The Dangers of NOT doing Workplace Wellness

One of the biggest arguments against investing in workplace wellness is “We don’t know if there is a return on investment (ROI) in wellness.” 

It makes sense, since wellness solutions are rarely free - whether you are paying for a dedicated wellness coordinator, biometrics, coaching, a platform, devices, education and so on. It’s logical to wonder what will come in return for those dollars spent.


What happens if instead, you to forget calculating a hard ROI and solely focus on what happens if a company does nothing to improve the health of the employee population?

What costs are you guaranteeing the organization if you don’t intervene? Or said another way, what is your return on lack of investment? (ROLOI)

Let’s start with calculating the cost of physical inactivity the workforce.

A study in the journal Progress in Cardiovascular Diseases showed that inactive adults spent $1,313 more in annual health care expenditures than active adults. The study also showed that 34% of the participants fell into this category. (1)

The cost of the physical inactivity for a 100-person group would then total $1313 x 34 = $44,642.

We can also look specifically at the costs of elevated BMI or obesity, which is one of the biggest drivers of healthcare costs and preventable chronic diseases. (2) Data from the CDC shows that the medical cost for people who have obesity is $1,429 higher than those of normal weight. The CDC also states that the prevalence of obesity is 39.8%.

Going back to our 100-person group example, the cost of obesity would cost the organization an additional $56,874 per year.

Though we start to get into some overlap of risks here are a couple more statistics:

  • Adults with high blood pressure are estimated to pay $1,920 more in annual costs than those without normal blood pressure at a prevalence rate of 36.9% or $70,848 for our 100-person group (3)
  • Adults of working age (24-65) spend about $9,600 on average per year treating their diabetes at a prevalence rate of 25% equaling $240,000 for our 100-person group (4)

The data here clearly shows that a 100-person group would cost over $150,000 per year in health care expenditure. So if your organization avoids a wellness program that targets lifestyle diseases like physical inactivity, obesity, high blood pressure, and diabetes you can guarantee you’ll be writing a check for that amount, or more.

It’s time to intervene with that cost and negative trend line.

Here’s a huge positive we have to offer – effective wellness doesn’t have to be complicated or expensive.

You can make a dent in that check by focusing on basic initiatives that have broad impact. For example, instead of bringing in speakers on maintaining blood pressure, running educational campaigns, or directing participants into coaching for their blood pressure, consider a companywide activity program that can engage the masses while targeting many risk factors.

Not only would motivating physical activity go a long way in cutting down the $1,313 average amount of annual expenditure for physically inactive participants, but it would help with metabolic measures, high blood pressure and weight. It doesn’t end there, it would help employees with healthy measures remain in the healthy category.

And there’s more… it could also help employees to sleep better, stress less, and improve their mood. This mean higher productivity and happiness!

What would a simple, effective wellness program cost our 100-person company? Motion Connected’s best practice, turnkey and results-orientated Selectproduct would be $3,100 annually. A palatable investment with the possibility of impacting the greater than $150,000 expenditures on lifestyle diseases.

It comes down to two choices:

$3,100 or $150,000?

Do nothing or wisely wager a small investment in your people and their health?

The ROI argument is a complicated one. The ROLOI argument is more relevant and more urgent.

Do you believe in ROLOI? Please share your thoughts.

Sarah Troup
Director, Wellness Strategy
Sarah has over 10 years of experience helping employers, healthcare systems and Brokers implement engaging wellness programs that drive positive health outcomes.

1. Carlson, Susan A., Fulton, Janet E., Pratt, Michael, Yang, Zhou, Adams, Kathleen. Inadequate Physical Activity and Health Care Expenditures in the United States; Progress in Cardiovascular Disease 57. 2015;315-323

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