Manitoba Blue Cross leads by example in wellness

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When Florent Thézard was going through a difficult time in his personal life, his colleagues at Manitoba Blue Cross sent him gifts and messages and visited him to lift his spirits. And they were there for him in happier times too – throwing a surprise virtual baby shower when his son was born.

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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 15/03/2022 (206 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

When Florent Thézard was going through a difficult time in his personal life, his colleagues at Manitoba Blue Cross sent him gifts and messages and visited him to lift his spirits. And they were there for him in happier times too – throwing a surprise virtual baby shower when his son was born.

“It was such a welcome dose of companionship at a time when we were adhering to tightened public health orders,” says Thézard, wellness team lead with the company’s Wellness department, which designs and implements tools to help Manitobans in their pursuit of wellness. “They found a way to support me during a difficult time and to celebrate a joyous moment in my life. They’re all part of a social network I value and am grateful for.”

This atmosphere of support and camaraderie was something president and CEO Benjamin Graham noticed immediately when he joined Manitoba Blue Cross over a year ago. He says the company, which provides health and dental benefit plans for individuals and groups as well as travel, employee assistance and life insurance coverage, places a priority on fostering wellness for members and employees.

Employee Lea Currie tries a balance exercise that Manitoba Blue Cross wellness team lead Florent Thézard demonstrates on screen.

It is a matter of practising what you preach, says Graham. “We are a leader in health and wellness in the province. We can’t call ourselves a caring company and then not support our own team. So we try to lead by example.”

The company holds regular town hall meetings to engage staff and get their feedback. It also provides tools such as access to counselling and hybrid and flexible work options. “We want to make sure staff are happy to come to work,” Graham says. “We provide employees with the tools they need to help themselves, not just in their professional lives but also in their personal lives.”

The company, for example, developed many initiatives to help employees stay connected while working from home. Thézard says his favourite one is Wellness Wednesdays. Every week, a Manitoba Blue Cross employee leads a 15-minute online activity designed to improve wellness. Topics covered have included meditation, cardiovascular fitness, nutrition and sleep.

“This initiative has had so many positive effects on my professional and personal life. The activities help me feel more energized and focused at work,” Thézard says. “I’ve noticed some of the benefits extend well beyond the professional sphere. I sleep better, eat healthier and cope better with stress. And there’s the added bonus of it providing an outlet for our own people to showcase their creativity and expertise.”

More than 75 per cent of employees have participated in at least one of the Wellness Wednesdays sessions and of those who participated, more than 92 per cent returned to attend more. Because of its success, the company has extended the initiative past the five-month pilot program. Thézard says employees will lead sessions on topics including financial literacy and the philosophy of art this year.

“We’re taking the same holistic approach to staff well-being that the Wellness department takes with plan members and the community,” he says. “We aim to cover all aspects of wellness, not just physical and mental health, but also social, intellectual and financial components.”

Other initiatives encourage employees to take physical activity breaks, do deep breathing exercises and stay hydrated. “When combined with a flexible work schedule, all of these help with work-life balance,” Thézard says. “I’m finding my mood is better and I’m more patient. I’ve even managed to extend our workplace culture of wellness to my family – I’ve convinced my wife to drink more water and she’s definitely benefiting from my improved mood and patience.”

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