#1: Get Past Unscientific “Mud-Slinging” on ROI and Focus on Total Return-on-Value
Our current workplace wellness moment is dominated by negative media and unscientific “studies” that baldly conclude that “workplace wellness doesn’t work”—along with the “selling” of programs to companies as a pure profit-driver. But the roundtable concluded that, in the future, companies will shift from a narrow focus on ROI to a recognition of wider “return on value”: not just lower healthcare costs, but important gains in retention and productivity.
After all, 93 percent of workplace wellness return in the first year is in productivity gains, not reduced costs.
Responsible research will continue to show that well-designed, evidence-based, “baked into the company culture” wellness initiatives do work—while those that miss these elements, don’t.
Dr. Kenneth R. Pelletier, clinical professor of medicine, University of California School of Medicine, San Francisco, and the University of Arizona School of Medicine, noted that too many workplace wellness studies are deeply unscientific: They don’t properly measure clinical and cost outcomes, and they don’t evaluate diverse program components’ individual effectiveness and cost.
Dr. Pelletier argued: “Critics are misusing this ‘ROI science’ to castigate critical, fledgling workplace health efforts. These critics are also imposing a ‘standard of evidence’ that doesn’t exist for any other workplace investment—like a software upgrade.
“Successful companies (yes, Google is one shining example) have moved well beyond ROI to embrace total value on investment and workplaces where a culture of health is the norm.”
 *See “Do Workplace Health Promotion (Wellness) Programs Work?” – Journal of Occupational & Environmental Medicine, September 2014, for an excellent overview of the faulty science behind many “ROI” studies, and how businesses could better measure workplace wellness’ value.