

Join us to learn workplace wellness, best practices, personal performance tips, and access resources to jumpstart your personal and corporate programs.


Jim is the Chief Operations Officer and senior consultant at Care Benefit Solutions. He is accountable for the execution and delivery of care’s brokering and consulting functions.

Jim and his team specialize in providing customized group insurance and retirement solutions for companies that want to optimize the cost benefit ratio of their employee benefits plans. His double bachelor of science degrees from the university of Calgary in actuarial science and pure mathematics, help them uncover new opportunity and value for his clients.

Jim also has an amazing story of his own health, fitness, and wellness journey and how it positively transformed his life.

So good to see you. And before we jump in, I like, it’s amazing too. You’re looking great. I want to say to everyone out there, Jim was a client with FRESH! On the fitness side of our business. And the experiences he’s going to tell you about really had a positive impact on the corporate side of the business as well.

So Jim, tell us a little bit about your story and when you came, how many years ago now was it that you came to see us? Where were you at that point?

Thanks, Tim. Yeah. Well, so I would say was really quite a journey when it started with FRESH! Was I would say July, August of 2017. So it’s been three for three and a half, four years now, since we sort of did that first connection and had our, you know, our fact-finding mission where we talked about where I am, you know, where I was starting, where I was going, all those kinds of things.

You know, I’ll say that my own personal fitness journey and the thing that I’ve been supported with from all my family’s friends, but FRESH! As well, especially from the fitness nutrition side, it started probably in early 2017. At that point I was extremely overweight. I weighed about 450 pounds at that time, which, I mean, I’m a tall guy. I’m 6’6, so. Pretty big frame, but not healthy at all. I was having so many problems with my health where you know, I felt weak and sick and lethargic all the time at a hard time, focusing felt unmotivated, realized I needed to change my life. Started, you know, a very aggressive weight loss plan.

After about six months of some success on my own, I wanted to leverage some experts and that’s when I came to FRESH! And, you know, we connected on the fitness and the nutrition side, which I think is so, so important. And since then I am down around 200 pounds you know, the pandemic being what it is a little bit up, a little bit down it’s something that I’m certainly, it’s an ongoing work in progress.

And I think that’s something that we’ve been talking about a lot since, you know, my time working with you and everything we’ve been doing since with, with both fitness and nutrition, that it’s not a one and done thing. It’s every single day, you have to think about it. You have to make it a part of your routine.

Absolutely. And you brought up a great point that the pandemics changes a lot of things for a lot of people. For most people. I would say one question I ask everyone is tell me a bit about how the pandemic has been positive for you.

Yeah, that’s a great question. I would say the positive of the pandemic for me has really been having to branch out from what I was doing before. In terms of my personal fitness, I was religiously going to the gym every morning. First thing I would do wake up quick stretch, head down to the gym, lift weights, a little cardio, whatever I was doing that day. And then I would kick shower, get to work. And it was just a part of my day. And when the gym’s closed, I, it was such a mix up for me.

What am I going to do? This has become such a key part of my routine. I have to make all these changes. I have to find different things to do, calisthenics, some running outdoor activities, biking, whatever it is, but I realized that. I was really in a rut and having that change up actually gave me a big impetus to start thinking, well, how else can I support my fitness and my health?

And, you know, just the, you know, the movement exercises and, you know, gaining flexibility over and above just, Hey, the regular weightlifting cardio routine that I was on for years, I would say two and a half years.

Excellent. And you were someone who was going the, and you’d made that change in your life.

And you’d seen tremendous benefits. 200 pounds down is amazing and that’s more than most people weigh.

So I lost a whole person.

Just about half the man you used to be. Right.

Yep. Exactly.

But so much more. With, tell me a little bit more about how you felt the impact about that. Cause you know, people listening are corporate executives, corporate leaders who are thinking about their own personal health and wellbeing, but back to how it impacted your, your ability to work in the past and now, oh yeah, absolutely.

And I mean, if you think about how I look and felt, I mean, it was just day and night, the before and after, certainly, but then you think about, well, how do you feel and how does your day to day activities change? It was also day and night that, you know my days used to be structured around, well, I would wake up feeling pretty crappy.

I would put in the minimum effort that I could and sort of, you know, get what I had to do. I would come home and I would struggle after that health change, after I started taking care of what I was doing to my body, the benefits you get for your mind, I would say are vastly outpacing the actual physical benefits that you get.

That, of course, it’s awesome to work out and get the fresh air and feel healthy and, you know, have a long, healthy life. But the ways that I gained mental clarity, the focus that I gained the stamina, not just when I’m talking about, you know, I can go for another 30 minutes on the elliptical. I’m talking, Hey, I’ve got a problem in front of me.

I am excited now to tackle it because I have all this energy and I want to direct it at solving problems getting things back to my client, making you know, really creative, cool things where you realize that when, when you’re in that sort of mind fog area where your physical health is really struggling, it really pulls you down mentally.

And you know, the depression, anxiety is something that I talk to my clients about all the time, the mental health pandemic that is COVID-19 over and above the physical health pandemic. It’s had so many impacts and so many things have changed, but at the same time, you’re still the same person. Right? You still have all these challenges, you have tools that you can use.

And how do you, how do you change what you’re doing to make your life better? Is is the thing that I’m always asking myself. And then how can I give that back to my clients too? And I think that’s really why we connected and why I’ve been talking to FRESH! Again for the personal fitness side.

Absolutely. And you, you said that it hit the nail on the head. When you said you trend, you had to transition the gym’s closed personally, you had to adapt companies or had to go through the same thing too. And those employees who had the support, the tools, the skills, the knowledge, and were able to adapt quicker.

Those companies are far ahead right now, compared to the ones that struggled and have struggled over the last year. And we’ve seen that so many industries have been upended so many businesses have had to redefine and recreate what they actually do and how they do it. And the companies that have the energy to tackle those problems are the employees at those companies that have the energy to tackle those problems are those that are able to provide the solutions.

