Sun Life: Many Canadian employers struggle to make employee health and wellness a strategic priority

TORONTO, Oct. 25, 2011 – The 2011 Buffett National Wellness Survey results were released earlier today at the launch of the Sun Life Wellness InstituteTM Breakfast Presentation series. The Survey results show a nation that understands the importance of workplace wellness, but is struggling to create the comprehensive workplace wellness infrastructure needed to improve employee health and the bottom line.

“We’re pleased that the majority of employers surveyed recognize that their employees’ health affects productivity and performance,” said Lori Casselman, Assistant Vice-President, Health and Wellness, Group Benefits, Sun Life Financial. “However, while many organizations offer wellness initiatives, most aren’t creating a strategic plan to improve employee well-being and ensure sustainable outcomes.”

The Survey results and report offer an up-to-date snapshot of how public, private, and non-profit organizations in several industries are working towards improving employees’ health and wellness. Here are some of the Buffett National Wellness Survey results highlights:

Health issues

Health issues continue to be a dominant concern among Canadian employers. Canadian employers identified the top health risks facing employees in their organizations:

  • Work-related stress is the most important health risk facing employees (56% of respondents)
  • Smoking (35%)
  • Mental health issues (35%)
  • High blood pressure (35%).

Wellness initiatives and strategy

  • 97% of employers who offer wellness programs recognize that employee health influences overall corporate performance.
  • While 72% of surveyed organizations indicate offering some sort of wellness initiatives to employees, only 34% of those respondents indicate they are taking a strategic approach to wellness.

Organizations continue to embrace workplace wellness despite economic conditions (65% of respondents offering wellness initiatives), with many (43%) looking to increase health and wellness activities in the next six months.

Workplace wellness measurement

Financial measurement and return-on-investment are identified as being important, yet:

  • 64% of surveyed organizations that offer wellness initiatives do not evaluate results, and 69% do not calculate return-on-investment.

Barriers to workplace wellness

Employers identified the key barriers to offering workplace wellness programs as lack of budget (51%), lack of staffing (36%), and lack of ability to quantify results (36%).

Promotion and incentives

Only 10% of organizations indicate that they always offer incentives to encourage participation in wellness efforts, and 52% of organizations offer incentives at least some of the time.

“Sun Life Financial is dedicated to improving the health and wellness of Canadians and believes that healthy employees lead to healthy organizations,” said Casselman. “Resources like the Buffett National Wellness Survey help Canadian organizations identify gaps and areas for improvement by providing information to help guide planning and business case development with a focus on achieving maximum productivity, increased job satisfaction, and lower absenteeism.”

The Buffett National Wellness Survey investigates the prevalence of worksite wellness in Canada, examines changing views, and provides an overview of the current employee well-being promotion practices among Canadian organizations.

For more information:

  • For more detailed results of the 2011 Buffett National Wellness Survey, see the results report here.
  • Visit the Sun Life Wellness Institute website for more information on employee health and wellness


The 2011 Buffett National Wellness Survey was conducted over the spring and summer of 2011. A national sample of 677 Canadian employers participated in the online survey. Respondents represented public, private, and not-for-profit organizations ranging in size from less than 100 employees to those with more than 2,500 employees.

About Sun Life Financial

Sun Life Financial is a leading international financial services organization providing a diverse range of protection and wealth accumulation products and services to individuals and corporate customers. Chartered in 1865, Sun Life Financial and its partners today have operations in key markets worldwide, including Canada, the United States, the United Kingdom, Ireland, Hong Kong, the Philippines, Japan, Indonesia, India, China and Bermuda. As of June 30, 2011, the Sun Life Financial group of companies had total assets under management of $474 billion. For more information please visit

Sun Life Financial Inc. trades on the Toronto (TSX), New York (NYSE) and Philippine (PSE) stock exchanges under the ticker symbol SLF.