As a CFO, I constantly find myself taking multiple mindsets into consideration on behalf of our company, employees and clients, and deciding which investments and priorities will garner the best ROI. Essentially, I’m “the numbers guy.”
Now, I enjoy a good ROI conversation like any good financial leader. So what I’m about to tell you may come as a surprise: When it comes to workplace well-being, it’s not all about the numbers.
Much discussion about the ROI of workplace well-being programs has been focused on answering one question: Will well-being initiatives reduce our company’s insurance claims?
For many companies, this is a valuable measure in showing the effectiveness of workplace well-being initiatives, but it is just that — one quantitative measure.
It is a crucial question to be able to answer to determine if healthier lifestyles are being created as a result of well-being programs; however, I’m concerned that in our search to quantify the ROI of corporate well-being programs, we’re at risk of oversimplifying the nature and role of our employees’ health.
I strongly believe we need to broaden the way we think about and demonstrate the value of employee well-being programs—to include both the hard numbers and ROI measures like a reduction in insurance claims, as well as the VOI, or “value of investment,” which speaks to the broader implications of workplace well-being and its effects on the overall tone, culture and effectiveness of an organization.
So let’s take a step back and gain some perspective on employee well-being, how it affects the work we do, and explore a series of the more qualitative benefits of prioritizing well-being in the workplace.
Employee well-being snapshot
Well-being is not simply physical health.
Increasingly, employers are looking at employee health from a whole-person view, recognizing its physical, social, emotional, financial and environmental dimensions. Reports are being published on an almost weekly basis detailing the close link between employee well-being and job performance.
A positive well-being contributes to higher job performance and engagement. According to Gallup, just over 30 percent of the American workforce calls themselves engaged, and 17 percent is actively disengaged.
At the same time, nearly half of working adults say their job affects their overall health, with only 28 percent saying the effect is a good one.
The value of workplace well-being programs
I believe well-executed employee well-being programs have the potential to help turn some of these numbers around, and contribute to a healthier, more productive and engaged workforce. In addition to helping to cut health care costs for companies, workplace well-being done right can:
Support engagement, performance and talent retention. One of the crucial pillars of employee engagement is employee well-being. Gallup has found that employees with high well-being and engagement are 27 percent more likely to report excellent performance in their job, miss 70 percent less workdays throughout the year due to poor health, are 45 percent more likely to be highly adaptable and are almost 60 percent less likely to look for a job with a different organization in the next 12 months.
Programs that effectively help employees build and sustain healthy behaviors across physical, mental and emotional capacities can contribute to a thriving, high-performing workplace.
Communicate you truly care about your employees. In recent research we conducted, 70 percent of well-being program participants reported that the presence of a well-being program communicates that their employer cares about them.
In the age of the employee experience, employees view their well-being as an opportunity for personalization: Our research found that both well-being program participants and those who choose not to participate agree that well-being should be customized for their unique goals.
Investing in the unique health and well-being needs among your employee base communicates that you care about them beyond their production value, and contributes to a more well-rounded culture.
Provide additional leadership opportunities and employee interaction. Just like any strategic initiative, champions across all levels of the organization are essential to program success. Well-being initiatives provide opportunities for employees to lead in areas they may be particularly passionate about, giving them visibility and access across the organization they may not have otherwise had in their daily projects.
In addition, our research has found that employees want to connect with other like-minded employees with similar health interests and risks.
This is especially true among those who don’t currently participate in well-being activities at work. Employees are seeking a sense of community, and well-being activities can help to connect those on your team who may have no other natural opportunity—which in turn, helps to create a more supportive and communal work environment.