And it doesn’t have to be always on the executives if we have a system in place. And that’s you come at it from a unique perspective in the sense that you’ve had the personal experience of going through that, but then that’s also your business. You’re, you’re in the, the benefits side. You’re, you’re providing access to resources and tools for companies that are able to help their employees on that. So talk a little bit about, about that. What what solutions are you putting in place now that maybe weren’t as popular or it didn’t even exist prior to the pandemic?

Yeah, it’s a great question. I would say that, you know, if I’m trying to identify one market trend, it’s, it’s impossible. The thing that my, my company and, and we are really trying to accomplish is you identify what is a problem for one specific.

You know, what, what is your problem? I don’t want to know what everybody’s problem is because I can’t solve everybody’s problems. What I can support an organization with, or what we can do is design a program that meets very specific needs. So the first thing is, well, how do you, how do you get at those problems?

You know, a lot of employers are saying, well, I don’t know what to do for my employees. We have people that say, I need more drug coverage. I’m concerned about, you know, what I’m paying at the pharmacy. I have others that say, well, we we’ve got a problem with absenteeism or presenteeism. How do we reduce that?

So every program has to be designed relative to that problem, relative specific to exactly what you have to an end goal in mind, whether that’s, Hey, we have disability is on the rise. People are really demotivated. They are so sick of the work at home. There’s feeling isolated. You know, sometimes it’s not even a program at all.

You know, I, I specialize in the group insurance space with. You know, your life, disability, health, and dental plans. But also sometimes you talk to a client, they say, you know what, we’re closing the office for two days in July. That’s, that’s a part of our wellness strategy. Now we’re saying, well, people have been working from home.

The line between home life and personal life is so blurred. Now we are trying to redefine that and saying, Hey everybody, we appreciate what you did. Don’t come in Thursday, Friday before the Canada day long weekend, whenever it ends up being this year and we’re just going to, Hey, we want to really appreciate what people are doing and not go so much further than just, Hey, you get two days off.

It shows that you’re invested in your people, that they care about. What’s going on, that they know, Hey, this company has my back. So I am ready to jump in. And I’m getting in that sort of same Headspace where I’m using this energy. And I am, I am so excited and motivated and it’s totally. Just, Hey, this is us supporting you.

And then the support comes right back from the employees as well.

Awesome. And how much of that comes back to the culture of an organization? It’s almost this catch 22 in the senses companies say, well, you have to have a great culture to be able to think that way. Are there ways that you’re able to help companies that maybe haven’t been doing as much of this in the past. What’s the change process they go through. I guess that is the question.

Yeah. And it’s a great question. That the hardest thing I think to, to really accomplish is how do I change my corporate culture? And I don’t think there’s one easy fix. And I think both you and I are working in that space with people will will say, well, what is it right now?

And it starts with fact-finding. Right. And okay, well, what’s the problems. Are you guys in person? Do you have operations still going out in the field? Are you all sort of more white collar working from home right now? Are you, what’s your return to work plan? And you say, well, how do you actually design around these challenges?

How do you actually Create a culture of openness and positivity and, you know, support yeah. Between employees as well. That the thing you don’t see, especially now with everybody being distanced and, you know, hopefully as vaccines rollout, more people are getting back to the office and can reconnect. I think this will see a reduced pack, but the isolation completely changed how people work with each other.

So if you want to change corporate culture, the thing you have to do is you have to say, this is what our goals are. You need everybody buying in from top to bottom of the organization. And everybody needs to be making concerted effort and it takes time and it takes energy. It doesn’t always necessarily takes money, but sometimes that helps too.

Yeah. I always say money is not essential, but it definitely speeds. The process absolutely allows you to buy speed, I guess you would say. Yeah, exactly. You’re, you’re absolutely correct that the plan has to be there. The strategy has to be there because so many companies I find are impatient or they’re, they’re just like, well, we want, we want to do this program because they hear that it’s popular.

We’re going to do a resilience program for employees. What resilience means a lot of different things. And there are a lot of components of it. Why resilience? Why now? What, what, what pieces of the puzzle are you putting in place? Who are you putting in place with? And those are questions. I don’t think a lot of companies are asking right now.

They’re just so focused on saying, we, we need to do resilience training. We need to do stress management. We need to do this. You know, we have to have a. Zoom cocktail Wednesday or something like that, but like, okay, well what, what’s the reason are people going to buy into that? And they might, if you have a plan and a strategy, but without that, you don’t know.

Yeah. I would say that the follow-through is so key that, you know, I’ve talked to lots of my clients over the last year that is saying, well, we have a problem with, you know isolation or we have a problem with incidence rates for disability. We’re seeing more and more of our people going on on short-term or long-term disability, whether that’s a mental health driven, whether it’s musculoskeletal, whether it’s any of the sort of common, top big indicators.

And we say, well, Changing disability results is a lot of it ties back to personal health. So how, how do you support the personal health of your employees and what elements of your program do you have today? All, well, I won’t say all, but I would say effectively all of the clients I work with will have some core group benefits offering where, Hey, we’ve got your drug coverage.

There’s some element of dental. There is some element of disability and life coverage. And you say, well, that’s a sponsorship that our company makes in your health and the health of your family, which is awesome. And that’s really important. But then you say, well, where are you weak and where are you strong until you say, well, I’m hearing feedback from staff that are saying.

Hey, I am really, really struggling with workloads, whether it’s increased or not. It’s because I feel I don’t have support. And you’re saying, well, now maybe we can identify, Hey, maybe it’s a campaign. Maybe it’s, it’s talking to each other. Maybe it’s assigning some sort of mental health resource or mental health partner in an organization to say, let’s just talk to each other.

Right? There’s so many different things that you can do. There’s so many different ways that you can approach these problems. The trick is once you put it in place, you can’t step away. You have to stay on top of it. You have to be involved and you have to, like I say, buy in from the top to the bottom of the organization.

Cause if, if staff don’t see, Hey, My CEO, CFO, COO, whoever is engaging with this approach, what or why should I, you know, there there’s, this is some, you know, on the face value offering that they’re throwing out there to assuage a problem. No, if you don’t buy into it, your staff will buy into it either. Yeah, absolutely.

