Every organization spends time and resources seeking out ways to differentiate themselves and drive growth in an increasingly competitive global marketplace. But what if the secret to boosting business performance also equally benefited your employees? 

What is this secret weapon? An employee workplace wellness program. Let me explain.

The gift that keeps on giving

By encouraging people to adopt and maintain healthy behaviours, workplace wellness programs help your employees feel better, with less illness, fewer work-related injuries, and better management of chronic diseases—which translates to increased engagement, productivity, and employee satisfaction. 

By supporting employees’ social wellbeing, workplace wellness initiatives cultivate happier, healthier employees which, in turn, create a positive corporate culture, reduce employee turnover, and bolster recruitment efforts. There really is no downside to helping your people live healthier lives. 

The numbers don’t lie

A 2018 study of a Canadian workplace wellness program involving 688 employees reported clinically important improvements in physical and mental health after only one year. Benefits included a reduction in systolic blood pressure (-3.4mm Hg), poor sleep quality (33% to 28%), fatigue (11% to 6%), and levels of high emotional stress (21% to 15%). Plus, researchers were able to demonstrate a dose response effect, meaning the employees who participated the most were the ones who improved the most. 

When employees are feeling good, rates of costly absenteeism and presenteeism decline and overall healthcare costs decrease, driving a favourable benefit-to-cost ratio. If you look at studies of employee wellbeing programs across various industries, you see benefit-to-cost ratios ranging from 2.3 to 10.1 and everything in between, depending on various factors such as employee engagement, participation numbers, and type of benefits offered.

Paint the full picture: return on investment vs value on investment

Many people managers make the mistake of evaluating the efficacy of their wellness program through a narrow financial ROI lens. While reduced healthcare costs are important to the bottom line, a value-on-investment (VOI) approach to determining the success of a corporate wellness program more accurately reflects the pervasive benefits realized across the organization, such as:

  1. Improved employee health behaviors
  2. Minimized ill health & injuries
  3. Increased productivity
  4. Stronger talent attraction & retention
  5. Increased employee satisfaction & engagement 
  6. Decreased presenteeism & absenteeism
  7. More effective management of chronic disease
  8. Reduced healthcare costs

The Wisconsin Department of Health does an effective job of explaining how VOI is a comprehensive measure of the benefit of workplace wellness programs for employees and employers alike:

“VOI expresses that the value of wellness goes beyond just financial gain. For employees, the value extends beyond physical health and can positively affect their emotional health, relationships, jobs, hobbies, and their overall quality-of-life. For employers, the value of wellness initiatives can do things like improve company image, attract and retain talent, improve employee engagement, satisfaction, morale, and improve its culture. This improvement also then can positively affect things like production, creativity, innovation, customer service, and quality. In addition, in the end, the company may even make more money because of the quality of everything has improved.”

By offering your people an employee wellness program, you’re driving synergistic benefits across the organization. But remember, a corporate wellness program is not a short-term investment and requires an inclusive and well-planned strategy to effectively address employees’ physical, mental, financial and social health throughout the employee journey. Simply offering incentives to lose weight, paying for a gym membership, or organizing a team-building event is not going to cut it.

For more information about building the business case for a workplace wellness program at your organization, I’d like to share the latest e-book in our Health & Wellness in the Workplace series, “The Business Case for Workplace Wellness Programs“.

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