How to Increase ROI on Workplace Wellness Programs

July 2, 2013

The Current State of Workplace Wellness Programs

While Workplace Wellness Programs may be working well for employers, could they be working better? My answer is, yes. In fact, when we take a close look at how well they are working in their current format, we will see that Workplace Wellness Programs are grossly underperforming, and with some relatively minor tweaking, these programs have the potential to get the kind of return on investment that can put a real dent in an employers runaway healthcare inflation. 

Step one on the journey to enhancing the value of Workplace Wellness Programs is understanding the statistical principle, selection bias, the error in choosing the individuals or groups to take part in a scientific study. As a direct result of their well-intentioned effort to get all of their employees to take part in their Wellness Programs, employers have, in fact, been non-selective, inadvertently creating a selection bias which drastically effects these programs returns on investment. If all employees are equally incentivized, those most likely to take part in a Wellness Program are those employees already predisposed, to the virtual exclusion of those employees that are not already predisposed, to wellness. Why is this of such great importance? As it turns out, employees’ wellness, or well-being directly correlates with their work performance and productivity. The best evidence for this comes from the basic metrics every employer uses for tracking their lost workforce productivity, such as absenteeism, presenteeism, disability costs, employee turnover, employee attraction and successorship, all of which are directly affected by employee health and wellness, and when all tallied, cost employers far more than their direct employee healthcare costs. In spite of this well established interdependence of workforce well-beinghealthcare costs and lost workforce productivity, only healthcare costs have a column on an employer’s balance sheet, and therefore, command most of an employer’s focus and attention. To successfully resolve runaway healthcare inflation, employers need to adjust their focus so they bring the whole problem into view; then they will see, it’s not just the cost, it’s productivity lost!

In conclusion, the selection bias that now pervades Workplace Wellness Programs is causing most of an employer’s investment to be spent on their most well employees, who have the least to gain and that cost employers the least, while excluding their least well employees, who have the most to gain and that cost employers the most in both direct healthcare costs as well as in lost workforce productivity. Since their being non-selective caused this selection bias, perhaps becoming more selective as to which employees should take part will dramatically increase employers yields from their Workplace Wellness Programs. The time has come to:

Leave Well Enough Alone:

the first ever,

Performance driven Workplace Wellness Program

in my next post, so please stay tuned.


Mitchell R. Weisberg, MD, MP


Founder-CEO and Personal Physician at:

Optimal Performance MD


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