I agree. Preaching to the converted here. When one thing that’s something I’ve seen and I’d love to hear your thoughts on it. But how many companies are actually looking at leading indicators instead of lagging indicators of the, you know, you mentioned about the disability rates and things like that.

Those are all lagging indicators. Whereas things like paramedical use would, I hope be a leading indicator, but a lot of companies are upset when there are medical use goes up. And we say this to companies all the time is, Hey, when we start a program or a campaign, you’re probably going to see a bump in use of paramedical because people are taking care of themselves.

That’s going to have a positive downstream effect. But w w what, what other leading indicators are companies looking at? Yeah. You know, it’s, it’s very interesting. I would say that when it comes to the actual data and plan results, what employers are looking at and how they are adjusting plans and entitlements and compensation models, most of the time, you know, and unfortunately it’s coming down to budget and costs that that is the real driver right now.

And there are. You know, in, in the insurance industry it’s risk it’s in risk as volatility and volatility turns into price volatility. So having some flexibility there is, is very key. And, you know, over the course of the pandemic, of course, revenue’s down. Very challenging environment in, in the business sector, low interest rates volatile commodity prices, you name it it’s, it was a challenging year.

You know, and, and I wouldn’t expect that we’re, you know, once we’re back in the office, these challenges go away, right? These are problems we have to solve. And I would say, in fact, the majority of benefit plan offerings are designed via benchmarks. So it’s not defined by what your employees need and what your company values.

It’s driven by what are my competitors doing? Which from a compensation model might be valuable for attracting key people, but it’s not getting at what are our problems? Where do we want to direct these funds? This time, these hard and soft costs that we’re absorbing into developing ultimately higher productivity, right?

That that’s the whole, that’s the whole goal of any. Benefits program is we have to generate a return on investment and it’s not just for the company. It’s for the people too. We need, we need the health of our people to improve. And we want to invest in our people in our people’s health, because that’s how our company grows.

One person can’t do it. It’s a group effort, well said. Yeah. And you’re, you’re a numbers and math guys. So you, you understand that inherently? Some, one of the ways I look at it is it’s like the, almost like the stock market, when things are down, a lot of companies, a lot of people will pull their money out and sort of at their losses, I guess you would say.

And I see a lot of companies doing that now. They’re, they’re cutting, you know, they’re putting some health programs in place, but they’re, they’re really cutting in areas that. Really might be a short term pain to keep offering, but long-term, you’re going to see such a huge benefit because absolutely you’re investing.

It’s, it’s an investment in your people over the longer term. And a great quote is a CFO says to the CEO, what if we invest in our people and they leave and he’s like, well, the CEO says, well, what if we don’t? And they stay. Exactly. Yeah, exactly. That’s exactly it. Yeah. And, and that’s, and that’s really an easy way to get buy-in from staff that, you know, speaking as someone that.

I used to not take my health seriously at all. You know, and I wouldn’t say it was necessarily one thing that drove it. Mental health was a problem for me. And that’s the thing I had to confront first. And, you know, before I could challenge my physical health, I had to get, you know, why do I want to do this?

Why, why am I at this point in my life? Why am I like this? Whereas if you’re saying to employees, Hey, I really want your productivity to go up. Can everybody work a little harder? You’re going to have a hard time getting results. But if you’re saying, Hey, we’re doing this wellness program that we have very specifically designed based on your feedback and we’re rolling it out to everybody and we want you to be healthier.

And Hey, whether you say or not, we want you to be healthier because we think that’s good for productivity or revenues or sales, whatever your key measurement criteria are. People want to be healthier, it’s better for everybody. And generating those. Everybody wins scenarios is so important and it’s, it’s difficult and it takes time.

And that’s the thing for wellness that there’s no quick fix. It takes thought. And like you say, strategy and planning and long-term vision as well as short-term. And what happens in between those two? What happens a year from now? If we’re worried about what happens 10 years from now? Sure. Yeah. And we saw that with clients all the time and to try and set those expectations is, you know, they, they start a program and we can see some short term wins in very, in like targeted programs.

But if we look at the bigger picture of performance often say the first year is just. You know, getting the pieces on the, on the board and putting the plan in place and sorta getting, getting people in the organization to know like, and trust the programs and strategy you’ve developed. And then wheels really start to gain some traction in year two.

And by year three, things are really rolling and you’re seeing tangible are benefits that are, you know, the numbers changing the profitability, the performance of your people, but. Yeah, it’s not something that’s going to happen in a month or six weeks and even the Porter. And like you say, when you’re talking about those long-term results, what has happened there is you’ve changed the culture and the culture has changed as a result of all that work you do.

So it’s a huge investment, but it’s a very worthwhile investment. If you think how competitive the marketplace is right now for everyone, there’s no one that has an easy business right now. You know, there’s no one that has an easy income stream. Every everything’s a fight, everything’s a challenge. And you have to be, I found for my business and for my client’s businesses, we have all had to be more creative and more flexible and ready to pivot than we ever have been going back to what you’d said at the beginning, without personal health and wellness, that’s a lot tougher to do.

Absolutely. Or you can only do it for a certain amount of time before you burn out. Absolutely. A hundred percent. Yeah. I guess what my thought now is, what do you see in. These pandemic changes have been very rapid. What do you see as lasting over the next few years? Yeah, I mean, working my clients primarily in the HR sort of HR director, HR manager, sometimes it’s CFO, depending on the size of the organization, how they’re structured.

I would say certainly flexible work is here to stay, you know, we’re, we’ve been hearing that from a lot of people and whenever I talked to a client, they say, oh yeah, we’re putting together a return to work plan. How, you know, we’re thinking about how things are going to look in the next six months, the next year.

And I say, well, what are you doing? And almost everybody’s saying, well, We’ll probably still have desks and we’ll probably still have days where we want people in the office, but we’ve figured out that, Hey, we don’t need to be there all the time that the business kept running over the last year. Whether, you know, whether in some or reduced capacity or with some change in operations, however, however, the pandemic change any one individual business, but flexible work is, is here to stay.

