Wellness programs a sound financial investment for organizations but improved measurement required


TORONTO, June 18, 2012 /CNW/ - Organizations should invest in workplace wellness programs because it makes financial sense to do so, but Canadian employers are at the infancy stages of evaluating health and wellness programs and demonstrating the positive return on investment (ROI) that can be generated.

A Conference Board of Canada report, released today at the Workplace Wellness and Mental Health 2012 conference, provides organizations of all sizes with advice and tools to measure the return from health and wellness programs.

"In an increasingly competitive economy and labour market, senior leaders may know instinctively that spending on wellness initiatives is, in fact, an investment in the health and productivity of their employees. But wellness practitioners must increasingly be prepared to demonstrate to senior management that the program is effective and has a direct impact on the organization's bottom line," said Karla Thorpe, Director, Leadership and Human Resources Research, who will present the findings of the report Making the Business Case for Investments in Workplace Health and Wellness, today at 9:30 a.m.

"There is nothing for practitioners to fear in calculating ROI. If programs are correctly targeted to the health conditions most prevalent in the workforce—and to areas where employees are receptive to making lifestyle changes—the financial return to employers will most certainly be positive."

Investments in health and wellness programs can lead to higher productivity, as well as reduce benefit costs, absenteeism, and presenteeism (circumstances in which an employee is physically at work but not fully productive). Cost savings are often used to justify wellness program expenditures.

However, recent studies by The Conference Board of Canada and other researchers indicate that less than one-third of Canadian organizations evaluate program outcomes, and fewer than one per cent of employers rigourously analyze the ROI for wellness programs. Organizations are currently more focused on measures like participation rates, employee satisfaction with the program, and employee engagement than on calculating a formal ROI.

At the outset of a wellness program, it is vital for organizations to get a baseline measurement of the health of their workforce—identifying the predominant medical conditions and the leading risk factors. Health risk assessments and biometric screening are some of the best tools for establishing a baseline before implementing a new health and wellness program.

Following the implementation of wellness programming geared to the business needs, employers should evaluate the program to ensure it is having the desired impact and make any necessary modifications. For employers with more sophisticated wellness programs, this evaluation phase may include a formal return on investment calculation.

Whether organizations are ready to embark on a process of calculating a formal ROI or not, this report identifies tools and measures—including a metrics checklist and sample calculations—that employers can use to determine and demonstrate positive outcomes from their investments in health and wellness initiatives. Employers are at different stages of development with regard to their workplace wellness programs. As they move toward more comprehensive, integrated programs, they can expect to see a better return on investment.

The study was made possible by the support of the title sponsor, Standard Life, and contributing sponsors Ceridian, Homewood Human Solutions, Medavie Blue Cross, Mercer, Pfizer, Sanofi, TELUS Health Solutions, and The Canadian Alliance for Sustainable Health Care (CASHC) at The Conference Board of Canada.

In addition to this report, 10 case studies will profile the organizations interviewed for the research in a series called "Wellness Metrics in Action: A Spotlight on Employers".


For further information:

Brent Dowdall, Media Relations, Tel.: 613- 526-3090 ext.  448
E-mail: corpcomm@conferenceboard.ca

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