Helping employees become better versions of themselves, isn’t that just the happy people version of ‘green washing’? Shouldn’t work be about work and achieving business results? Yes, it should and as investing in workplace wellbeing might sound soft and fluffy, the empirical research shows that wellbeing is a prerequisite for sustaining success in people and their workplaces, and not simply a benefit or byproduct [1]. Greater employee wellbeing leads to workplace engagement, which increases productivity, resulting in better business outcomes and profit [2].

Want to see the data? let’s share a few actual examples.

  • A 12-month study at Unilever in the UK showed that a health risk reduction program resulted in an average reduction of half a risk factor per individual. Next to this they reported an average increase of 8.5% in work performance in the study group, when compared with no significant difference in the group that did not receive any interventions. The conservative return on investment for this program was 3.73 to 1 [3]
  • Not unexpected, healthy employees cost you less and especially for US based companies the health care cost can be reduced significantly with the right wellbeing programs. Doctors Richard Milani and Carl Lavie demonstrated that point by studying, at a single US based employer, a random sample of 185 workers and their spouses. 57% of people with high health risk reached low-risk status by completing a worksite cardiac rehabilitation and exercise program. And every dollar invested in the intervention yielded $6 in health care savings [4].
  • And here is one from my own experience, at the time when I worked at Johnson and Johnson being responsible for the deployment of their global employee wellbeing program as part of the Occupational Health leadership team. Globally we studied the effects of the energy management training program and reported that the training yielded a significant difference in performance, promotion and retention measured in a study of > 5.000 employees. On hard dollars, these results demonstrated an actual cost saving of $60 million on recruitment and onboarding cost on 30.000 trained employees [5]. That is $2000 per trained employee, next to the benefits the company gained with increased performance. Deduct the cost per employee for the program itself and you have your real ROI. Next to the effect described above the company further studied the effects of their intervention and reported in the American Journal of Health Promotion (2018) that their training program improved 1. Purpose in life, an important component of wellbeing, 2. Sleep and energy levels and 3. sense of health and wellbeing [6].

So while often seen as an expense, an investment in your people’s health and wellbeing is actually a real asset with an interesting ROI. Some welcome the byproducts like engagement, happiness, and employer branding. As a guide, every dollar spent on promoting wellbeing in individuals and the organization as whole yields a return of approximately 1-3 dollars. So when you are thinking of investing in wellbeing and you want to make sure you get your money back, please do look further than solely health prevention and physical fitness, a piece of fruit next to the coffee machine, or free yoga on Friday afternoons. Go for the evidence-based interventions with measured results that are out there.


[1] Lyubomirsky, S. The benefits of frequent positive affect: Does happiness lead to success? Psychological Bulletin, 131 (6), 803-55
[2] Harter, J.K., Schmidt, FL., and Hayes, T.L. Business unit level relationship between employhee satisfaction, employee engagemen6 and business outcomes; A meta-analysis, Journal of Applied Psychology, 87;268-79
[3]  “Its Official: At Work Health Promotion Programmes Work”, by Peter Mills, E-HPM newsletter, December 2005
[5] Alec Munc, PhD, Adam Myer, PhD (2016) Energy for Performance®: Evaluation of Course Impact with Johnson & Johnson Employees.
[6] Das, S.K.., Mason, S., Vail, T., et al. (2018). Effectiveness of an Energy Management Training Course on Employee Well-Being: A Randomized Controlled Trial. American Journal of  Health Promotion7.



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