Small steps for man - Giant leaps for ROI

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Riseley is well aware that corporate health initiatives are often seen as the ‘touchy feely, feel good stuff’ that don’t actually doing much for the profitability of a business.

However, he notes that the Lancaster Study now stands as evidence that these initiatives actually do work. “We’re starting to see numbers now – like a three and half times ROI based on the reduction on absenteeism. We now work in the US, and given their health care costs and given that the employer has the imposition of employee health care costs, it’s actually double that – it’s a 7 time ROI...we now make sure we have a set of metrics that enable HR to go to the CEO and actually show them that this is concrete ROI.”

McDougall makes a valid and important point that ROI won’t come for every corporate health initiative; it’s more about the quality of the initiative than just “throwing money at a project if it’s not done well”.

Often handing out free gym memberships and other arms length approaches like company triathlons only appeal to those in the work place that are already fit and athletic, thus the ultimate success of the program is negated. Riseley believes the approach needs to focus more on including the people less likely to par-take in this sort of activity on their own accord.

If a company actually manages to identify a method to get their workers out of their seat and exercising, in a few months the only regret the company will have is that they didn’t implement it sooner. Not only will their absenteeism decrease rapidly, thanks to a healthier body and stronger immunity, but presenteeism will be abolished as individuals will be stress-free, productive and mentally capable of thinking for an entire day at work.  

Who’s accountable?

Far too often the notion of accountability becomes the gray area of corporate health initiatives. Riseley says there’s an interesting dynamic at play. “People are blaming the government, blaming Colonel Sanders, blaming pretty much everyone but themselves for the shape they’re in…It’s about taking responsibility for your own health.”

Whilst many would agree with Riseley, McDougall’s understanding of employer responsibility is also important to consider. “Ultimately employees sit in the workplace for extended periods of time every day so it’s the right environment to promote health – so I think employers have a strong role to play.” Yet he also makes a timely reminder that “you can lead a horse to the water but you can’t make it drink”.

Many will use the excuse of being too busy to exercise, whinging that ‘life is too busy now days’. But people were using that excuse 200 years ago. As Edward Stanley, Earl of Derby, stated in 1873: ‘Those who think they have not time for bodily exercise will sooner or later have to find time for illness’ So perhaps it’s time employees stopped talking the talk, and started walking the walk – literally.

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