Hacking your way to a healthier workforce

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web-education-mouse-technology-communicationCommunications tools like smartphones can help create a healthier workplace, writes Yaelle Gang, BenefitsCanada.com.

While employees’ attachments to their smartphones can be disruptive at work, there are innovative ways to harness them to create healthier workplaces, a conference heard yesterday.

On Feb. 24, Desjardins Insurance hosted a forum in Toronto for plan sponsors and advisors that looked at how they can use innovation and technology to improve employee health and, in turn, help prevent and manage disease and increase the sustainability of group benefits plans.

“In our view, the best way to control health-care costs is to prevent illness and absenteeism, to be there for employees every step of the way, to help them take control of their physical and mental health,” said Josée Dixon, senior vice-president of group and business insurance at Desjardins.

Technology can help promote health because it allows for new communications tools to reach employees. And with the rise of millennials in the workforce, technology-focused options are an important avenue for engagement.

“They’re the most connected generation in the history of humanity and to do this differently for them would not make sense,” said Luc Sirois, co-founder and executive director at Hacking Health and HH Accelerator. Sirois is partnering with Desjardins and spoke at the forum.

Some examples of developments that can help improve workplace health include a sleep monitor that can connect employees who have trouble sleeping with health-care professionals or technology that scans the language employees are using in digital communications to identify early signs of psychological stress. The technology not only identifies signs; it then confidentially provides the employee with information on how to take action.

Given the opportunities from technology, Desjardins and Hacking Health are hosting hackathons across Canada. The sessions are open to all members of the public to bring problems forward. The hackers who are participating will try to come up with innovative solutions to those problems.

The idea is to develop some of the solutions further and eventually make them available to plan sponsors.

“This is a journey; there is no simple winning solution,” said Dixon. “It’s about going beyond the traditional ways of offering group insurance plans and offering solutions in group insurance plans.”

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