People are going to be blending that home homeworking space with the office working space. And I would say for the actual benefit programs themselves, similarly, a lot of interest in flex, a flexible benefit programs where over the course of the pandemic, you have discussions with people where you realize, Hey, we have a huge generational split of staff staff.

We have. Gen Z. We have millennials, we have gen X, we have, we have the baby boomers. They’re all here. They all have different health needs and they’re all targeting different outcomes from this health plan. So we need to have something that has universal appeal, but individual results. And sometimes it’s actually not as hard as you think that flexibility doesn’t mean you have to have some giant plot form with 20 different selections.

You just need to give people access points along the way to think, oh, I can make a decision here, or I can use this money in a certain way, or, Hey, this is how my program works for me and making sure the communication is there. For sure. Yeah. And that’s a great point. Is the, I think we’ve talked about it on other podcasts as well as it, one of the key challenges companies face is this plain vanilla offering that is trying to appeal to everyone and.

The gen Z and the baby boomer are, they have different needs. So if you try and make it generic, it doesn’t attract anyone. Absolutely. And that’s where that strategy comes in is companies need to understand, Hey that’s, if I’ve got more of a pain point in this area, I’m going to focus more resources on that.

Absolutely. That’s okay. As long as it’s communicated to people, it works fine. And that’s, that’s just part of business and strategy, but I don’t think that conversation is happening as much. Yeah. And I think, you know, when it was interesting when we were bringing it back to my personal health a little bit I sort of hit this plateau and I thought I had learned all these great tools from, you know, my coaching from you and from other members at fresh.

And I said, okay, I’m going to take it on my own. From this point, I’m going to build my own workouts. I’m going to keep my own routines. And when the pandemic hit at that point, I was actually thinking about, oh, maybe I’ll get some more training because I want to take it to the next level. I want to get into more challenges.

As I want to push myself, the gym’s closed, we got a mix up. And so I sort of spent the last year on my own, trying to do what I could. What I found was I spent the entire last year injured. I ended up putting on weight that I didn’t intend to. I ended up losing muscle mass in places where I was really trying to avoid that.

And it had some, you know, my, my self worth, my self image suffered as a result of that. And I realized there wasn’t any reason I could have engaged for that support and training during the pandemic. It’s just because it felt so different. It didn’t feel like I was getting the same thing, but you realize that, Hey, the way that we work with each other, the way that we communicate, the way that we’re, you know, our, our health has, has sort of developed relative to our new challenges.

We’re all still people, it’s all the same stuff. You still need to think about how your personal health works and bring it back to a company. If you were a leader in an organization and you, you need to drive results and you need to, you know, you have very aggressive targets, whatever it is, If you don’t have people that are super motivated, excited to be there, lots of energy you know, that have that fresh, clear mind for creativity and, and sort of that exciting dynamic workspace.

You’re going to be really challenged to get really good results because your people drive results. It’s not one person it’s a whole business, and you’ve alluded to it a little bit already, but the companies that are successful at making that, that transition and not going into bunker mode and just closing off, what’s the, what’s the difference between the companies that succeed and those that struggle, you know, I would say the big difference is, and I’ll say all my clients have made are really well throughout the pandemic.

Lots of great successes. The ones that sort of are a little bit more worried about. Hey, cost containment and cutting, and we need to worry about the dollars that’s coming. A lot of the time from. Just the structure of the pandemic or, you know, the industry specific, I would say the biggest success indicator is actually coming from how often you’re talking to your people.

And how often are you having these conversations? You know, I would say most of the major projects that we kick off where w whether it’s a redesign of an existing program, whether it’s a market test of, you know an entire retirement and benefits solution, you know, however, you’re measuring your total compensation.

If you’re staying in touch with your people, managers, if you’re staying in touch with the actual individuals that are driving your business results, you’re going to have a much better opportunity of keeping that dynamism and being able to pivot when you have to that, Hey, once you come out of the first year and you say nobody’s using our spending account credits everybody, you know, the paramedicals were close for a lot of last year or limited capacity.

So we just didn’t see that money get used. So we’ve got the pot of money sitting here. What are we going to do with it? Well, there’s a hundred different things you can do with it, but whatever you want to do with it is secondary with what your staff wants. And that’s the thing that I keep bringing it back to is if you don’t know the health needs of your employees and their families, because that’s a big indicator for, for wellness, as well as the health of your spouse, the health of your children any challenges they face, and then the challenges faced by working from home or, Hey, how do I allocate my time between business?

And, you know, if you have kids right now dealing with the homeschooling and all that other different challenges that have been thrown at you, if you’re hearing from your people, I cannot do nine to five every day. I have to keep taking breaks. I have to keep thinking, bring out how I’m going to get the lesson moved along on the, you know, for my for my son, I have to take care of an elderly parent who is an S who is living with me because of the pandemic now.

And. Figuring out, well, what you didn’t really need was another benefit or spending account. You need to adjust your flexible credit out, or you need to adjust your flexible working out occasion. So, Hey, we need 40 hours from you this week. When, when do you have to do it, do it when you have to and set the expectations, this is what we’re looking for.

This is the expectation, but we are supporting you with what your life demands and having the overall total compensation structure, whether it’s a benefits plan or not adjust to meet that approach. I love that. Yeah. And a lot of companies think of this term wellness is, you know, well, it’s called the industry that we’re both in, but sure.

But wellness is so multifaceted and most companies just think of wellness as this like, oh, okay. I’ve done it. Check off the box. I’ve got my benefits plan. I’ve got this. We have resources. But yeah, w are people using them and are they flexible enough to meet the needs? And is the company looking at all of those things that can impact wellness?

And communication’s a huge one of them the, the standing, what your teams are going through that, that boomer compared to the gen Z versus the millennial and the gen X are they’re experiencing the pandemic in a different way. And that is having a massive impact on their health, wellbeing, and performance.

