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The ROI of Workplace Wellness Programs

Armed with these strategies to prove ROI, you'll have no problem proving to your leadership team that it pays to be well.
Published 17 Sep 2021
7 min read
The ROI of Workplace Wellness Programs

Wellness is more important than ever. After the mental, physical and financial wellbeing of the world’s population took a huge hit in 2020 and 2021, many of us are starting to find our feet again, along with a renewed appreciation for our health.

We’re not just thinking about it during our personal time, there’s a strong desire to integrate a sense of balance and wellbeing across all aspects of our lives, especially at work. How do we know this? Well we surveyed 1,400 Australian workers for our 2021 Wellness at Work Report.

One of our key findings was that employer actions make a meaningful difference to the work and lives of all employees. Across the board, workers who rated their employer’s commitment to wellbeing highly found that their quality of life was better. If an employee felt they had a strong sense of work/life balance, they were 28% more likely to also say that their employer was invested in their wellbeing. Workers who felt productive were 18% more likely to feel that their employer cared about their wellness. On the flip side, workers that said they had felt burnt out in the last 3 months were 39% more likely to be working for an employer they felt did not show commitment to improving their wellbeing.

Businesses want to show care for their employees, but they also can’t justify investments without seeing an impact. Luckily there are some clear ways to measure the impact of workplace wellness programs that can improve your team morale, business productivity and company profits.

Joey and Chandler clapping

Let’s explore how we can measure the return on investment of employee wellness programs.

What is a workplace wellness program?

First, let’s figure out what makes a successful workplace wellness program. What might you traditionally think of when you think about wellness at work? A lacklustre fruit bowl in the office kitchen? A mental health poster in the common area? We have a more holistic view of health in 2022.

For starters, with the drop in the rates of smoking in most countries (less than 50% of people smoke in Australia in 2020 compared to 1991), the most obvious health concern that was visible to office workers has subsided. With this huge health risk at a much lower rate, we’ve been able to look deeper into other areas of health. We’re learning more about how multifaceted wellness truly is.

In our Report, we explored the 7 dimensions of wellness and how they related to our original research on what employees want. The 7 dimensions of wellness are; physical, mental, financial, relationship, recreational, occupational and spiritual. Our research clearly shows how interconnected these areas are. If an employee is thriving in one area, they’re more likely to be feeling positive about others. If they’re suffering in one area, the others will soon follow suit.

A great employee wellness program will capture most, if not all, of these dimensions – leading to a balanced feeling of health in an employee’s working and wider life.

Man with beard feeling healthy

We’re all seeking that healthy glow.

Why should we calculate the return on investment of a workplace wellness program?

Every investment needs to show its return. When we find a way to calculate the ROI on our workplace wellness program, we can demonstrate just how worthwhile they are. A considered ROI measurement could even justify the growth of the program, consequently leading to greater investment.

Need some wellness inspo? Check out the programs of 5 companies who are leading the way.

How can we calculate ROI on a workplace wellness program?

Monitor absenteeism and retention

High absenteeism mixed with low retention rates can be a major drain on company finances. Absenteeism rates refer to the patterns of time your team members take off from work. Not including annual leave, absenteeism refers to paid or unpaid time off as a result of illness, mental fatigue (think burnout, stress, anxiety) or personal reasons.

According to Forbes, the average cost of absenteeism is $2650 per year for each employee, and as productivity declines, wages are paid to absent employees and high-cost substitute employees are engaged. While everyone has to take a day off once in a while, consistent absenteeism amongst one or several members of staff can be a red flag signalling a problem with employee wellness. Your employees may be experiencing issues with physical or mental health or they may feel disengaged.

Low retention rates can suggest a similar issue. Retention rates refer to your employees’ lifecycle at your business. Are your employees generally having long careers at your business, or do employees tend to only stick around for a year before moving on? If your workplace feels like a revolving door of employees, this could point to a culture of stress, low engagement and overall unsustainability. A study from SHRM suggests that replacing an employee can cost up to 50%-60% of that employee’s salary.

