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Workplace Wellness—It All Adds Up

by Jocelyn Plakas-Lock ASEBP | April 18 2019

Lately, numbers have been on my mind. At work, I’m looking at budgets and performance indicators. In my personal life, it’s tax time, math homework and calculating exchange rates on a vacation. It seems only natural, in light of being knee deep in numbers, that we do the wellness math.

Over the last few years there has been a trend in fitness metrics when it comes to our personal health. Our devices track our activities, heart rates and sleep patterns, tell us when we should sit or stand and some even give us virtual badges when we hit certain milestones. When it comes to numbers, we want to know!

The same holds true in our workplace wellness programs. More often than not, we get requests for measuring return on investment or value on investment. While the idea of starting metrics for your wellness program can feel a bit like solving for ‘x’ when you’ve just learned to add, if you start with the basics, you’ll be performing well-being algebra before you know it.

Start with the Basics

Let’s talk about some examples of the simple things you can measure.

  • The money. Keep track of what your activities cost you. Start with the basics of recording hard costs and funds raised (if there was a cost to participants). If you want to be slightly more advanced, track the time that people put into planning and hosting events, whether on paid or volunteer time, and attach some value to this.
  • Participation rates. Track how many people participated in the different activities your wellness committee has hosted. If they’re annual events, look at year over year trending.
  • Satisfaction. Begin surveying staff to see if your wellness activities are hitting the mark. What percentage of people are happy with the activities being offered? If it’s low, perhaps it’s time to try a different approach. If it’s high, you know you’re on the right track.

From Adding to Algebra

Some measurable things are slightly more complex and may require the help of your Human Resources departments (and maybe a few math teachers!). Before moving in this direction, make sure you have a clear vision about what your wellness programs are trying to achieve on a larger scale, and define a few indicators of what success looks like, so you know if you’ve achieved your vision. Depending on your focus, the following specific examples may or may not be applicable:

  • Employee and Family Assistance Program (EFAP) utilization. If you’ve been promoting mental health and focusing on reducing stigma, changes in EFAP participation rates and aggregate data on the types of services people are accessing may be an indicator of your success.
  • Absenteeism, OHS incidents and disability rates. If your vision includes creating environments that support healthy and safe behaviours, take a look at how frequently people are away from work or how often injuries are occurring in the workplace.
  • Employee engagement. Does your vision include contributing to a work environment where people can thrive? If so, think about including some questions in an employee engagement survey to get at this.

With just a few of these numbers, you’ll be well on your way to combining different metrics to demonstrate the value of your wellness program. And quarter over quarter—or year over year—you’ll be able to paint a great picture of the progress you and your teammates make to impact workplace wellness for the better. What are some of the things that you have found helpful in your wellness math?

Jocelyn Plakas-Lock

As ASEBP’s chief benefits officer, “JPL” (as she is affectionately known) has a vast wealth of knowledge and experience in health promotion with a focus on mental health issues. While she is a great support in this area, JPL is, sadly, utterly unable to execute a cartwheel—a flaw she more than offsets by being a baker of the finest chocolate cupcakes on the planet.