Measuring Tangible and Intangible Success of Your Corporate Health and Wellness Program

Corporate health and wellness programs boost the health and engagement of employees, reducing absence and positively impacting on the bottom line, according to the general consensus.

The problem arises when it comes to measuring these benefits, particularly as not all can be quantified.

The Workplace Wellness Study conducted byVielife and London South Bank University sought the views of HR and finance professionals, finding 77 percent claim to measure the impact of health and wellness on business performance, although 60 percent would like to be able to do this better.

Mike Beason, managing director at Vielife, explained: "Employers need to address the gap that exists between health strategy and real measured improvement if they are serious about reducing the proven impact of key health issues like stress and poor diet on organizational productivity, performance and profits."

Targeting Absences

A reduction in absences is often one of the key aims of a health and wellbeing program. Unscheduled absences lead to a loss of productivity impacting on financial performance, while often placing increased pressure on other employees, potentially increasing stress and lowering morale.
Some 47 percent measure the cost of poor attendance, compared to just 25 percent that assess the cost that health and wellness has on weak customer service.

One such company is financial services provider Legal & General, which saw a 15 percent fall in sickness absence after implementing a program dedicated to mental health and stress at its Cardiff and Hove sites.

The company tested three initiatives; training line managers to recognize and deal with stress, supporting those with problems with their emotional wellbeing and launching an online portal allowing staff to measure their health and identify potential problem points.

Figures from the company showed 29 percent of its illnesses were linked to mental health, making it the highest cause behind colds and flu. The program achieved an estimated saving of over £68,000 and is to be rolled out across the company.

Nicky Richards, HR consultant for Legal & General, said: "Our experiences highlight the importance of early intervention before people become unwell and the appropriate support in place to help people at work when they are ill."

Financial Impact

With 80 percent believing health and wellness has an impact on profitability, measuring the financial impact of any program is likely to be a priority.

Understanding the exact level of money saved is a challenge, but research has been conducted into the average ROI companies can expect.

The Workplace Wellness Programs Can Generate Savings strategy from Vielife reviewed evidence from the past 30 years which contained one group who took part in the wellness program and a control panel which didn't.

On average, employee wellness programs cost $144 (£92) per person and saved $358 (£228). This equates to an average ROI of $3.27 on each $1 spent over 3 years. For absenteeism, the average ROI was $2.73.

"It's predicted that the cost of running wellness programs would decrease in time, which may then mean a greater ROI," the paper added.

Indeed, health and wellness programs are prized more highly among finance professionals than among HR, research suggests. Forty-four percent of finance workers described it as a key priority, compared to 38 percent of HR professionals, while they are also more likely to discuss the issue at board level.

The problem with measuring financial returns for many is the lack of reliable data to base sound decisions on and later use to determine the impact the program has – and this is particularly problematic in large organizations with a dispersed workforce.

Technology is making the task easier, with the internet offering opportunities to produce health questionnaires and distribute them globally via intranet systems, which will provide an invaluable source of baseline data in a digital format.