The Health Care ROI Debate: Do I Really Need to Sell You on Wellness?

From the HR blog on TLNT: workplace wellness
From the HR blog on TLNT: workplace wellness. Photo illustration by Dreamstime.

I frequently interview non-client companies to hear what they’re doing to build health-supporting cultures. One question I always ask is: what’s your ROI?

When I interviewed Hollie Delaney from, Inc. about their approach to employee wellness, she told me they’re interested in their employees’ happiness; they believe when you feel better, you work better. When I asked how they measured this, she said they haven’t quite figured out how to measure happiness. Plus, their company isn’t purely a metrics-driven company.

Aren’t they the lucky ones? Most companies must prove the ROI before they get crackin’ on design and implementation, particularly when it comes to wellness, a topic that many still find squishy.

On last week’s HR Happy Hour radio show titled “Wrestling with Wellness,” I shared several studies that found that yes, wellness does work. It has both hard dollar and soft dollar ROI, and, staggering business and social reasons as driving forces. Then Greg and I shared our opinion that even with these studies, there’s room for doubt. My wellness effort is not your wellness effort, and as with all studies, people question the methodology and the findings.

Why the ROI on wellness should be clear

We could go around and around on this topic. So, let me pose something: if you need to do battle to prove why you should invest in your employees’ and their families’ health, perhaps your organization’s not ready — or willing. Putting aside these studies and employees themselves saying they’d be more productive with greater wellness investment, isn’t the ROI clear to anyone who reflects on whether:

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  • They personally have more energy when they eat well and exercise regularly.
  • Their body aches less and their mind is sharper when they get up and move instead of sitting on their bums all day.
  • Their self-image and attitude improve with each small, healthy change.
  • They feel in control when they can understand how to live with or reduce any health risk.
  • They feel less stress when they know their finances are sound.
  • They’re less distracted when they have help for any personal or family issue.
  • They sleep better and are more productive when all of the above is in place.
  • They give more at work when work gives more to them.

I’m not suggesting we give up on measurement. I’m simply pointing out that sometimes, all the evidence we need is staring us right in the face.

TLNT contributor Fran Melmed frequently writes about wellness and health care on her Free-Range Communication blog.