While health care costs grab allthe attention, in reality the greater return is from improvementsin work contributions and innovation.

|

The classic question: “What is the return on investmentfor employee wellness programs?”

|

In our executive focus groups, if we can't give executives asimple answer within a few nanoseconds they roll their eyes anddisengage.

|

This is a mistake.

|

To successfully manage the business issues that executives tellus are keeping them up at night, they need employees who areenergetic, creative and optimistic. They need people who can solveproblems effectively and manage change.

|

Not understanding how to find or value ROI for wellness programsdistorts executives' decision-making about investments that standto provide their businesses a competitive edge.

|

Return on investment for employee wellness programs can't befound on a profit and loss report. Determining this ROI ispossible, but it takes data and analysis. Because it's complex,many companies do not pursue it.

|

ROI for employee wellness does exist and can be found—if youknow where and when to look.

|

Real ROI for employee wellness

Business leaders understandably want to know about ROI forprograms they're considering. We know, based on years of fieldexperience with program implementation and evaluation, that ROI forwellness programs is hard to find.

|

So we created a quick ROI explainer video to reveal what to lookfor as well as where and when, based on the best industry researchwe've found. It shows all you need to know in about twominutes.

|

Prefer to read the details? Finding ROI requires identifyingemployees who are similar in demographics and health status levelsand determining if those who participate in wellness programactivities have less health care services utilization and/or costs,less lost time from work, and better work contributions.

|

The findings often show that health services utilization issomewhat better for program participants and that lost time fromwork and work contributions are substantially better forparticipants.

|

While health care costs grab all the attention, in reality thegreater return is from improvements in work contributions andinnovation.

|

Real health is actually more important in today's businessworld

A more useful way to think about the potential for benefit fromemployee health programs is to consider the level of real healthparticipants of these programs are achieving along with the numberof employees who exhibit real health among the company's entireemployee population.

|

Today's business world is so demanding that the benefits gainedfrom having employees with real health outpace other metrics. I'llget to those in a moment. But first, we need to look at what “realhealth” is.

|

What is “real health”?

Real health is a state of high capacity and overall well-beingcharacterized by effective mental focus, stamina, energy,adaptability, and emotional composure as well as resistance tocommon illnesses. It reflects balance and optimal performanceacross multiple life dimensions. It also reflects the level ofhealth and energy an individual has rather than their levels ofdiseases and health risks.

|

Real health applies to individuals and can be used to determinethe strength of health of the entire employee population. While wehave gigantic data collections on the prevalence of diseases of allkinds, data on the percentage of people who have high states ofhealth and well-being are miniscule. Within the general population,one of the few researchers in this area found that about20 percent of U.S. adults meet the criteria forflourishing.

|

Real health arises when people adopt and sustain personalpractices that optimize and integrate all aspects of life,including the physical, mental, emotional, purpose and lifedirection dimensions. They develop confidence in their abilities tore-balance and heal whether they work with health professionals inthe process or not.

|

It's rare to understand what real health is because most of usthink of health in outdated ways.

|

Measuring real health

Measuring real health involves determining the health and energylevels of employees through analysis of their responses to researchquestions and reporting them as a percentage between 0 and 100percent. Health care services utilization and/or costs, lost timefrom work, and work performance and contributions can be evaluatedaccording to the employee's level (percentage) of health andenergy.

|

Real health's business value

In one study, employees who have high health levels showed:

  • 4 times less health services utilization,
  • 6 times less lost time from work, and
  • 8 times better work contributions than employees at low healthlevels.

In our own non-published data trends, we've found that employeeswith high health have three times less health services utilization,three times less lost time from work, and eight times better workcontributions than those at low health levels.

|

Higher innovation and work performance are also seen amongemployees who have high levels of health and well-being.

|

Executives tell us they want more innovation for theirbusinesses, and of course they do. It leads to a competitiveedge.

|

Why the driver of this edge often goes unnoticed

Real health is a nearly hidden driver because our focus is onhealth pathology and not on our potential for realizing highoverall capacity and high levels of health and well-being. Thislimited way of thinking is so pervasive that we are not even awareof it.

|

Yet the way we see health shapes our programs. Because weperceive health as a problem, our wellness efforts center onreducing risks and mitigating disease. These efforts have notdelivered the outcomes of high capacity that we have hoped for.We're working on problems but not increasing employee health andwell-being levels, which lead to greater innovation.

|

A more strategic course of action is to build personal energy,mental focus, stamina, optimism, and high capacity that alsohave—as collateral benefits—the ability to reduce the healthproblems of our concerns.

|

Real health is possible—not just for top executives, but alsofor employees

|

Science-based methods now exist for restoring mental focus,building adaptive capacity for high demand situations, moving andfueling the body optimally, and achieving emotional and mentalbalance (Young, 2019).

|

Top business leaders have had access to these practices foryears at exclusive executive development centers. Because thesepractices have not been affordable or scalable for large numbers ofemployees until recently, very few companies have tapped them.

|

When delivered effectively, these new techniques represent anupgrade in employee wellness programming—one that successfulcompanies cannot afford to ignore. Moreover, the value delivered bysuch programs stands to set businesses apart.

|

Real health is now a business imperative

Executives are understandably concerned with problems that keepthem up at night involving profits, investments, talent, culture,trends, competition, and resources. Most overlook real health,which underpins all of these and can yield a powerful edge fortheir companies.

|

|

Employees who know how to manage their health experience lesshealth services utilization, less lost time from work, and betterwork contributions than those who don't.

|

High health and high personal capacity creates the dynamicbalance, stability, and flexibility required to prosper, especiallyin our present time of constant change, disruptive economies, andescalating societal demands. Having real health makes it possiblefor people to do what matters most to them (Young, 2018).

|

Real health may be a surprising way to build innovation inbusiness, but it's enduring, valuable, and well worth the modestinvestment.

|

Joyce M. Young, MD, MPH,is managing director, Advanced Wellness Systems for theHigh HealthNetwork. Dr. Young is board certified in GeneralPreventive Medicine and Public Health and is the author of numerouspeer-reviewed publications on wellness program design andoutcomes. 


Read more: 

Complete your profile to continue reading and get FREE access to BenefitsPRO, part of your ALM digital membership.

  • Critical BenefitsPRO information including cutting edge post-reform success strategies, access to educational webcasts and videos, resources from industry leaders, and informative Newsletters.
  • Exclusive discounts on ALM, BenefitsPRO magazine and BenefitsPRO.com events
  • Access to other award-winning ALM websites including ThinkAdvisor.com and Law.com
NOT FOR REPRINT

© 2024 ALM Global, LLC, All Rights Reserved. Request academic re-use from www.copyright.com. All other uses, submit a request to [email protected]. For more information visit Asset & Logo Licensing.