Absolutely. When we can understand that leaders in the organization can understand that and are able to take that information back to their, their, their leadership and say, Hey, here’s some changes we need, we need to make. That’s powerful, absolutely. A hundred percent. And that’s the thing when it comes to flexibility, flexibility.

Well, the definition is flexible. It means a lot of different things. And depending how many employees you have, whether it’s five, whether it’s a hundred, whether it’s a thousand, a flexible offering is all it means is the offering changes to meet your needs. Best where people, people have their own inputs.

That’s it, it doesn’t have to be super huge and complex. It can be a single choice. It can be an opt-in or an opt-out. If there’s lots of different ways to structure a plan to fit your staff. But again, it all comes back. If you don’t know what the needs are, you’ll never be able to meet them appropriately.

Awesome. Yeah, well said and the, the different are there new options being offered right now on the, on the. Benefits wellness. Yeah, side. Yeah. I would say it’s actually a very dynamic, interesting time to be working in the benefits consulting space that we have seen an explosion of vendors in the last couple of years for really coming out for market niche, specialty providers.

You know, there are providers out there that will specifically help you with sleep, just sleep. If you have people struggling with sleep, there are, you know, the telemedicine, boom. I would say the, the virtual access to doctors and nurse practitioners started a few years ago, but as the pandemic started and as doctors clinics closed doors closed suddenly there was interest everywhere.

And actually now the majority, well maybe not the majority, a good portion of the insurers of Canadian insurers will mandate telemedicine as a part of your plan. They’ll say, Hey, under a certain size specialty, You have telemedicine. Now it’s a part of our platform. We bought someone or we have a partnership and we have this great rate and now you get it too.

So I would say that the technology is always developing and the niche offerings are really very interesting that, you know, if, if there’s a specific problem and I remember really, really specific, you know, whether it’s, Hey, we are concerned about you know, the cancer outcomes for our people. There’s a benefit for that.

You know, there’s, there’s so many different things out there, whereas, Hey, it, it comes back to what is the problem? What is the solution? It takes time to connect those two at this point. It really does because there are so many vendors out there. There is so much entrepreneurial-ism I would say, or in the, in the overall health and wellness space that it’s all the time Calgary example had varsity.

Yeah, really awesome. Calgary founded and you know, really being rolled out in a lot of different workplaces right now. And that’s all about just developing mental resiliency and sort of that meditative sort of mentally stronger mindset is how I typically, so talk to me a little bit about that.

You, you you’re exactly right. There is so many niche providers and two questions first. How, how does the company choose and how do they know? What’s good. What’s not, and the second part of that is what’s the feedback from employees on oh, another app. Oh, absolutely. And, and I would say that those are two things that are it’s, it’s going to vary so much based on the industry.

You know, if you’re talking to someone that’s working, let’s say heavy industry steel mill, Whatever their health challenges are relative to an accounting firm. They might end up being overlapping in the way that Hey, people are really insecure or they’re having a hard time with mental resilience. The blending of home life and work life has been a real struggle.

The way that you choose between programs I think is based on, well, certainly costs, you know, in, in the nature of the market cost is always going to be a consideration. And these are typically provided on subscription models. So you’re paying a flat dollar charge per employee per month, depending on the vendor and the solution.

How do you compare and figure out the best fit that really comes down to these vendors, having, you know, really succinct, good pitches that, you know, recently I put together some materials, some considerations for client who said, we want to expand our mental health offering. We’re considered, we’re concerned about.

What we’re supporting our staff with mental health. And we say, well, here’s, here’s five options. I’m not saying I want you to choose from these. I want you to sort of sit here as I talk you through them and how it all works. And then I want you to tell me, what is your impression of that product and how do you think your people would take to it?

Because you’re the second point you mentioned is absolutely correct that, Hey, you can buy the best wellness app out there. You can spend a ton of money on it. You could get a developer to make your own. You can have all these things you put into it, but if people think I’m good on apps, I’m sick of going on my phone and typing something in to that reminds me to stand up and go for a walk.

Or that tells me, Hey, do a little meditation. Well then it’s not going to be effective. Right? It’s about figuring out the right path to get people, to actually engage. And communications is a huge part of that. And I would say a lot of these vendors now are coming and saying, we’ll actually help you with the communication campaign will be involved for the rollout and the implementation.

And we’ll give you the feedback and we’ll sort of hold your hand through the entire process. So by the end of it, you actually have a suite of data metrics that you can use to measure how many people are actually using this thing. What is the uptake? What is the positive feedback? What is the negative feedback?

And then that lets you tweak it two years from now, whether it’s a new vendor, whether it’s a different program, whether it’s the same vendor, it’s all variable and flexing. And that again comes back to culture change. It takes if. I’ve seen so many organizations that have all the pieces in place, but zero are very low utilization rates because the communication’s not there.

It’s not part of the company culture that this is okay to use, or it’s not part of the company culture that they promote that, that use. And Hey, take care of yourself in meetings when little info sessions around that, all of these little pieces of the puzzle for the rollout and the, and the continued reminders, because.

Think of the employee onboarding plan or people that you get at a company it’s this like stack of folder of information, or now it’s a PDF probably that gets sent out and access to a internal drive somewhere where it’s like, Hey, here’s your benefits plan information. Here’s all the stuff you get.

Here’s your RSP info. Here’s this here’s that here you have access to best doctors and you have this and this app and adversity and all the different things that are out there. And then people are like, And I’m trying to learn my new job. Exactly, exactly. And it’s just, well, you know what? I’m going to take this stack of papers.

I’m going to put it over here. And when I have a health problem, I’ll pick it up and read through. But until then, I’m just not going to use it. Whereas the message that we want our clients to say is here’s your benefits package. It’s awesome. It is going to help you with so many things. We really want use it to support your health and to feel dynamically like this is here to support you.

And then you don’t realize, well, maybe you’re spending a thousand dollars on chiropractic and massage claims, but that person now is not going on to disability three years from now the return on investment, hard to measure, but it certainly exists. And you see, Hey, whenever I see a client that has had a jump in psychology in psychology claims, whether it’s social work therapy, psychotherapy, counseling, C ICBT, whatever it is.

