Where‘s the ROI?: The Complexities of Calculating Wellness ROI

In this opinion piece, CoreHealth’s Managing Director Anne Marie Kirby gives her 20+ years of experiential insight on the complexities of calculating wellness ROI.  

Early on in my well-being career, I attended a very interesting session at a Wellness Conference that shed light on the crux of our ROI dilemma.  It was a presentation by a medical doctor (unfortunately I can’t remember his name to give him credit) who simply said, “When I prescribe medications to employees, nobody asks me what the ROI is.”  

This immediately got my mind going about the impact of calculating ROI on treatment. For example, if you have two employees, both with cardiovascular disease, would you compare the risk of them dying without the medication against the cost of hiring someone new? Would that mean certain medications would only be prescribed for Managers and Executives because of cost? Would you have to calculate expected absenteeism against the employee’s age, education level, etc. to determine the worthiness of a particular treatment regimen? I know, following through with that thought process is just poking a hole in a can of worms.  

But if determining ROI on treatment is so ridiculous, why does it come up so often for prevention? 

The Complexities of Calculating Wellness ROI  

Considering the fact that every year, the health of our people decreases means that we are trying to calculate the return on a falling market. Rather than calculating “returns,” we’re lucky to calculate “didn’t get worse” numbers.” Some are predicting that we may be the first generation in history with a declining life expectancy. This all makes for a difficult calculation. 

Obviously, there are other issues and considerations, but the last point I’ll raise is the complexity of the factors involved, both technical and organizational. The health of employees has such a major impact on the entire organization’s success, and it’s still difficult to pull that much data due to its “ownership”. That statement alone should be justification for a total commitment to well-being programs.  

Where to start? Let’s start with the obvious: 

  • Healthier employees miss less time (absenteeism data); 
  • Healthier employees can focus more on their work (presenteeism data/engagement data); 
  • Healthier employees don’t die as frequently (attrition data); 
  • Employees that feel that their employer cares about them don’t “job hop” as much; (retention and recruitment data); and,  
  • The big one – generally, healthier employees tend to have lower healthcare costs. 

In the age of The Great Resignation, the question should not be “Where’s the ROI”, but should be: “Why implementing wellness programs has never been more important?”  Employees are now looking for the best employer on the market and an attractive, inclusive workplace culture and well-being are key reasons for a move. We need to move beyond ROI and talk about the real value for organizations, keeping their employees healthy, happy, and productive – this is about the value on investment/VOI (vs ROI). 

So the next time you have to train someone new to the industry or speak to the issue of ROI, please feel free to reference my points outlined in this article. 

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About CoreHealth

CoreHealth by Carebook is a total well-being company trusted by global companies to power their health and wellness programs. Our wellness portals help maximize health, engagement, and productivity for over 3.5 million employees worldwide.  We believe people are the driving force of organizations and supporting them to make behavior changes to improve employee health is in everyone’s best interest. With the most flexibility, customizations, and integrations of any software in its class, CoreHealth’s all-in-one wellness platform helps achieve great wellness outcomes. 

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