The ROI Debate on Workplace Wellbeing Programs

How to ensure your workplace wellbeing program produces a positive return on investment year after year

Every now and again we come across articles that suggest workplace wellbeing programs do not achieve a positive return on investment.  We also sometimes hear this from people leaders who have previously implemented wellbeing initiatives, and unfortunately, are later left questioning the value of workplace wellbeing programs.

Research questioning these programs often focuses on the premise that a successful wellbeing program will improve the health status of employees.  It is hoped that this improvement in employee health will translate into a positive return for the organisation. This can include reducing sickness absence, improving productivity, reducing workplace injuries and reducing employee turnover.

This blog post is not about questioning the quality of the data, the methodology, or the size of the sample used.  It is not about highlighting all of the intangible benefits a program provides. It is also not about highlighting all of the research articles or our very own case studies that demonstrate that workplace wellbeing programs do deliver a positive return on investment.

Our approach is a little different.  We choose to focus on workplace wellbeing programs being so much more than simply improving the ‘health status’ of your employees.  Sure, our programs achieve this, but by helping an organisation to reach its broader strategic objectives, we can achieve a much greater return on investment.

If the program can influence employee behaviour through a formalised behaviour change framework, coupled with a high degree of customisation, the program is more likely to enable the organisation to achieve a positive return on investment.

Consider these examples as part of a workplace wellbeing program vs. those that focus only on ‘health improvement’:

  • Enhancing brand awareness by creating a program which specifically includes external usage through family members and third-party providers;
  • Actively engaging front-line staff in a customised challenge addressing effective communication with current and potential new customers;
  • Health Insurers providing a challenge that drives their members to evaluate their current health insurance coverage, and directs them to options that specifically meet their personal needs;
  • Achieving safety legislation by customising a challenge for employees out on the road to promote driver safety across the organisation;
  • Effectively taking employees on a journey of self-discovery to uncover unconscious bias and create a more inclusive and cohesive working environment.

Each of these programs can be effectively integrated into a workplace wellbeing program to increase its return on investment.

Key Recommendations

As a starting point, our key recommendations for anyone looking to implement an effective wellbeing program to achieve a positive return on investment is to:

  • Ensure that whatever program you implement, it is built on a formalised behaviour change framework;
  • Ensure that the program is heavily customised to meet your organisation’s specific requirements and broader strategic objectives.

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