Whenever I see that number go up, I say, that’s exactly what we want. We always want to see that number going up because we want on as many people engaging with their regular mental health and wellness as they absolutely can. Yeah. And going back again to your mathematics degree in actuarial science, it’s like you’re numbers driven.

So what types of numbers should companies be following and looking at? Yeah, and I would say that really. The goal is going to be relative to the size of your organization. Certainly. So how much of your overall spend is on benefits? Typically? You know, you’re going to have your health and dental plan.

We’ll usually run you between 50 to 70% of your benefits costs depending on what you have in there. And what is, I would say the thing that you really want to see is high repeated incidents on, on anything to do with mental health. So whether that’s your employee, family assistance program for short term counseling, whether that’s your specific psychology claims under an extended health benefit, or whether it’s through sort of a special duty out of scope out of your traditional scope provider, you just want to see people going back year and urine year that a one-time spike is good.

And maybe you sent out. You know, a quick announcement to staff and said, Hey, make sure you’re supporting yourself. These are the tools we have. This is the toolbox. You use it. Please use it. If you’re not having that message repeated at your supervisor manager level saying, guys, we mentioned this all the time, take care of, take care of yourself.

That is the most important thing and take care of your mental health, because it’s not something you can measure with numbers. Like I can add with my personal health when it comes to, you know, I love my spreadsheets for weight and body fat percentages and how hydrated am I right. Doing? And you know, am I getting the right one of my neck macronutrient mix in one day that if I had those metrics for my brain, I would love, I would love to look at them all the time and I’d be looking at every single day, but I can’t, I have to measure it myself.

And I have to say, Hey, what we want is repeated use of these services. And that’s what is gonna drive the long-term return on investment for these wellness programs is. You’re going to have less disabilities. You’re going to have less stress leaves. You’re going to have more incentive for people to join your organization because all of your really healthy, happy people are going to tell people I worked for this awesome company.

They have this amazing package. I’ve never felt so healthy, so engaged, so excited to come to work every day. And I know that I’ve got a team behind me that has my back every step of the way. And that’s the sort of unseen thing that reducing turnover, such a huge expense, that if you save one out of every a hundred people of your company from turning over a year, you’ve actually made a gigantic.

Retention bonus for yourself because you don’t have to worry about what is, how much is the hiring process called? How much does the training process cost? How much does the sort of damage control cost, if someone, it leaves in a key position. And now you’re worried about a part of your business being impacted that, Hey, if you’re focusing on keeping everybody healthy and happy, they’re going to stay excellent.

And that’s the why you nailed it there with the missing piece is the connection between I call it the transmission of the, of the business is you’ve got the engine that’s driving in the wheels that are supposed to take you somewhere, but something has to connect those two and people have the benefits plan and there are people, but nothing to connect the benefits plan and the people.

So there are the people are using it. So, yeah, like you said, you want to see those spikes in usage when a message goes out, which. When the message goes out from a communication standpoint, what’s the message saying if it’s just one line with a hyperlink at the end of the page email, it’s not going to get there, but what, what unique and creative ways are companies using to get the information out there and to make it engaging?

One conversation I’ve had lots with people is the, the dull, boring nature of most of the resources that are available on health and wellness and people are just, they’re just not interested in reading it or because it’s some pamphlet on the, you know, the it’s not used to be the food pyramid. It’s not the food pyramid anymore, but like healthy eating and nutrition that I learned in high school.

Yeah. Yeah. It’s not interesting to me or, oh, you should exercise more. Yeah, there’s something I don’t know. What’s engaging about it. I was the boomer to the gen Z or what, how are you connecting it to them? What campaigns are you rolling out? That’s that’s the missing piece for, I’d say the majority of companies that we see, and I don’t know what you, what you’d say.

Yeah, yeah. I would say absolutely. And I mean, a lot of it does come down to how much time does your team have to spend on this things? And we mentioned, Hey, it’s awesome to have this. You get an awesome return on investment. When you invest in wellness, though, the challenge is how do you find the time and how do you have your leaders support this thing?

So I would say, you know, just like there’s all these different generations of people that you have working. You also have all these different kinds of preferences for how information is received. So I would say. Is an email. Good, sure. Is a pamphlet sent to people’s homes. Good, sure. Is a webinar. Good? Sure.

It’s a little prerecorded video. Good. Sure. What’s best as all of them, because in that case, what you don’t know is how are people going to react to this message? I personally, like you mentioned, I’m sort of a very technical numbers guy. I get very much into, you know, I would say that the number one thing I’m dealing with from day to day is, you know, the, the numbers, the rates, the costs, the expenses.

So I will typically prefer an email myself, but you know, when we launch these things out, what we find is if we’re doing a total communications campaign where, Hey, here’s an email. And also we have flyers going to people’s homes. So the email is directed at the employees. The flyers are effectively directed the employees, families.

So everybody in a family unit is there, someone might read their email and they might not say to your partner or kids, Hey guys, you know, we have this offering we’ll run a Q and a, a webinar where people can jump on, you know, hopefully we can get back to doing that in person sometimes. So I was always loved those sort of direct to staff meetings because you get so much, so much more out of them.

And sometimes you might say, Hey, here’s just a quick prerecorded video with our COO, our CEO and our HR director sort of championing this. And then if you’re sending this all out, Whether, and you know, you’re not sending it out on the same day, right? You’re you’re a little drip of information. People are, oh, here’s something on the benefits plan.

Oh, here’s something on a change. Oh, here’s something that was sent to my home. Okay. I’m gonna take a step back. I’m gonna look at this. Oh, there’s a webinar. Awesome. I have questions now and I’m gonna go and be involved with it. It comes back to back to time and sort of energy expended on how these, on how these changes want to go, that, bringing it back to culture.

