A recent provocative headline once again declared that workplace wellness programs don’t work. We agree that too many workplace wellness programs don’t work. To be effective, wellness programs must be well-designed, well-communicated and well-supported. And, we can tell you that it makes a measurable difference when your wellness programs are also supported by an onsite clinic. Willis Towers Watson survey data, for example, show employees are about twice as likely to feel encouraged to live a healthier lifestyle when an employer-sponsored clinic is part of their employer’s total wellness benefit.
Getting Value for Your Investment
It’s important to see that the money you invest in an employee wellness program comes back in the form of lower health care costs – but that measurement shouldn’t stand alone. ROI, make space in the boardroom for VOI: value-on-investment. Then we can get a proper look at which workplace wellness strategies are really best for business.
The International Foundation of Employee Benefit Plans (IEBF) surveyed 372 U.S. organizations of various size, industry and region to see what kinds of wellness programs they offered and the outcomes they experienced. A comprehensive report on the survey shows how these companies are both achieving and measuring their success.
Just over one fourth of organizations measure their wellness program success using traditional ROI as a stand-alone measure. Most include at least one of the following VOI measures to measure wellness program success:
What Positive VOI Companies Have in Common
Organizations that achieve positive wellness VOI have several things in common. They offer a wider-than-average range of wellness programs, including things like fitness and nutrition initiatives, screening and treatment programs, social and community events, stress and mental health offerings and purpose and growth initiatives. Positive VOI wellness programs also tend to have a broader range of communication channels for wellness initiatives, including seminars, speakers, testimonials, books, brochures, health fairs and social media.
Julie Stich, CEBS, research director at the IEBF said, "Employers reporting a strong VOI are taking a more holistic approach to wellness. Beyond traditional wellness initiatives, they are offering options like stress-management programs, staff outings, charity drives and flexible work hours."
Factors that successfully increase participation in wellness programs include offering incentives, targeting programs based on employee health risks, surveying workers for feedback on initiatives, including spouses and children in offerings and having company leaders communicate wellness program support.
"Wellness programs are not one size fits all," said Stich. "Before launching or expanding a wellness initiative, employers should determine what their goals are and what programs are a good fit for their unique workplace culture."
In addition to increasing participation rates, three factors—a greater level of wellness communication, a willingness to seek worker input and an effort to include families—are repeating themes across organizations with positive ROI, VOI and great workplace cultures.