The ROI of Centering Employee Well-Being

May 29, 2024

B Corp Leaders Share Benefits of Programs for Worker Well-Being

Centering employee wellness and well-being is foundational to Certified B Corporations, and doing so makes good business sense, too. From reducing burnout and turnover to increasing job satisfaction and productivity, employee wellness and well-being have positive outcomes that ripple outward. 

At the 2024 Champions Retreat, the annual gathering for B Corps in the U.S. and Canada, three B Corp leaders discussed the return on investment of centering employee well-being. The session included Carolina Miranda, Founder and CEO of B Corp consulting firm Cultivating Capital; Maryam Sharifzadeh, Founder of workplace wellness services Office Yoga and ZaaS; and Derek Hydon, President of the product-based branding company MaCher

Carolina Miranda, Founder and CEO of Cultivating Capital.

Miranda said that ensuring employee well-being is inextricable from B Corps’ mission and emphasis on both people and the planet. “When we reflect upon the need to really center collective well-being, I think that it’s helpful for us to take a step back and look at what we’re trying to do as B Corps,” Miranda said. “Because fundamentally, we’re trying to shift the business narrative from one that is focused on shareholder primacy, on profits for the shareholders at really all costs, to one where we are centering everybody that is affected by what we do through our businesses — and our employees are one of our most important groups that we need to consider.” 

Miranda said that’s especially important now as external factors such as climate anxiety and the debates about ESG business practices weigh on employees and contribute to burnout in the B Corp community. Centering employee well-being is not only the right thing to do to take care of people, she said, but also provides good business value. Miranda and the other B Corp leaders discussed some considerations for businesses seeking to begin, revamp, or enhance their well-being offerings.

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A Comprehensive Approach to Employee Wellness and Well-Being

To start, Sharifzadeh said it’s important to tease apart the concepts of wellness and well-being, and to consider that employee wellness goes way beyond meditation or yoga programs some may associate with them. Sharifzadeh views wellness in relation to physical health, including everything from blood pressure readings to ergonomic assessments so employees avoid ailments like sciatic pain or carpal tunnel. She said well-being is broader — incorporating mental, financial, and social health. 

Maryam Sharifzadeh, Founder of workplace wellness services Office Yoga and ZaaS.

“As companies were bringing in wellness programs, they realized our well-being is far more than our physical bodies,” Sharifzadeh said. “So now well-being programs also incorporate mental health. They incorporate environmental health, they incorporate financial health, social health, community health, spiritual health — the list goes on. And I think this expansion is due to the fact that we realize that wellness impacts every aspect of our life.” 

The programs, however, cannot compensate for shortfalls elsewhere. They will not fix issues like toxic workplace culture, insufficient paid time off, or financial stress due to low wages. Companies must first meet employees’ basic needs. 

How Well-Being Can Pay Off for Businesses and Workers

Hydon said for his company, MaCher, that means paying a minimum annual salary of $70,000 after one year of service, a 1% revenue share for noncommissioned employees when quarterly revenue goals are met, and an annual bonus based on hitting profit targets.

Derek Hydon, President of the product-based branding company MaCher.

Of course, B Corps are still running for-profit businesses, and return on investment (ROI) must be considered. Hydon, who characterized himself as a data person, said that the numbers show that focusing on employee well-being is a no-brainer for MaCher. From August 2020 to December 2023, a period that included the pandemic and the great resignation, MaCher did not lose any employees. This trend also bears out across B Corps, as B Lab reports found that in 2019-2020, the resilience and durability of B Corps outperformed non-B Corps

Sharifzadeh said ways to measure the ROI for well-being programs include examining turnover costs, employee productivity, and healthcare costs. A 2023 Gallup report found that employers lose 15% to 20% of their employees to voluntary turnover. “They look elsewhere if they’re not feeling cared for,” she said. 

The same goes for employee productivity, which Sharifzadeh said is negatively impacted if employees don’t feel healthy and valued. Likewise, investments in health care have similar results. Executive leaders from Johnson & Johnson, an early adopter of wellness programs, reported that their programs saved them $250 million in healthcare costs over four years, an ROI of $2.71 for every dollar spent. 

In her own experience, Sharifzadeh said she worked with a client whose medical reports indicated their employees were using a lot of sleep aids. Her company tailored a program for healthy sleep habits, and the following year, the use of sleep aids went down, benefiting both employee health and decreasing the company’s medical costs. 

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How Businesses Can Begin to Build Well-Being Programming

There are many small steps companies can take. One is to start a channel on Teams or Slack to share health and well-being resources. Based on employee responses, the channel will also give companies a better idea of what is helpful. 

“Maybe a sleep article, maybe a 20-second desk yoga video — whatever it is, whatever your employees want,” Sharifzadeh said. “It’s simple. It’s free. You can do it once or twice a week. It’s really low investment. And that will plant the seed, and you’ll see people’s responses.” 

Sharifzadeh emphasized that well-being programs are not one-size-fits-all and that, ideally, they expand or extend a company’s values and aspirations.

Learn more about beginning and enhancing a wellness program at your company in this companion article from the Champions Retreat session: Taking the Woo Out of Wellness

Watch the full Champions Retreat 2024 conversation

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