If you want to have that, that follow through, you need to be the one following through. And, and, and I need to be the one following through with you as well. Clients that if you want benefits to be out of sight out of mind, that’s what some employers like to do. We have a benefits plan. We offer it. That is a part of our core offering, but we’re not spending a ton of time on it because we it’s just a pillar for us.

Whereas some companies will say, let’s design this thing. Let’s have a three month campaign for communications and then let’s follow it up. With a check-in six months from now. And it’s just about how are you going to structure that? When do you have downtime and one of your people going to have time to listen, you know, there’s no point doing that at your absolute busiest point.

Absolutely. Yeah. And the, like the small to mid-sized companies that may not have dedicated people to roll that out. That’s a huge issue. And I think a lot of the reasons that balls get dropped on, on these types of rollouts is that, Hey, we’ve got it in place. And our HR person is trying to, you know, run it off the side of their desk and they’re doing the best job they can.

And they might be passionate about it, but there’s only so many hours in the day and they have a real job to do as well. And that’s where companies like yours are. It’s companies use subcontractors all the time. It’s like, man, we’re coming in to help roll something out and we’re going to structure it to your needs as an organization.

But let us do the heavy lifting and that’s. Yeah. And yeah, that’s exactly how I pose it to clients that, Hey, we have, well, we have a lot going on right now is redesigns where, Hey, it’s been five, 10 years. We haven’t looked at this. We’re thinking about it. Now we’ve got a good set of guiding principles or philosophy, whatever you want to call it on what we want to offer and how we want to support our people.

We just don’t know how to get there. And I say, awesome. Let’s jump in. Let me help make you a strategy and a plan. And we can think about how this is going to look over the next year now. You’re absolutely right. That size matters. And it really, and that’s where it comes to tailoring the right fit of, you know, what is flexibility?

What is supporting your employees that sometimes, like I say, it might just be a couple extra days off where if you’re a small business owner and you have five staff and one person you’re your most key performance driver is killing. It just brought in so much business, done an amazing job, kept your customers so happy, whatever your measurement criteria is.

Talk to them. Hey, I want to give you three days off. Thank you so much for what you’ve done. I really want to recognize you sometimes just having that talk goes so much farther than, Hey, here’s a check or whatever it is, you know, and maybe sometimes the check is what they want, who knows, you know, but the, the size and scope matters and you can design anything.

You want the idea that you have to be constrained by what your competitors do. It’s just not the case. You are the one that defines how you reward your people and the total compensation, what we’ll call the rewards that you give your staff for their performance. It has to reflect results and it has to drive them to feel excited to work as well, because that’s the thing that we’re running into with.

Depression and anxiety in the market in, you know, just from the pandemic from this last year of being stuck inside is how do you motivate people? It’s really hard and benefits are absolutely a part of that. And culture is a part of that. And your reward structure is a part of that, but it all has to tie together.

It has to be comprehensive and it has to be overlapping and strategy. Awesome. And I think that was just that last phrase would pretty good summary of, you know, the, Hey, the checklist for, for what companies need to do to be successful in their, their business, but also from a wellness standpoint.

Absolutely. Yeah. So any, I know we could have forever, but let’s, we’ll work to wrap it up a little bit and we can always reconnect another time if we need to what Any extra stuff that you feel hasn’t been covered, that you want to make sure that, Hey, companies need to understand this. And this is something that’s extremely valuable that you’ve seen with your clients.

You know, I would say, I know I’ve mentioned a few times, but if I’m doing a very, you know, I’m, I’m doing a very comprehensive piece of work for a client, whether it’s related to an existing plan or a new one, I’m always going to suggest, Hey, it starts with the survey. And the reason it starts with the survey is you need data that a lot of employers and a lot of executives and HR directors think.

Oh, we know what our problem is. Sometimes you do an employee survey and people will give you feedback that I love our plan. Our plan is awesome. It has all these features that I really, really like. And you’re about, I was just about to say, here are all the things we can change for you. And here’s all the things we can do differently.

And then you pump the brakes and say, this is actually not needed at all. So I would say, start with it always has to start with data. However, you get that feedback, whether it’s me supporting you with an explicit survey for your staff, whether it’s you just talking to your people, leaders, whether it’s supervisors bringing you problems, collect the data.

It’s so valuable, it’s so important. And if you have that tool in your toolbox, you can solve any problem that’s coming at you, especially when it comes to benefits and rewards. Awesome. I’m not even a numbers guy and I see the value in surveys. That’s awesome. And well, Any other questions you have or things you want to chat about before we, before we wrap up, you know, I will have to do another one of these.

I have some, there’s some things that I’ve been wanting to ask from a perspective of things that I see in the market. Things that I’d love to get your opinion, not just as a wellness coordinator but sort of as a, as a fitness guru. And I’ll call her a coach in that, you know, how, how do these things that I will sometimes suggest someone as to a benefit plan?

How do you, as an outsider independent, think about them, for example, you know, weight, loss, drugs. Is that something that is, do you think positive on the whole for a benefit plan to have, Hey, we’re actually going to support you with drugs that help your body to not absorb fat and you’re on a scheduled regimen, or is that something that you concerned about from actual health?

Well being, is that suggesting, Hey, solve this problem drugs. Yeah. So the, from a couple of different perspectives first. I’m not a doctor. Sure. I don’t claim to have the medical advice. I will also say what I’ve seen from a practicality standpoint and the, how it’s impacted. Many of the clients have seen over the past three decades and it’s, you know, there’s the analogy of everyone looks for that magic pill.

Sure. And the silver bullet or whatever you want to call it. The fact is it’s enticing to think, oh, here’s a weight loss drug that can solve the problem that, and, and you know, this more than anyone being overweight or obese is rarely about fitness and nutrition. It’s about mindset and habits and the, the tools and strategies and how we put those things in place.

Every single person out there who’s overweight or obese knows that healthier food and regular exercise will benefit them. They’re just not putting those pieces in place consistently enough to see the change and a weight loss drug does not change that a weight loss drug might have an impact on the scale weight, but it doesn’t change mindset.

