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Getting true value from your wellbeing budget

By Mark Nicoll | Jun 1, 2021


If you do a google search, there are many versions of this article topic doing the rounds.

You’re going to hear the full gamut about ROI, productivity being boosted by x amount and building resilience into a workforce, when it would seem that resilience is something that has decreased with every working generation. 

But let’s get back to the title, and as it says, what does “getting value” really mean, and how do you measure it, and possibly improve on it?

The actual truth is, you can only really measure something if you A/B test it surely?

How to measure effectiveness?

A/B testing an email newsletter is easy and takes minutes.  In the case of employee wellbeing, not so much.

Firstly, and to be meaningful, you need enough people to form two equal cohorts: similar age, weight, height, jobs, departments etc. 

And they need to be separated, i.e. they don’t have contact with the other cohort members, or they can influence the outcomes, positively or negatively.

Cohort one has the wellbeing programme in place, cohort two has nothing, you test this over a decent amount of time and get your results.

Not that easy, but at least the outcomes are measurable.

Measuring value?

Wellbeing platforms or apps have always historically charged on a "per seat” basis, it’s just always been this way.

You pay your £5 (or whatever) per employee and hope they use it, but, as they say “you can’t lead a horse to water” etc……

……hang on, haven’t you just paid £5 for that unused seat, and what if 200 of your 1000 employees don’t use the platform (some will never use ever), isn’t that £1000 per month in waste?

And add the cost of change management, over the course of the year, we’re potentially talking about half of someone’s salary where you may be tight for people.

Think about that.

Real life examples

There are various online references to measuring ROI on wellbeing programmes in monetary terms, a fascinating example which is well worth a read is here in the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine 2013.

This is an academic examination of the theoretical return on investment in strict monetary terms of selected major listed US businesses that have deployed wellbeing initiatives and are recognised by a CHAA (corporate health achievement award).

The researchers have tracked investment value based on annual financial performance, using theoretical investments in these companies, as against the returns achieved by the S&P 500 average of listed companies.

In every case, the selected companies returned between 5 - 6% per annum in investment terms over the monitored period (1999 - 2012), whereas the mean average return for the none CHAA companies was generally neutral, or slightly negative.

This leads to their conclusion documented in the research as follows.

"Our results strongly support the view that focusing on the health and safety of a workforce is good business. Engaging in a comprehensive effort to promote wellness, reduce the health risks of a workforce, and mitigate the complications of chronic illness within these populations can produce remarkable impacts on health care costs, productivity, and performance.

"This portfolio of publicly traded award-winning companies clearly outperformed the market. Although correlation is not the same as causation, results consistently and significantly suggest that companies focusing on the health and safety of their workforce are yielding greater value for their investors as well. More research needs to be done to better understand the value of building these “cultures of health” in the workplace. Perhaps such efforts as this simply identify “smart” companies that outperform, but the evidence seems to be building that healthier workforces provide a competitive advantage in ways that benefit their investors."

This is compelling stuff, and well worth pondering over the details - and considering just how truly impactful and financially rewarding a culture of wellbeing within a company can be.


To sum up, measuring the effectiveness of any wellbeing strategy is truly a hard task.  It takes up time and resources, and transitioning out of this pandemic, both are in short supply.

Measuring value is a little easier - look at uptake and usage and then at your cost per seat and ask yourself why you’re paying for waste.

Also consider the published evidence that is widely available, and the case for employee wellbeing is self-evident.

Mark Nicoll

Mark Nicoll

I am a co-founder of Keep Fit Eat Fit and have a passion for visual communications as well as health, fitness and overall wellbeing. Having worked for lots of companies as well as myself, I know how important maintaining personal wellbeing is, and have a few pet subjects I will be writing about within our website.