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Acquisition grows Telus’ well-being commitment

The $2.9-billion purchase of LifeWorks has more than tripled the size of Telus Health
Last year, Vancouver-based Telus purchased the HR firm LifeWorks Inc. in a $2.9-billion deal

B.C.’s largest company is counting on the pandemic-era trend of greater employer concern for employees’ mental health continuing even as COVID-19 restrictions fade.

Telus Corp. (TSX:T) not only aims to be a top-tier employer in managing its own employees’ mental health. It has also branched out to provide mental health services for others. 

Last year, the telecom spent $2.9 billion including debt to buy the human-resources firm LifeWorks Inc., which it then folded into its Telus Health division. 

Buying LifeWorks more than tripled Telus Health’s size – to about 10,000 employees up from around 2,000 workers. It also expanded the division’s reach to cover more than 68 million people in 160 countries.

Telus Health includes experts in employer-funded health care, mental-health services, benefits, pension administration, retirement planning and personal finance, Telus’ director of well-being and health services, Janet Young, told BIV.

She offered an example of a small business owner wanting to provide better health care for staff. That entrepreneur would contact Telus, explain needs and get a quote for how much it would cost. 

That business’ employees who are dealing with mental-health struggles, for example, would then be able to access a range of services, such as fitness challenges, Young said.

“People can be active on their own and go out and do their own exercise but we know that people lack motivation to do that,” she said.

“If you have a wearable device, you could go [to a Telus Health platform] and link up your Apple Watch, and it would track it online. You could participate in a challenge against other people and buddy up to motivate you to stay active.”

The system also offers mental-health support in that it can connect clients’ workers with counsellors either via video or phone, or in person, to discuss mental-health issues, such as struggles in relationships or with money, she said.

Telus first branched into offering health care in 2008, when it bought the electronic medical records business Emergis Inc.for $763 million from BCE Inc. (T:BCE).

It then expanded its Telus Health division by adding virtual care, health-benefits management, home health monitoring and e-prescribing.

Young said Telus has long been a leader at offering its own employees benefits to keep them mentally healthy.

“About six years ago, we doubled down on our well-being approach to make it even more strategic,” she said. “We really wanted it to be much more of a cultural imperative.”

All executives on Telus’ leadership team signed what the company called a “mental-health commitment” during the pandemic. 

Young said this commitment essentially signalled to employees that the executives had their backs and that everyone was on the same team. 

The broader goal was to make Telus the “best place to work on the globe,” she said.

All Telus employees have what the company calls a well-being account, worth $750 per year. 

Employees can spend that money on a wide range of things to support their well-being – a stipulation broad enough to make the money easy to spend. 

A separate perk is that each employee has access to $5,000 in mental-health support through Telus’ benefit plan. 

“If they want to visit a psychologist or counsellor, they have access to $5,000,” she said. 

This $5,000 perk is not only for employees but also for each family member. So a family of five, for example, would have a total of $25,000 that it could spend, she said.

Some of the other mental-health perks that Telus offers include: Three well-being days off each year in addition to vacation; round-the-clock counselling support through an employee and family-assistance program; and free subscriptions to the mental-fitness app Calm.

Many of Telus’ buildings have spirituality rooms for members of different religions to use for prayer. 

Increasingly, there are also meditation suites where employees can go to immerse themselves in meditation, Young said. 

“We also have something called a recharge room, which is just a room to go into if you just need a break – you have a headache and need to just sit in a quiet space,” she said.

“Lastly, we have parent rooms. That is for any parents – mums or dads – that need a space to chill. Maybe a mum is nursing or a dad needs a break. So we are being very deliberate about creating spaces in our physical buildings.” 

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