It doesn’t change habits. Very accurate surgery, things like that. Those like you can get liposuction and you can get the stomach how many times, whatever, how many times, yeah. You can get all of these surgeries again, it’ll change the scale weight. It might change how you look. It doesn’t change how you feel, how you act, how you think.

And that’s what caused the issue in the first place. So again, while it’s enticing to say, Hey, we’re gonna offer this. Is it solving the problem or is it a band-aid over a festering wound? And that’s, that’s something that we start to see a lot of. And, and we have some tough conversations with clients over the years about those things, right.

And everyone’s looking for a solution and sometimes it’s hard to step back and look and say, okay, you know what mindset we think about ourselves, how we think about the daily actions that we know we need to do, make it happen really important. And yeah, that’s why we had fresh. We have our four pillars of performance mindset, habits, movement fuel in that order.

And notice how movement and fuel are three and four. Exactly. Because when you have a positive, proactive, growth oriented mindset, you’ve got strong goals, beliefs, values, and who you are as a person. And you have a good six habits in place, fitness and nutrition become much, much easier, and you actually enjoy doing it.

You’ll, you’ll walk to it because you’ve shifted your perspective on the situation. And that’s, that’s something that’s critically important for companies to think about because we just have to look at the numbers more than two out of every three people in the industrialized world are overweight or obese.

And that that ratio of overweight to obese now is actually over 50% obese. And, and so the health implications, the productivity implications, the just. Societal performance indicators. Implications are massive and companies, a lot of companies think it doesn’t apply to them. And I’m just looking at the numbers.

This is society. It’s not, you know, a company, a company B company C. So when we can start to put programs, structure, and build a culture around changing the mindset and the habits, those simple little things, most people think it’s unrelated to work, but it’s absolutely related to work. So it’s a long way to answer the, the weight loss, a drug standpoint or a question, but it, it comes to it’s.

It speaks to that bigger picture of companies trying to find a quick fix solution. That’s not necessarily going to benefit anyone in the long run. Yeah, it’s interesting. I would say I’m fair. I mean, personally, I’m absolutely at the same mind that after I sort of completely changed my body, my health and how I approached it.

I didn’t do it with drugs. I didn’t do it with, you know, anything except discipline. That was the only tool that I had is just doing the same thing consistently. Just you had to be very, very consistent. I know that one of the things I’ll say in the defense of them and what I’ll see, you know, from insurers and drug vendors, that kind of thing would be well, it’s a tool.

And if that tool is something that can be used to get someone into that mindset to say, here’s something you can use, it’ll help you drop some pounds. It’s all about messaging right in that, Hey, if you’re going to use that, how can we help you with a moment in time to say, don’t just do the weight loss drug, talk to a trainer or a coach use.

You know, use our mental services. Our FAP program has dietician nutritional counselling, and it included use all the tools. So it’s one of the things where I’ll see some there’s always interest in it. I will mention, you know, pre-list like adding, adding the cost to a plant is not high, very minor, add weight loss, drugs.

Nope. People don’t by and large use them that often. But again, it’s about communication and how it’s all position. And you, you make the point perfectly in the sense that if it’s a tool as part of a bigger picture plan. Yeah, sure. There’s, there’s a valid option for that. I would be curious to know how many of the people using those are using it as part of a bigger picture plan.

And, and if their messaging around this is step one of 10, and we’re going to use this as a catalyst to get the process moving. Okay. Also looking at what are the side effects of a particular drug for a particular person, and is that, are they having outsized impact on the wellbeing? And the, you know, I I’ve even talked to people taking certain stop smoking drugs.

Absolutely. That are, have had a Strava mental health impacts and, you know, night terrors and things like that. People aren’t sleeping. And so they’re trying to stop smoking, but. And, and they, they do succeed in not smoking, but they’re, they’re having massive mental health impact and physical health impact from the process of going through that.

So, you know, just in the U S it’s different, you watch the commercials and you can see the drug commercial it’s the side effects are worse than the original symptoms. Right. And so there’s a lot of that out there. And so how do we help people use things as a tool, but also understand the implication and the impact of what choices they’re making.

And that’s, I think that a conversation that’s maybe not happening as much as it could. I agree. And that’s the thing for an entire benefits offering, whether it’s health, dental, or disability, whatever core component of that plan is, is that it’s never. A fix, it’s a tool and it’s a part of something larger.

And you as an individual, as an employee or a leader, you have to use those tools. If you want to see the outcomes and they’re there to support you, but if you’re not buying in it’s, it’s not going to go anywhere. Absolutely. We’ll definitely catch up. Cause I, I think there’s so much more of that conversation we can have. So I see another episode in our future for sure.

Excellent. I’ll become a regular on it, on this one.

Yeah, exactly. Jim and Tim show.

Awesome. Perfect. I like the ring of that, actually. Not bad.

Thank you so much for being on. It’s just been a pleasure to catch up and I look forward to our next conversation for sure.

Thanks, Tim. I’m looking forward to it as well, which will probably be an actual coaching conversation, but Hey, we can, we can double dip at that time through, right. I’m looking forward to it as well. For sure.

Quick note, before we wrap up where where can people find you?

You can find me jim@carebenefits.ca or just carebenefits.ca online.

We are a brokerage consulting firm in group insurance group, retirement space. You know, we have over 30 years of experience between our two partners, myself and my partner rather. And we’re excited to grow and we’ve had some really awesome success lately. So if any of this has been enticing, if you want to hear about how we can help with programs, I’d love to talk with anyone.

Fantastic, Jim, we will chat soon and thank you again.

Thanks, Tim, have a good one.


Thank you for listening to the Working Well Podcast. If you enjoyed the show, don’t forget to rate and review us wherever you get your podcasts. We’d love to hear your experiences and how you’ve applied tips from the show to your daily life.

So please keep us posted on your progress. To stay up to date with new episode releases, make sure to subscribe to a mailing list by emailing podcast@freshgroup.ca and follow us on Instagram, Facebook and LinkedIn, thank you everyone for tuning in. And once again, I’m Tim Borys with FRESH! Wellness Group.

We’ll see you on the next episode.

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