Small Business Wellness Programs and Return On Investment (ROI)

small business wellness programs

It’s relatively agreed upon that reducing health costs is the top reason for small business wellness programs. I recently wrote about implementing wellness programs as a way to reduce overall company health care costs. However, the costs that come with it are often a barrier for organizations – especially for smaller businesses.

According to the 2013 Aflac WorkForces Report, only 7 percent of businesses with 3-49 employees have a wellness program. Even so, the survey showed that 61 percent of companies strongly or somewhat agree that wellness programs can directly impact corporate profitability.

So how can small businesses make the case for themselves that these programs are worth implementing?

It’s all about ROI (return on investment).

Showing the Worth of Small Business Wellness Programs

A study by Health Affairs found that medical costs fall by about $3.27 for every dollar spent on wellness programs and that absenteeism costs fall by about $2.73 for every dollar spent.

Another study by Harvard Business Review of several wellness programs shows a clear impact. In the Harvard study, one company saw a return of $2.71 on every dollar spent on wellness programs, and cumulative savings of $250 million on health care costs in a decade. Another reported an 80 percent decline in lost work days over six years, with a savings calculated of $1.5 million, along with workers’ compensation insurance premiums having declined by 50 percent.

Determining the Worth of Small Business Wellness Programs

Measuring the return on investment from small business wellness programs is a challenge. In fact, the Aflac study showed that only three out of 10 companies (32 percent) have managed to do so.

Each small business is different. I’m not going to pretend to know the nuances of your specific business and how a wellness program could deliver ROI for your particular situation.

However, we’ve identified a few measurements that can help companies determine program successes that may provide valuable perspectives.

Benefits Engagement and Knowledge

small business wellness programs

Employees enrolled in small business wellness programs are more likely to be knowledgeable about benefits options and health care. They are also more likely to be engaged in their benefits programs and choices.

Surveying benefits knowledge, understanding and overall engagement can show a direct link to a company’s investment in benefits packages and efforts to market those benefits options.

Employee Satisfaction and Morale

small business wellness programs

The Aflac study identified that employees who are enrolled in worksite wellness programs are more satisfied with their jobs and benefits packages, and also express more confidence in their employers.

These measures can have a critical impact on a company’s bottom line. Whether by measuring employee tenure and retention, or employee referrals, understanding worker satisfaction and morale can help show the enduring value of a company’s wellness initiatives.

Employee Well-Being

The Aflac study reveals employees that participate in small business wellness programs are more than 10 percent more likely to say they are healthy because they exercise and eat right (41 percent compared to 30 percent).

Financial Security

small business wellness programs

Likewise, financial security is critical to overall workforce health. The Aflac study found only 16 percent of employees say they are extremely or very prepared to pay for out-of-pocket expenses associated with serious illness or injury.

Tracking overall employee health and wellness is essential to understanding a program’s success. Measuring a decline in sick days or unexpected leave will help to gain a good measure of physical, emotional and financial health.

Wellness Photo via Shutterstock

More in: 5 Comments ▼

Michael Zuna Michael W. Zuna is Executive Vice President and Chief Marketing Officer of Aflac U.S. Michael is responsible for leading the company’s integrated product and marketing strategies.

5 Reactions
  1. Since there is great talk on health insurance, it is time to start taking care of your employees. If you cannot spend on their health, you should at least teach them to become more healthy. You should encourage healthy eating and give them a time to exercise. Unfortunately, it is quite rare for a company to provide these things.

  2. Michael,

    I’ve heard from some small business owners I know that offering wellness programs results in better productivity, overall happiness, and yes – less sick days 🙂

    Free yoga class seems to be a quite popular offer…

  3. It’s true; reducing health costs is the top reason for small business wellness programs. Thanks for sharing this post with everyone and it shows some great points that an owner can take into consideration.