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The Real Worth of a Benefits Plan During a Health Crisis

Author: Ada Tai, MBA, CPHR, SHRM

Co-Author: Earl Shindruk, B. Comm, President of Optimax Benefits

Recently, the global pandemic situation has caused businesses a great deal of anxiety.

  • “What should we do if our company is not ready to operate remotely?” (Strategic Planning)

  • “What policies and procedures should we have in place if our employees cannot work during a pandemic?” (Business Continuity Planning)

  • “What are the steps of restructuring the business?” (Change Management)

These are the common and understandably urgent riddles I have been helping organizations to solve in the midst of this crisis. Staying up to date with the news, being a champion for my clients, students, family and friends during this time, I found myself a bit flat after four weeks. However, I know I am not in this alone. Many employees share similar feelings.

Earl Shindruk, a seasoned Benefits Broker, has seen the ups and downs of our economy and its impact on employee benefits. “Business leaders are fighting to stay in business. Discussing employee’s needs for healthcare benefits is probably not on top of their mind,” said Earl during our recent conversation about the best practices for employers to adopt. “However, this is the time where employee benefits can become very helpful for businesses to deal with employee concerns and manage workplace issues.” Our recommended benefits items are highlighted below.

1. Physical Health Related Benefits

  • Call into your pharmacy for pickup and delivery - a reminder for employees:

  • Please check all your medicines and other supplies to make sure you do not run out of them at a critical time.

  • For employees who need prescription medications: if your pharmacy does not deliver medications to your door, then there are other pharmacies who do and there are also delivery services available to do so. An Edmonton based company, Rx Delivery, has seen a large spike in delivery requests since the pandemic started.

  • Some of the most vulnerable populations, such as seniors and those with long term medical needs are most likely to use delivery or pick up services for medications and other medical supplies.

  • Telemedicine for doctor’s consultation – a consideration for employer benefits:

  • Some employer benefits packages offer virtual health, and some doctors are doing their consultation via video chat or phone.

  • An Alberta based company, Wello, has seen an increased demand for virtual healthcare services and more people signing up to its programs during the last few months.

  • Use the Wellness Spending Account – a tip for people who work from home:

  • If the employer offers a Wellness Spending Account and employees are asked to work from home, then computers, ergonomic chairs and desks can be purchased and submitted through this account.

2. Mental Health Related Benefits:

All of us need to pay special attention to our own mental health and that of our loved ones during the pandemic. Stress is something that affects us in different and unique ways. We should not be hesitant to reach out for help when we need it.

A group of employees doing beach yoga
Company Retreat
  • Most benefit plans include some counselling and psychological services that can be accessed during these critical times. Employee Assistance Programs (EAPs) also offer help in times of crisis and can give workers someone to speak with when they are experiencing emotional, mental or financial difficulties and other issues.

  • Wellness classes are offered online or via video by many providers. Counselling services also fall into this category now. Some companies organize “daily wellness hours” using teleconferencing to encourage their workers to benefit from some physical exercises.

  • Having access to sick days or other forms of paid time off can give workers peace of mind, especially when they need to take care of sick family members.

3. Career Health Related Benefits:

Working from home saves us hours in a day from the daily logistics and commute. Although work may be slow at this moment, our learning should not be. When we are back to business in the near future, companies will still need qualified talent to rebuild their operations and will seek ways to make those operations more efficient.

  • Employees may be able to use their Wellness Spending Account or company’s professional development funds to pay for distance learning courses.

  • There are also many great free webinars and online networking events for professionals to remain aware of the latest trends and stay in touch.

This is a time that requires all hands on deck. Employers and their HR teams should be able to explain their benefits and perks to calm employees while they are completing work and taking care of their loved ones. Even if your business needs to temporarily lay people off, consider continually offering benefits if possible. Having a conversation with your employee benefits providers, such as insurance companies and benefit brokers, can be a good use of your time.


Co-Author Bio: As the founder and President of Optimax Benefits, Earl has brought over 26 years of experience and leading-edge innovation to the group benefits industry. He has demonstrated the old-fashioned concepts of ‘being accessible’ and ‘getting to know your client’.

Formerly, Earl served as General Manager of a contracting company and honed his skills with large corp

orations such as TransAlta and Laidlaw Waste Systems. Earl believes in giving back to his community. He was one of the founders and board chair of the Meningitis Foundation of Alberta and has been serving on various boards such as North Millbourne Community League, Millwoods Cultural and Recreational Facilities Association, Bredin Centre for Learning and others. Currently, he is on the board of the NPO Collective, The 100YEG and the Edmonton Business Association.

Earl also taught Employee Benefits classes at MacEwan University for over 11 years and has been a guest speaker at MacEwan University and the University of Alberta. He regularly speaks about Benefits through a variety of networks, such as CPHR Alberta and IPMA.

Contact information:

  • Website:

  • LinkedIn: Earl Shindruk or Optimax Benefits

  • Facebook: Earl Shindruk or Optimax Benefits

  • Twitter: @optimaxbenefits


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