Kitten holding money

Let’s stop those losses from happening!

Workplace wellness initiatives are a powerful solution to improving these two rates. There will be some obvious impacts of particular measures – for example, if you were to provide yearly flu shots as part of your wellness program, you would see absenteeism drop during flu season. There are also less obvious impacts that measures might produce – like rates of access to an Employee Assistance Program (EAP) that provides employee counselling.

Whether you implement one or many elements of a wellness program, make sure to document the changes in absenteeism and retention rates. Calculate a dollar value and compare it at regular intervals to create a benchmark.

Monitor presenteeism by keeping track of productivity

Absenteeism and retention rates are fairly well-known areas that employers are always actively looking to improve. But what about presenteeism? As written in the Harvard Business Review, presenteeism is “when people come to work but underperform because of illness or stress.”

Presenteeism is, in a way, all about productivity. It can also be thought of a sense of engagement and energy that an employee brings to their work. This can make presenteeism even more important than absenteeism and turnover, because a sense of presenteeism will allow your employees to not only stay productive, but produce their best work.

Ok, but how do we measure this? Whilst the specifics rely on your business and industry, consider quality when you’re looking at quantity. If your staff are meeting their quantity targets and delivering projects on time, plus the work displays great quality and inventiveness, that’s the best formula for great and profitable work over time. It’s the recipe for true employee and business success.

Excited baby with arms in the air

Nailed it!

So run the numbers on quantity and keep target data, but also keep tabs on the quality of the work produced. You may already be running similar reports, run these numbers against the trajectory of your wellness programs and see how they’ve improved over time.

Survey your employees

So we’ve monitored and we’ve analysed – now it’s time to directly ask the question of your staff – how do they feel since you’ve implemented the program?

Surveying your employees is another data that can demonstrate the impact of your employee wellness program. Giving your employees a chance to share their feelings around wellness, productivity and work will help you put a voice behind your data. You’ll also be receiving feedback directly from the people that matter most.

Our Custom Surveys tool makes surveying your staff a breeze. Employee surveys should be kept anonymous and should be conducted on a quarterly (if not more regular) basis. What questions should you include in your survey about your wellness program?

Here are our suggestions:

  • How would you currently rate your physical wellness? (1-10)
  • How would you currently rate your mental wellness? (1-10)
  • How would you currently rate your financial wellness? (1-10)
  • How would you currently rate your productivity? (1-10)
  • When was the last time you’ve felt burnt out at work? (Last few weeks, last month, last year, I don’t often feel burnt out)
  • Which of our wellness program features are you currently using? (List features)
  • Which of our wellness program features would you be interested in using in the future? (List features)
  • What is your favourite wellness program feature and why? (List features and a space for response)
  • If you’re not currently using our wellness program, why not? (leave space for response)
  • Is there anything additional that you would like to be included in the wellness program? (leave space for response)

Including this ROI measure can help you see the personal impact that your wellness program is making. It’s an important tool to help you completely understand the extent of the change that your program is creating.

Want an easy way to take a temperature check on employee happiness? May we introduce the Employment Hero Happiness Score! The happiness score can help you quantify your employees feelings, by creating an average score based upon the submissions of your team.

The wrap up

It’s hard to justify time and money into a workforce wellness program if you don’t have the ROI to back it up! We understand that businesses need to see that their employees are genuinely seeing benefits from the program and that those good vibes are being delivered back into the business. Armed with these strategies to prove ROI, you’ll have no problem proving to your leadership team that it pays to be well.

Interested in learning more about employee wellness? Check out our 2021 Wellness at Work Report.

Get all the info you need

Download the Wellness at Work Index

Just a few quick details

Employment Hero is stacked with features that can support employee wellness. As well as helping easily calculate ROI with absenteeism and retention rates, along with custom surveys and the happiness score – the platform also boasts built-in features to support employee wellbeing. There’s Discounts on health insurance, gym memberships and everyday household items, plus wellbeing resources to support your team across the 7 dimensions of health. Sound good? Book a demo with one of our business specialists today.

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