The top 5 excuses for NOT investing in employee wellness

More & more Australian organisations are reaping the benefits of investing in the health & wellness of their greatest asset – their people.

However, a lot are still sitting on the fence. They’re not yet convinced of the benefits for their organisation. They’re not convinced it’s business critical.

In the 17 years I’ve been involved in the corporate wellness field, I’ve certainly heard my fair share of excuses for NOT investing in employee wellness.  I thought I’d share five of the most common excuses from the trenches, & most importantly, counter-arguments against!

1. BUT… we’ve tried wellness & it didn’t work….

Firstly, there are a myriad of reasons why wellness programs aren’t successful. Despite best intentions, in reality, often they miss the mark.

A successful program is more than getting employees to complete an online health risk assessment or participate in a yoga class. It requires sustained wellness effort & investment, & takes many years to accomplish. Unfortunately a ‘get well quick’ scheme just won’t cut it!

Secondly, how did you determine that your wellness strategy didn’t work? According to the latest Global Working Well survey by Buck Consultants, only 9% of employers actively measure specific outcomes of their wellness strategy. Why should this strategy be any different to any other strategies within your organisation? If you don’t measure the outcomes, how will you know whether the program has been a success or where you need to improve?

2. BUT…wellness is a ‘nice to have’ or a ‘bit of fluff’

It’s time for senior executives to realise that the direct & indirect costs associated with poor employee health & wellness is so great, that investing in employee health & wellness is no longer a ’nice to have’. It’s business critical. Click here for our previous article on how to move beyond the fluff.

3. BUT…wellness is the employees personal responsibility not the company’s

It always amazes me that employers will spend thousands of dollars & manhours on maintaining essential equipment, but won’t invest the same in maintaining their most important asset, their human capital. Surely it’s just as important for people to function well?

Whether employers recognise it or not, poor employee health & wellness has a negative flow-on to the workplace including higher absenteeism & injury rates & lower productivity.

Furthermore, whilst the workplace can positively impact employee wellness (through stimulating & rewarding work), it can also have the very opposite effect. A stressful & unsupported working environment can quickly erode employee wellbeing. From a duty-of-care perspective, workers should be able to return home from work as healthy (or ideally healthier) as they arrived.

Therefore, employees wellness is a two-way street. Both employees & organisations need to share responsibility.

4. BUT…we haven’t got the budget

Research & experience suggests that wellness programs don’t need to be expensive to be effective. However, often we fail to communicate the ‘burning platform’ for investment & 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.

As part of preparing the business case for such programs, we need to be able to clearly articulate the value-on-investment (e.g. reducing workplace injury) & alignment to the broader organisational strategy & goals (e.g. being an employer of choice). The question should no longer be WHETHER a wellness strategy should be adopted but HOW.

5. BUT…we don’t have the space

You don’t have to have a state-of-the-art gymnasium or a dedicated space to launch into wellness. Not only are such facilities generally expensive to set up & run, but generally they only benefit a small percentage of employees. Cost-effective wellness programming requires flexible & innovative delivery modes to maximise program engagement & reach. This may include a combination of online, hard-copy, telephonic, onsite, face-to-face or self-managed interventions

References:

  1. Lewis, A. & Khanna, V. (2013) Is it Time to Re-Examine Workplace Wellness ‘Get Well Quick’ Schemes, Accessible: http://healthaffairs.org/blog/2013/01/16/is-it-time-to-re-examine-workplace-wellness-get-well-quick-schemes/
  2. Comcare Five Common Myths About Health & Wellbeing Programs http://www.comcare.gov.au/__data/assets/pdf_file/0013/106006/Five_common_myths_about_workplace_health_and_wellbeing_programs.pdf