Well-being vs. the Traditional HRA: Who Wins?

Cameron Bowman

A productive workforce is a profitable workforce. Whether through management initiatives, outside consulting or wellness programs, employers are increasingly invested in understanding, quantifying, and ultimately improving productivity. The multi-billion dollar wellness industry claims to be able to achieve all three objectives, through identifying and mitigating health risks that may negatively impact productivity. However, while the venerable health risk assessment (HRA) remains a staple in the majority of workplace wellness programs, new research suggests that it may not be the most effective measure to guide efforts aimed at improving productivity.

Since the traditional HRA focuses almost exclusively on physical risk, many barriers to high individual performance, such as financial troubles and a disengaged work life, may be overlooked. By contrast, taking into account an individual’s well-being – which includes factors like emotional health, healthy behaviors, work environment, basic access to care, community quality and safety, and life evaluation in addition to physical health – gives a much more accurate picture of both current and future productivity levels. A new study, published in the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine, verifies the distinct advantage of individual well-being measurement over an HRA in predicting changes in employee productivity over a two-year period.

The study found that change in well-being was the most significant independent predictor of productivity change across three measures: self-reported job performance, self-reported on-the-job productivity loss, and employer-reported unscheduled PTO use. The well-being assessment performed four times better than the HRA in explaining variances in job performance and nearly three times better for presenteeism. Even after removing the physical health aspects (physical health and healthy behavior domains) of the well-being score – aspects on which HRAs typically focus – well-being maintained its advantage over the HRA, confirming the importance of non-physical factors to workplace productivity.

With the amount of money spent on workplace wellness continuing to rise, investing in the correct tool to identify the factors that most affect productivity change over time can maximize not only your employee performance and well-being, but your bottom line.

To read more about the study, click here.

Topics: Well-Being Well-being Assessment