Do employees who participate in workplace wellness programs actually become healthier?

That’s one of the important questions researchers in Canada have been looking at, along with what kind of return on investment employers can expect from a workplace wellness program.

Preliminary results of the Sun Life-Ivey Canadian Wellness Return on Investment (ROI) Study show that employees who participated in a comprehensive wellness program reported a more significant increase in healthy behaviours compared with those who did not have access to the program.

The two-year study covered six organizations and 820 employees. It was conducted by researchers at the Ivey International Centre for Health Innovation, which is part of the Ivey Business School at Western University, in alliance with Sun Life Financial. Some of the preliminary results are revealed in “Do Workplace Wellness Programs Work?” in the September/October issue of Plans & Trusts magazine.

[Related: Wellness Done Right Resources for Employers]

The overall wellness score for employees who participated in a comprehensive wellness program increased by 6.8% over the study’s two-year period, according to article authors Jennifer Elia and Michael Rouse, Ph.D. That compares with a 2.7% increase among employees in two control groups, which included employees who completed a wellness survey only and employees who completed the survey and also received biometric screening.

Employees in the wellness treatment group completed the survey and biometric screening but also had access to the comprehensive wellness program, which included a wellness website, a lifestyle modification program, individual one-on-one coaching and other supports.

[Related: Wearable Fitness Devices and Your Wellness Program | Benefit Bits]

One of the most significant differences between the treatment group and the control groups was an increase in reported physical activity. Employees in the treatment group reported their physical activity had increased by 26%, compared with about a 3% increase for the control groups. Other positive outcomes reported by those in the treatment group included drinking more water, better nutrition, weight loss and having more energy.

Researchers continue to analyze study data to determine the return on investment of wellness programs.

Additional results from the Sun Life-Ivey Canadian Wellness Return on Investment (ROI) Study will be presented during a free International Foundation member webcast 3:00 p.m. ET Thursday, November 3 and at the 49th Annual Canadian Employee Benefits Conference November 20-23 in San Diego, California.


Kathy Bergstrom, CEBS
Editor, Publications at the International Foundation



Kathy Bergstrom, CEBS

Editor, Publications at the International Foundation Favorite Foundation service/product: Benefits Magazine and Plans & Trusts Benefits related topics that interest her most: Financial literacy, health and wellness programs Favorite Foundation conference moment: Hearing attendees sing “O, Canada” at Canadian Annual in addition to hearing the anthem sung in both French and English. Personal Insight: Whether she’s collecting information for a magazine story or hanging out with her family and friends, you know Kathy is fully engaged. Her listening ear and introspective nature provide reassuring presence to those enjoying her company.

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