Corporate health and wellness programs save employers money. There is a wealth of emerging evidence indicating that successful health and wellness programs provide an excellent return on investment. Studies indicate an average rate of return of between 2:1 and 5:1 for every dollar spent. The return comes in many forms, some of which are outlined below.
Health and wellness programs help staff feel valued, positively impact on workplace culture and workplace health – increasing the satisfaction level of employees. Research has shown that employees who feel valued, validated, and appreciated are far more efficient, effective, and productive than their unhappy, underappreciated counterparts.
In addition, healthy workers are more productive at work than unhealthy workers. One Australian study found that the healthiest employees are almost three times more effective than the least healthy. The healthiest employees work approximately 143 effective hours per month compared to 49 effective hours per month by the least healthy.
Reduction in absenteeism, illness and injuries
Absenteeism rates in Australia are on the rise, up from 8.5 days per person in 2006 to 9.87 per person in 2010. Workplace absences are expensive for employers, costing on average $3741 per employee per year in 2010. Since 75% of unplanned absences are for illness, the link between worker health and absenteeism costs is obvious. A wellness program that improves employee health and fitness has been shown to significantly reduce absenteeism. One study found on average corporate health and wellness programs decrease sick leave absenteeism by 25.3%.
Reduction in Workers compensation
Physical and mental stress claims accounted for 71% of premium payers’ claims costs in the Comcare scheme in 2009/10. The incidence of both claim types is strongly linked to the work environment and worker well being. Research shows the lowest workers’ compensation costs are in work teams where good leadership and organisational climate creates good workplace culture where employees feel supported and have high levels of well being. When management expresses concern for workers and demonstrates a willingness to invest in them, the relationship between employer and employee is likely to improve. Effective health and wellness programs have been shown to decrease workers compensation costs by 40.7% and decrease disability management costs by 24.2%.
Improved health of ageing population
Protecting the health of workers is becoming more critical as the Australia’s workforce ages. There has been a consistent long-term trend in Australia towards an older age profile, with increasing numbers of workers over 45 years of age. Older workers are more likely to develop chronic diseases and disabilities and are more succeptible to workplace accidents and injuries. Corporate health and wellness programs that support older workers remaining in the workforce by reducing health risks and preventing or delaying chronic disease and disability are becoming more important.
Reduction in presenteeism
Presenteeism – defined as not fully functioning at work because of illness or a medical condition, is estimated to cost the employer between three and four times that of absenteeism. Research indicates that on-the-job productivity losses could account for up to 61% of the total cost to the employer due to employees suffering from chronic disease. As presenteeism is a ‘hidden’ cost the true cost of an unhealthy workforce is likely to be much larger than most employers realise. By helping to reduce the effects of chronic and acute disease, workplace wellness programs can significantly reduce this cost.
Research has identified an association between health and wellbeing and employee turnover: where an organisation does not manage health and wellbeing well it is four times more likely to lose talent in the next twelve months. A recent study estimated that the cost of staff turnover in Australia is around $20 billion. They also also found that staff turnover rates in Australia are on the rise. The cost of replacing an employee is estimated to be at least 75% of the employee’s annual salary and may be as much as 150% in some cases – a significant cost to employers.
The value of retaining a good staff member will far outweigh the cost of a wellness program. Forbes magazine reported that 77% of employees feel health and wellness programs positively impact the culture at work. While 60% of employees surveyed by the American Association of Occupational Health Nurses regarded wellness programs as a good reason to remain with their employer.
Demonstrating a sense of corporate social responsibility can improve an organisation’s image with the public and can help an organisation become an “employer of choice”. Health and wellness programs help to attract quality employees who value personal health and wellness and assist in retaining existing staff members. In one survey, 87% of respondents reported that they would rather be employed by someone who provides health and well-being support, and 82% believed that these programs improve employee well-being.