WORKPLACE WELLNESS: GETTING A RETURN ON INVESTMENTCan your organization’s investment in a workplace wellness program deliver value? That’s a very important question … let’s take a look at what we know.
In the 2011 Buffett National Wellness Survey, almost 100% of those surveyed planned to continue or increase their wellness initiatives, but only 26% were taking a strategic approach, including the calculation of return on investment (ROI).
According to an article in Benefits Canada (March, 2013), measurement is often the missing component in corporate or organizational wellness strategies. What needs measuring is:
- whether or not an organization’s strategies are making a difference to employee health; and
- whether that difference results in a positive ROI.
Canadian Return on Investment Study
In 2011, Sun Life Financial and the Richard Ivey School of Business at the University of Western Ontario formed a strategic alliance to launch new research under the name of the Canadian Return on Investment Study, a two-phase, multi-year study of workplace wellness and ROI.
Preliminary findings from Phase 1 suggested that, in Canada, “there was insufficient data and analytical rigour to underpin a solid evidence-based business case.”
That said, Phase 1 findings also determined that between 1.5 to 1.7 days/employee/year of absenteeism were saved with wellness programs, which translated into an estimated savings of $251/employee/year. (In 2011, Statistics Canada stated that absenteeism rates ranged from 4.7 days to 11.2 days/employee/year.)
Interestingly the Phase 1 findings were consistent with those found in a similar U.S.-based Harvard study. Stay tuned for more findings from Phase 2 of the Canadian ROI Study.
Five Simple Steps to Measure ROI
Do you want to get started? Here are five simple steps to follow for more effective measurement of wellness programs:
- Gather baseline information about the current status of your employees’ health. This can be done using a health risk assessment (HRA). For example, data could include biometric measures (blood pressure, cholesterol, body mass index, waist circumference, body fat), prescription drug usage, extended health benefits usage, absence and disability rates, or lifestyle habits and respective risk levels.
- Identify desired outcomes for the program, based on the health information collected about employees.
- Design wellness interventions that target the key health issues identified.
- Measure progress along the way (perhaps repeating the HRA).
- Determine a realistic timeline for assessing whether desired outcomes have been achieved. In other words, has your baseline data improved after one or two years?
2011 Buffett National Wellness Survey
A report on the status of workplace wellness and health promotion in Canada.
Sun Life Institute
Learn more about the Canadian ROI Study.