Access the 2021 Survey here.

2021 Survey highlights

This year’s survey represents employer and employee sentiments after more than one year of the COVID-19 pandemic. Not surprisingly, both plan members and sponsors felt the impact of the pandemic.

Plan member impacts
  • Poorer health. Almost one in eight plan members (13%) said their health was poor in the past year. This was up from 8% a year ago. This was the first notable increase since we first asked the question in 2018. And just over 40% of plan members gained weight in the past year. This increased to 48% among those aged 45 to 54.
  • Delayed treatments. Nearly half of plan members (48%) delayed seeking treatment or going to a health-care provider during the pandemic. This was even higher among those in poor health.
  • Mental health concerns. 36% of plan members reported increased feelings of anxiety or sadness/depression. This increased to 45% among females and 41% among 18- to 34-year-olds.
  • Workplace disconnection. No matter where plan members worked, 66% said they now felt less connected to their co-workers and organization. This increased to 76% for plan members working almost exclusively from home.
  • Kudos for benefits plan virtual care. 88% of plan members said the care quality from their benefits plan virtual care was excellent or very good. This compared with 73% who said the same for virtual care from their usual family physician.
Plan sponsor impacts
  • Impact of treatment delays. Delayed surgeries and other treatments have extended the duration of disability leaves. This could trigger or exacerbate mental health issues as a secondary diagnosis. And advisory board members have started to see more new claims to treat cancer diagnosed at a later stage.
  • Return-to-workplace concerns. A majority (68%) of plan sponsors had at least one concern about home-based employees returning to the workplace. This increased to 86% among employers with 500 or more employees. The top-three concerns were re-establishing the workplace culture (37%), balancing the needs of a hybrid workforce (33%) and employees not following public health safety measures (25%).
  • Long-term plan sustainability. A majority of plan sponsors believe that COVID-19 will have a long-term negative impact on the cost of health benefits. This has heightened concerns over plan sustainability.
Trends and innovations

The Survey highlighted several trends and innovations. These included:

  • Health-care navigation. The advisory board predicted heightened interest in health-care system navigation as a new benefit. The board expects delays in diagnoses and treatments due to COVID-19 to contribute to this trend.
  • Increases in mental health support. More plan sponsors are decoupling mental health from other paramedical benefits to enable a separate maximum for coverage. As well, the expanded list of eligible mental health providers has increased uptake of mental health-related services.
  • Evolving disability management. The evolution of disability program management is a growing priority. This is fuelled by improved data analysis and new approaches in case management. New tools, such as virtual care and pharmacogenomic testing, are also shaping this new approach.
  • Growing use of virtual care. Virtual care, a rare offering before the pandemic, is now a standard offering of benefits plans. The advisory board predicted its availability will rival that of EAPs in the next few years.

Learn more

We encourage you to read the full Survey report. You’ll find in-depth content on key areas of health, benefits and the future of the workplace.

Questions? We’re here to help.

If you have fewer than 50 employees, please contact the Client Relations Representative Team at 1-866-606-8936.

If you have more than 50 employees, please contact your Sun Life Group Benefits representative.