Does your company help its employees achieve wellness? True wellness?
“Of course,” you might think. “We offer several generous health insurance plans — plus dental!”
But as the world has become increasingly aware over the past several years, there’s more to wellness than simply not being sick (and biannual teeth cleanings).
Wellness is a lifelong pursuit, encompassing everything that goes into building a fulfilling existence. This includes physical health, for sure, but also mental health, financial stability, strong relationships, work-life balance, professional growth and, for some, spiritual attainment.
So, in one sense, it should already be apparent why it’s a good thing to help your company’s employees strive for wellness. Helping your company’s most valuable assets become happier, more satisfied, well-rounded, healthier individuals is a noble objective in and of itself.
But, if you plan on pitching a new corporate wellness program at your workplace or expanding your current wellness program, leadership will probably want to hear more than, “It’s the right thing to do.”
Fortunately, thanks to a growing body of research and the experience of numerous employers, we know that, while employee wellness is great for the soul, the mind, and the body, it’s also excellent for the bottom line.
The ROI of Employee Wellness: What the Experts Say
Translating employee wellness into exact dollars and cents isn’t easy. Definitions of wellness vary, as do wellness program components. But nearly every researcher who has looked into the financial impact of employee wellness programs has reported a positive and substantial return on investment (ROI).
- A group of Harvard researchers found that, for every dollar spent on wellness programs, employers save $3.27 on medical costs and $2.73 on absenteeism costs.
- A case study analyzed a long-running Johnson & Johnson employee wellness program over seven years and reported an ROI of $1.88 to nearly $4 for every dollar spent.
- An article published in the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine forthrightly asked, “Do Workplace Health Promotion (Wellness) Programs Work?” The conclusion: “Although the evidence is still being compiled,” the authors wrote upon surveying the evidence, workplace wellness programs “produce positive financial outcomes important to employers.”
It’s worth noting that most studies of employee wellness programs measure them according to only a few metrics — primarily their impact on healthcare costs. However, we know that wellness is holistic, and, therefore, it only makes sense to measure it holistically.
Many experts recommend assessing not just the ROI of employee wellness but the VOI: value on investment. The value of an employee wellness program includes several qualitative benefits that stem from employees feeling balanced in every aspect of their lives.
While perhaps more difficult (though not impossible) to quantify than healthcare costs, these benefits can undoubtedly help your company grow, compete, and thrive.
Here are just a few of the ways a well-designed employee wellness program can contribute to your organization’s financial wellness:
Employee Wellness Boosts Productivity
As you’ve certainly experienced in your own life, unresolved health issues can be all consuming, as can financial worries, relationship difficulties, and mental health challenges. Being your best self at work is hard when your mind is elsewhere, and your body is in pain.
Wellness programs can teach employees to manage these daily distractions and, by doing so, gain focus and energy for work. The uptick in productivity can be transformative.
- In a survey of over 500 business leaders, more than 90% said promoting wellness can improve employee productivity and performance.
- A 2018 study analyzed productivity and wellness data from 111 workers participating in a corporate wellness program. Sick and healthy individuals increased their productivity by about 10%, the researchers reported.
Wellness programs help keep the workplace running at full capacity, as well. In one survey of employers offering wellness programs, more than half reported a decrease in absenteeism.
Employee Wellness Reduces Turnover
The combination of stress (from work or home), poor health, and overall dissatisfaction with life is a recipe for burnout. And burnout is a major contributor to workforce turnover. According to some researchers, burnout is responsible for up to 50% of turnover.
Combatting burnout among employees isn’t simply a matter of reducing their workload. Successfully avoiding burnout means learning to react positively to stress (through relaxation techniques, exercise, and diet, among other things) while gaining control of the things that overwhelm you. If that sounds familiar, it’s because that’s just what employee wellness programs promote.
Considering the cost of replacing a single employee these days ranges from half to twice their annual salary, wellness initiates can pay for themselves, and then some, by slowing your company’s turnover rate.
Employee Wellness Drives Engagement
The flipside of burnout is engagement. Engaged employees are committed to their tasks and their employer’s mission. When workers are engaged, they tend to be more creative, focused, productive, and pleasant to work with than disengaged workers.
The difference is measurable. According to one case study of a major beverage corporation, “highly engaged employees were five times less likely than nonengaged employees to have a safety incident and seven times less likely to have a lost-time safety incident.”
Several factors drive employee engagement, but one important one is a feeling of support from the employer. Employees want to know their employers have their back, not just at work but in life as they work toward achieving their personal goals.
This is where wellness comes in. When employees feel supported by their organization through wellness initiatives, they become more engaged with their work and view the company’s objectives as their own.
Employee Wellness Programs Attract Top Talent
Employers are waging a war for talent in today’s hot labor market. Job seekers are definitely in the driver’s seat, and every little differentiator can mean the difference between limping along with unfilled positions or landing the best employees out there.
Employee wellness programs are more than little differentiators — especially for younger employees. Over half of Gen Zers and nearly 60% of millennials consider wellness programs important or extremely important when choosing employers.
For younger generations, money isn’t everything, or even the main thing, when searching for a job. Modern job seekers are looking for work-life balance, flexibility, and employers that recognize and support their well-being.
A survey out of Canada is particularly revealing on this point; 60% of respondents said they would leave their current employer for less money but better wellness support.
Moreover, wellness programs and a population of happy, healthy employees help foster a positive company culture that appeals to workers of every generation.
Investing in Wellness Is Investing In Your People and Your Business
We could go on.
Besides the quantifiable wellness benefits we’ve documented here — lower medical costs, higher productivity, less turnover, more engagement, and an enticement for top talent — many companies see less tangible but just as valuable improvements after investing in employee wellness. Among other benefits, employees collaborate more effectively, are more creative, and even offer better customer service.
The business case for employee wellness is undeniable. The question for your company is how can you expect to compete and grow without investing in employee wellness?
Over the coming weeks and months, we’ll dive deeper into employee wellness on this blog, examining examples of successful employee wellness initiatives, providing tips on promoting wellness among your employees, and exploring what it takes to make a wellness program successful. Stay tuned!