Recent information from leading health organizations shows that employers are making the health and happiness of their employees a top priority. This can be seen not only in the growth of workplace programs that aim to improve employee health and well-being, but in the scope of those programs.
Wellness programs no longer focus solely on improving key biometrics. Forward-thinking employers now include elements like emotional health, financial well-being, professional development, and community health, because these factors can affect — positively or negatively — an individual’s performance on the job.
Investing in employee health and well-being also aligns with sustainability initiatives for many employers. Thought leaders from the Harvard School of Public Health are advancing current thinking around sustainability and the “triple bottom line,” which goes beyond the traditional focus of doing less harm to the planet, the environment, and one’s people, and focuses additionally on corporate initiatives that contribute to increased well-being.
Employee health and well-being aligns well with this approach to sustainability, which includes striving to improve population health and well-being through maintaining a healthy workplace, offering opportunities for meaningful work, and making positive contributions to the lives of employees, families, and the communities in which a company does business.
Empowering your business
The connection between employee health and well-being and corporate financial performance is becoming increasingly clear. Consider a new body of research that was published earlier this year that demonstrates a correlation between companies that invest in workplace wellness programs and their corporate stock performance.
One study examined the stock performance of 45 publicly traded companies from 2009 through 2014. Results showed companies that scored highly outperformed the Standard & Poor’s (S&P) 500 Index over the course of six years. More specifically, this simulated portfolio of companies outperformed the S&P 500 in the following areas: appreciated 235 percent compared to 159 percent for the S&P 500; outperformed the S&P 500 in 16 out of 24 (67 percent) quarters during the study period; and produced a comparable dividend yield of 1.97 percent by the end of the study period, compared to a 1.95 percent yield for the S&P 500.
Managing a healthy crew
The connection between employee health and well-being and productivity and performance continues to grow, with emerging evidence showing that healthier employees are more engaged with their work and have lower turnover rates. In the long run, these outcomes also contribute to a company’s financial performance.
Companies that have seen the most success in this area have one thing in common: they adhere to evidence-based best practices for employee health and well-being that include:
- Strong strategic planning, which includes written measurable goals and objectives for health and well-being efforts.
- Senior leadership commitment and engagement.
- An organizational culture that supports employee health and well-being through supportive policies, a physical environment, and behavioral norms.
- Comprehensive sets of programs that meet a diverse spectrum of population health needs.
- Comprehensive communications and motivational strategies to encourage awareness and participation.
- Robust program evaluation and performance reporting.
While this research does not indicate a direct cause-and-effect relationship between employee wellness and corporate stock performance, it does add to a growing body of evidence that financially successful companies invest significantly in the health and well-being of their employees. What’s next in this area of research is to better understand this interplay, while continuing to focus on a broader definition of health and well-being and measures of success that go beyond traditional return on investment.