The Wellness Debate

“It is, therefore, heartening to discover that businesses that truly do well for their workers also do well for their investors.”

Wellness in the workplace is one area where there are few people in the middle ground. In general terms, there are those who firmly believe that improving wellbeing at work leads to business benefit in terms of the bottom line and those who believe that there is a lack of evidence to justify wellness programs in the workplace.

It’s a discussion well worth having because there has been increasing interest in this area lately. Significant amounts of investment in human capital are at stake. In addition, this investment could possibly be used to greater benefit elsewhere if there really wasn’t evidence of benefit to the organisation so there may be an opportunity cost.

The Total Worker Health approach espoused by the CDC in the US has been gaining traction and is one that certainly merits attention. Strategically it does not make sense to have unaligned and disconnected functions in the areas of health and safety, wellness, health protection, and occupational health. It would seem to make good sense to integrate them as much as possible.

In the UK a new report from the CIPD, “Growing the health and well-being agenda: From first steps to full potential”, comments that despite increased business awareness of the importance of actively supporting well-being in the workplace, there remains a stubborn ‘implementation gap’ in UK workplaces, which is threatening individuals’ health and long-term business sustainability.

Another recent study from the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine by Goetzel et al from the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of public-health is also timely in this regard. The study looked at the link between companies investing in the health and well-being programs of their employees and stock market performance. In particular in the 14 year period tracked from 2000 to 2014 the Koop award winners stock values appreciated by 325% compared with the market average appreciation for 105% from the Standard and Poors 500 index.

The study supported research demonstrating a higher market valuation or in other words “an affirmation of business success” by investors of socially responsible companies that invest in the health and well-being of their workers. It would certainly seem to support the integrated wellness approach to worker and organisational health.

Organisations are now beginning to focus their efforts on understanding the elements that influence wellbeing. These influences are multi factorial. Understanding how they interact is an essential part of achieving and sustaining wellbeing in the workplace and will be an increasing element in health, safety and wellbeing programs in the future.

The original study can be found here.

John