Article: How to measure the ROI of your wellness program?

A Brand Reachout InitiativeCorporate Wellness Programs

How to measure the ROI of your wellness program?

To truly succeed at wellness, it's not enough to measure the impact; you need to create a culture of wellness and support throughout the organisation.
How to measure the ROI of your wellness program?

While the initial emphasis on ROI centred on lowering companies' healthcare costs, this operational view has evolved, as companies quickly realised that investing in their peoples' health was critical to productivity, performance, and growth.


With the emergence of the hybrid world of work, wellness has taken on a new meaning, as mental and emotional wellbeing became critical to success. Organisations launched wellness initiatives as an immediate necessity, but the fact remains that wellness would continue to be a core priority even as we recover from the pandemic. Wellness is not just a plug-and-play solution; it is a way of life that organisations must imbibe in their people and businesses' best interests. 

A core construct of wellness

Wellness is not a new phenomenon. Martin Seligman, one of the founders of positive psychology, developed a model with five core elements of psychological wellbeing and happiness: 

P– Positive emotions: happiness and life satisfaction 

E – Engagement: total absorption in the task 

R – Relationships: human connections 

M – Meaning: belonging to and serving something bigger than self

A – Accomplishments: a sense of achievement 

In an organisational context, wellness or wellbeing translates to several forms, namely, physical, social, occupational, emotional/mental, financial and spiritual. The pandemic has shifted organisational focus towards intangible aspects such as mental and emotional wellness, rather than just physical wellness. 

Why focus on organisational wellness? 

As the core nature of work changes, the talent milieu is ever-evolving. On the one hand, there are increasing expectations of a diverse, multi-generational, multi-dimensional workforce. On the other hand, virtual working has further dissolved boundaries, making the war for talent ever-more rampant. Wellness-related benefits are a powerful instrument to engage and retain talent, which can boost productivity and act as a talent magnet for the future.

43% of employees want their employers to foster a more "pro-health" environment. The top three valuable wellness initiatives were 'flexible work arrangements', 'time off for health and wellbeing appointments, and 'an app that finds me the right doctor or medical care.

Despite this, the reality is that employee adoption of wellness initiatives often remains low, and the desired outcomes are not realised. This can lead to CXO-interest loss, relegating wellbeing as an added benefit instead of a 'must-do'. 

The real challenge that wellness and HR professionals struggle with is providing a health and wellbeing experience that's flexible and that employees value while realising the defined program outcomes. Both challenge areas need to be addressed to help realise ROI and ensure a sustained leadership commitment to wellbeing.

What does ROI look like for wellness? 

While the initial emphasis on ROI centred on lowering companies' healthcare costs, this operational view has evolved, as companies quickly realised that investing in their peoples' health was critical to productivity, performance, and growth. 

Research shows that companies that adopt employee wellbeing as part of a broader business strategy can realise other, more substantial ROI by helping employees make their lives better. 

However, achieving this outcome requires thinking about employee health not as a soft HR benefit but as a strategic enabler for advancing corporate objectives. This can help achieve the following: 

  • Lower employee turnover: Wellness initiatives portray that the company cares for its people, thereby leading to a better sense of belonging and commitment. 
  • Lower risk of burnout: Workplace stress and absence of support can lead to employee burnout, thereby hampering productivity. 
  • Lower absenteeism: Less chronically ill employees naturally take less time off to deal with illnesses. 
  • Increased productivity: Employees can suffer from presenteeism at work when suffering from mental conditions such as anxiety and depression. Moreover, the still rampant stigma associated with mental illnesses calls for greater involvement by organisations to break the biases. 
  • Business unit performance: Healthy employees are proven to translate to higher revenue per employee, greater shareholder returns, financial stability and growth.

It is important to define these metrics as part of the wellness strategy and set up monitoring mechanisms to track if they meet the desired goals. 

Realising ROI for sustained wellness outcomes

Tracking and highlighting ROI metrics is the first step towards realising wellness ROI. The true success of wellness stems from employee adoption and advocacy. Wellness strategies should establish wide stakeholder participation covering different employee groups, including employees of different levels, ages, genders, and ethnicities responsible for managing, planning, communicating, and facilitating all aspects of the organisation's wellbeing program.

HR teams must listen to, engage with, and understand what employees truly need using employee surveys, experience-sharing and focus group discussions etc. and build programs based on that need. An ongoing 'culture health audit' can help continuously assess employees' responses to the programs. Wherever required, solutions can be co-created with third party wellness service providers. 

Managers should also play a proactive role in communicating the wellness objectives and offerings to the true beneficiaries, i.e. the employees. Creating an ongoing buzz and highlighting "What's in it for me?" for the employee is the way to make wellness programs stick as an organisational way of life and realise ROI. 

In today's post-pandemic times, organisations have come to understand the true importance of employee health and wellbeing. Hence, to build a truly robust and effective wellbeing program, HR teams must make wellbeing an integral part of the organisation's foundation and essence. 

Wellness is no longer only an 'HR' agenda; it is a business mandate. And it is time for top leaders to start thinking about their responsibility towards the well-being of their people. This culture of wellness will make wellness adoption effortless and help realise the desired return on wellness investment.


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Topics: Corporate Wellness Programs, #Wellness First With MediBuddy

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