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Why Invest in Well-Being?

Well-Being, Leadership, Performance and Sustainability

Nature and Size of the Problem

The health challenges in workplaces are many and varied, from the generic (e.g. stress that occurs in all industry sectors) to specific (e.g. mesothelioma), and from the well-understood to the newly emerging. Risks to workers’ health and well-being from physical hazards still exists. Complex changes in the world of work mean that individuals are now at risk from other organizational and wider environmental pressures. Research reflect the fact that people’s work and domestic lives have become more entwined and provide strong evidence pointing to an intensification of work. 

What is Well-Being at Work?

The World Health Organization (WHO) describes health as ‘a state of complete physical, mental, and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity’ (WHOa, 2014). It describes mental health as a ‘state of well-being in which every individual realizes his or her own potential, can cope with the normal stresses of life, can work productively and fruitfully, and is able to make a contribution to his or her community’ (WHOb, 2014). The Chartered Institute of Personnel Development (CIPD) states that well-being involves ‘creating an environment to promote a state of contentment which allows an employee to flourish and achieve their full potential for the benefit of themselves and their organization’ (CIPD, 2016). Well-being literature focuses on psychological, physical and social well-being dimensions. From a broader perspective, well-being also generally relates to work-life balance, mental health, wellness management programmes, job satisfaction, job-related well-being and contentment.


Absenteeism is more than a HR issue, unless organizations start proactively addressing absenteeism, this trend will most likely accelerate as the workforce ages:

Workers in Canada took an average of 9.3 sick days in 2011 (Conference Board of Canada)


Older workers experience more illness and suffer more from workplace fatigue. Workers aged 55-64 took an average of 13.2 days of sick leave:


Workers aged 20-24 took an average of 5.9 days of sick leave:


On average, Women took off 11.7 days:


Men took off 7.7 days:


Public sector workers took off 12.9 days:


Private-sector workers took off 8.2 days:


Union members were absent 13.2 days:


Non-unionized employees were absent 7.5 days:


Canadian absences cost the economy about $16.6 billion!

Average number of days lost to stress, anxiety or depression = 24 days per case

The Strategic Business Case for Employee Health and Well-Being

Employees health and well-being is embedded in the way people interact with one another on a daily basis and is part of the way working conditions and management practices are structured and the way decisions are made and communicated. While there are many factors external to the workplace that can impact employees’ health and well-being, employers should also be aware of the psychological health and well-being factors within the control, responsibility, or influence of the workplace that can have an impact within, or on the workforce.


Key Points to Remember:

The importance of employee health and well-being is growing in recognition of the need for employer well-being practices to address psychosocial, as well as physical aspects of working life

Employee Well-Being Drives Productivity

Well-Being is Everything! Every aspect of your employees’ lives can influence their productivity at work

Employers can power their workforce through Well-Being


Employers can maximize workforce productivity to achieve maximum corporate performance. Promoting a Healthy Organization through well-being programs is designed to engage employees in every aspect of their lives. By providing a culture of health and well-being and encouraging employees through engagement, collaboration, and stress reduction, the results is a more active, healthier and satisfied workforce. 

  Lost employee productivity costs employers 2-3 times more than they pay in annual health care expenses.

Shift your Workforce into High Gear

Employers can support their employees in all aspects of their lives and in ways that you can measure and connect to real behaviour change and outcomes that matter

Employees that are less stressed, healthy, happy and engaged are more productive. They are more alert on the job, more successful, and safer. They are more present on the job and more likely to stay with your organization longer

Employees’ health and well-being are greatly influenced by their family, friends and colleagues. Building a culture of well-being and creating satisfied employees boosts a company’s success, and attracts and keeps your most valuable employees

Employees that are less stressed with positive well-being will lower their health risks, resulting in lower health concerns, worker’s comp claims, absenteeism and presenteeism


Investing in the Health and Well-being of employees drives their participation and engagement in healthy activities, attitudes and behaviours throughout the day, making them healthier, more energetic and productive. It also helps them avoid lost time due to injury, require less time off work, and reduces turnover. By promoting a culture of health and well-being, employees will feel good and will enjoy coming to work and will be more engaged and attentive in their jobs.


Promoting Employee Health and Well-Being will improve:

  • More Creativity and Innovation
  • Cost Effectiveness
  • Risk Mitigation
  • Employee Co-operation
  • Employee Engagement
  • Employee Retention
  • Loyalty to the Organization
  • Organization and Employee Commitment
  • Morale and Employee Satisfaction
  • Enhanced Productivity
  • Higher Profit Levels
  • Recruitment and Retention
  • Organizational Excellence and Sustainability


Research has shown that those organizations that implement psychological health and well-being strategies are, on average, better performers in all key performance categories from health and well-being to key human resource measures to shareholder returns.

  Research shows that employee well-being is more than just people’s medical health. Employers who confine their approach to conventional health factors such as weight, nutrition and exercise miss critical clues on how to optimize a healthy and productive workforce. Taking a more holistic approach can reveal the true cost of impaired health which have previously been under-estimated.

How to Optimize a Healthy and Productive Workforce

Statistics Canada states that workplace stress, bullying and harassment, and violence are increasing centre stage issues for Canadians. Awareness of the staggering economic cost of workplace stress (and related costs in mental illness) to the public and industry (lost productivity), grows steadily. The cost to the Canadian economy are well over $51 billion annually. The workplace is a central part of these costs, according to Statistics Canada.

Health issues in the workplace cost not only the employer money (and increase stress for remaining employees, creating a vicious cycle), but sick or injured employees impact on families, communities, and the healthcare system. The boundaries of the workplace are permeable, and costs are easily transferred to other elements of society.


Every $1.00 invested in developing healthy workplaces will return between $1.15 to $8.00 in bottom-line savings

Yet only around one in four large employers have a comprehensive well-being strategy that address health risks and underlying causes of well-being and productivity:



While many employers do not see the management of health issues in their workplaces as part of their corporate responsibility, there is increasingly strong evidence that the cost of doing nothing on this front exceeds the cost of thoughtful strategies to create a healthy organizational climate.

Employers can benefit from investing in employee well-being that makes sense:


Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD), 2016 Growing the Health and Well-Being Agenda: From First Steps to Full Potential, Policy Report, January 2016, CIPD

World Health Organization (WHOa), 2014, Health (online), Geneva: WHO

World Health Organization (WHOb), 2014, Mental Health: A state of well-being (online), Geneva: WHO

CBC News Business,