#co_health chat recap: maximizing employer ROI

July 23, 2012

in cohealth

the following is a recap of july’s #co_health tweet chat. these chats are held the third wednesday of each month at noon EDT. refer to our 2012 calendar for what’s coming up.

wendy lynch cries foul on the reports that businesses can capture a 3:1 return on investment with wellness initiatives and scoffs at harvard business review’s citing of a 6:1 return. in fact, lynch believes companies are throwing their money away with certain wellness initiatives.

“few companies get positive ROI from broad wellness programs,” she says. their programs are too diffuse. and the evidence is weak that we can move the unhealthy to being healthy. wellness initiatives aren’t for saving money. they’re a form of employee relations whereby the company uses them to “attract and keep health-minded individuals.”

wendy was cohealth’s july tweet chat guest, and she’d promised she’d say things people wouldn’t like. she didn’t disappoint.

instead of investing in a staggering array of programs, lynch recommends focusing on the environmental changes people can’t make themselves. for example, offering an onsite gym, changing the cafeteria offerings and nurturing a performance-oriented but supportive culture. employers must focus their “I” on the opportunity cost—those things that will improve performance or reduce costs more than others.

that means focusing rewards on employees’ performance, a strategy lynch believes pays off  with employees who are more invested in their health. “an environment that rewards peak performances (money and recognition) and clearly identifies mission will reward health,” lynch declares. she continues, “if there is nothing at stake (no bonus, no PTO, no deductible)…health doesn’t matter.”

but that doesn’t mean establishing a nose-to-the-grindstone culture. lynch argues for a flexible and results-oriented culture, one that corrects the imbalance of “ERI (Effort-reward imbalance) and Job Strain (high demand, low control)” that leads to poor health.

what of specific conditions, like tobacco use, which came up during our chat? forget about tobacco users, lynch says. they typically don’t cost more until they’re older and seriously ill, and by that time, they’ve quit. this flies in the face of available data the community shared, such as lost revenue due to lowered productivity.

not all that lynch said sat comfortably with those involved in the chat. but, as promised, her philosophy on how to improve employee productivity and maximize investment certainly got us talking.


upcoming cohealth events:

  • august 1: adam wootton joins the cohealth checkup radio show to talk about health games
  • august 15: #co_health tweet chat
  • september 5: cohealth checkup (guest TBD)
  • september 19: first #co_health book club: persuasive technology: using computers to change what we think and do
  • october 3: BJ fogg joins the cohealth checkup radio show to talk about his book and behavior change models


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