BUT…we haven’t got the budget

When we’re on the road, we certainly hear our fair share of myths & excuses for NOT investing in employee wellness.  In a previous blog article, we outlined the Top 5 reasons for NOT investing in employee wellness. In this blog post we thought we would further flesh out the most common myth: BUT…we haven’t got the budget….

I’m sure this may be the case. This barrier often rears its head in my initial meeting with clients. If I had a dollar for every conversation where a Human Resources or Safety Director has stated ‘we want to roll out a wellness strategy but have a limited budget’ I would be a very rich girl!

Workplace wellness is still often perceived as an optional extra or discretionary spend. One in which the organisation’s “bean counters” can draw a red line through at budget time when dollars are being scrutinised. It is still largely viewed as a cost as opposed to an investment.

Generally I will turn this excuse on its head & ask ‘but right now, how much is poor health & wellness costing your organisation?’ We’re talking about a critical business issue here. Can your organisation afford NOT to invest?

Or, if they’re still not convinced, they may then go onto ask ‘but what if we invest & they leave?’ In which I respond, ‘but what if you don’t invest & they stay?

We already know that employees who are 45 years & older are 2.4 times more likely to stay with an organisation compared with younger employees. (1) With an ageing workforce, this presents both risks & opportunities from a health & wellness standpoint.

We also know that healthy employees are more engaged, productive & safe employees, at all life stages.

As wellness practitioners, we often fail to communicate the ‘burning platform’ for investing in employee wellness & the cost of doing nothing. We subsequently lose out to a host of other business concerns that executive deem more pressing, particularly in tight economic times.

In preparing the wellness business case for your organisation, you need to be able to clearly articulate the value-on-investment. Is it reducing the frequency & cost of workplace injury, boosting employee engagement or being an employer of choice? Or all of the above? Ultimately this will stem from your organisation’s overall business strategy. Put simply, you need to ask yourself the question, ‘what’s keeping the CEO up at night’?

Plus, research & experience also suggests that a comprehensive wellness strategy doesn’t need to be expensive to be effective. It doesn’t have to break the bank. The key is ensuring that you get the ‘best bang for your wellness buck.’ The human & economic costs of poor health & wellness are so high that a targeted strategy almost always pays for itself.

When you adopt an integrated approach to health & wellness in the workplace, many endeavours can be inexpensive. For example, you may support flexible working arrangements to help your employees with the work life juggling act or provide healthier options in the vending machines. Once you ask your employees ‘how can we be healthier’, both individually & as an organisation, you’ll be amazed at the number of cost-effective options that present.

For example, I recently undertook a needs assessment for a small private hospital to guide the development of their health & wellness strategy. One of the key priorities identified was the lack of a dedicated quiet green space for employees to enjoy their work breaks outside, away from the hectic hospital environment. This resulted in hospital management dedicating a small space outside for this purpose, together with purchasing a modest outdoor furniture setting. The onsite gardener also spruced up the area with a few colourful plants. The response from staff was overwhelming. Not only had management listened to their concerns & suggestions, but this simple & relatively low-cost initiative made a tremendous difference to the day-to-day quality of life of employees. Ultimately they felt cared for by their employer as a result.

Hence, the question you need to ask is no longer WHETHER your organisation should adopt a wellness strategy but HOW.


1. Department of Employment & Industrial Relations