Workplace Health and Wellness Programs: A sound investment for Canadian employers

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Workplace wellness initiatives require an investment in health and productivity of the workforce. However, these programs are often first to be removed during times of financial restraint. Therefore, the benefits of wellness initiatives must be shown in order to sustain funding of such programs. These benefits include higher productivity, presenteeism, reduced absenteeism and last but not least, lower benefit costs.

Recent Canadian research has shown that although one-third of employers measure program outcomes, less than 1% actually analyze the return on investment (ROI) in a detailed manner. Measuring the impact of a wellness program does not only allow employers to tailor the program to the employees’ needs, but it can also justify the financial costs of running such a program. However, these measurements can only be obtained through a rigorous analysis of the ROI.

Why do many employers fail to carry out an ROI analysis? Often, organizations simply lack the knowledge about what to measure. This can limit the ability to produce measurable outcomes.
Organizations with beginner wellness programs are in a good position to begin measurements. However, organizations who hold only one wellness event per year cannot expect to see an impact on the elements of their business. Regardless of what stage they might be at in their wellness program, all employers can still measure participation and satisfaction of employees and their awareness of health issues.

Programs that are measured by health-risk assessments and biometric screenings are considered intermediate programs. Employers can follow changes of their employees’ health-risk profile, such as changes in drug costs and potentially disability claims.

Lastly, the most advanced wellness programs include everything that the other employers offer, with the addition of initiatives that target specific health issues among employees. These advanced initiatives are integrated with human resources drivers such as employee engagement, turnover and absenteeism. The aforementioned drivers can allow employers to calculate a positive ROI for their programs.

Employers who provide wellness programs with initiatives specific to their employees’ health conditions will see a positive financial return. Therefore, an ROI analysis is encouraged for all types of wellness programs, whether beginner or advanced. A credible analysis need not be exact when calculating the financial return and can be completed by anyone in the organization. For more information on how to perform an ROI analysis, visit: