In recent decades, employer-sponsored health and wellness programmes have become more mainstream globally due to an increasing focus on improving employee health, loyalty and retention and reducing absenteeism. It is no secret that employee productivity is directly related to a company’s bottom line and that a healthy and happy workforce means a productive one, which can help pave the way to corporate success. Employees are the greatest asset a company can have and employers are realising that in order to attract and keep the right type of talent in their workforce, they need to enhance their wellness programmes.
However, some of the available literature is sceptical of the benefits of workplace wellness programmes with evidence suggesting that many such programmes have a tendency to fall flat and fail to deliver any significant return on investment for employers or employees. The questions remain, ‘what type of workplace wellness programmes offer employers true value for their investment?’ and ‘why are too few workplace health programmes failing to live up to expectations and delivering measurable results?’
While some workplace health programmes fail as they are relying on the limited resources of HR departments to deal with the logistical and operational aspects of delivering the programmes, the majority of those that fail do so because they have no scientific basis. A study published in the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine (JOEM) found that successful workplace health programmes consist of “a combination of good design built on behaviour change theory, effective implementation using evidence-based practices and credible measurement and evaluation”. This paper used evidence from over three decades of research and concluded that scientifically based workplace health programmes can consistently achieve positive health and financial benefits for employees and employers. In other words, there is no substitute for science when it comes to employee health!
Successful workplace health programmes should be data driven and be able to demonstrate their effectiveness and return on investment in clear and measurable terms in each company that they are working for. Employers should invest only in programmes that have a proven health and financial benefit and that can also deliver on intangible benefits that are often difficult to assign monetary values to, such as improved quality of life for employees, employee engagement and improved corporate image. Once employers have decided on the right evidence based programme for their workplace, they need to ensure that the programme becomes embedded within the workplace and that a sustainable culture of health is championed from the top down to enable year on year benefits for their employees and their company!