How do organisations measure the effectiveness of mental health & wellbeing programmes? What metrics do they use to evaluate the results?

Recently, due to difficulties in measurement within this field, an argument has arisen for the use of Value on Investment (VOI) as a replacement for the more classically used Return on Investment (ROI) model.

But what is VOI, and which is a more effective measure? Is it best to use ROI as the basis of the effectiveness of these programmes, or do you use a “softer” and more complicated metric like VOI?

Below we discuss these terms and how they play a role in evaluating the effectiveness of a mental health & wellbeing programmes.


Definition of Wellness ROI

The term ROI is often used within varying business sectors and equates to revenue generated in return for an investment, or in short, profit.

To measure the return of investment, organisations would look at how much they have invested in a program or service and then, compare that to the amount of money they will get from that investment (or ‘return’ from).

The advantage of calculating ROI is that it yields accurate and measurable results due to its numerical outputs, and many organisations prefer hard, tangible data.

The positives and negatives are clear, making it easier for organisations to see where they have a deficit or which products, or services are more profitable; or in the case of mental health & wellbeing programmes, what is working most effectively for the business.


Metrics in measuring Wellness ROI in a company wellness program

Calculating ROI is used when measuring the effectiveness of a company wellness program. When it comes to these types of programmes though, getting the ROI is not as easy as there are several factors to look at which can be difficult to track, for example, absenteeism rate, presenteeism rate (productivity at work), reasons for absence, amongst a large set of other HR analytical data (if you would like to read more about HR analytics, and what can be tracked, you can read about HR Analytics here: What is 'HR Analytics'?.

In a nutshell, measuring ROI is a more number-focused way of calculating the effectiveness of a mental health & wellbeing program, but can be a difficult task, hence the recent evolution of VOI.


Definition of Value of Investment (VOI)

Have you heard of quantitative versus qualitative data in statistics? This is generally regarded as numerical data, versus non-numerical data such as speech and text. If ROI is the number-focused, quantitative data in the equation, consider VOI as the qualitative metric in your evaluation.

VOI or value of investment is a more complicated method in evaluating the effectiveness of a mental health & wellbeing program. This is mainly because there’s human factors involved in this method.

What the Value of Investment aims to measure is the overall quality of  program an intervention instead of just the numbers alone, usually done through items such as surveys; this means that you are not just counting monetary data as a form of return but other factors that are evaluated at the same time.


Metrics in measuring VOI in an employee wellness program

VOI has become a popular term when it comes to evaluating mental health & wellbeing programmes in business, due to the human nature of these interventions. Organisations are starting to consider items such as interviews and case studies which show a more holistic approach to the mental health & wellbeing of employees.

Many external providers of mental health & wellbeing interventions will struggle to provide exact ROI figures and they are often estimated; however, they will often demonstrate value provided through case studies with clients, demonstrating how VOI shows additional return and builds a more holistic picture.

According to Vitality’s healthiest workplace survey, employees who engage in mental health & wellbeing programmes have a higher tendency of being screened for health issues. These employees also expressed their satisfaction as they felt that their employers are putting a high priority on their mental health & wellbeing. This can be difficult to measure over time using the classic ROI model.

The main point when measuring VOI is to measure the intangible but important human factors in mental health & wellbeing programmes. There is a huge correlation between employee satisfaction, productivity and efficiency. Employees who feel that their mental health & wellbeing are given importance can feel more loyal to the company. They are also more inclined to increase performance, have fewer absences and deliver more effective outputs.

However, there is still no specific way to measure these factors other than surveys, interviews and case studies, which, unlike ROI, are subjective and do not yield specific results. Nevertheless, we can say that VOI is an important factor to consider in evaluating mental health & wellbeing programmes and can be used to create this more holistic overview.


Which is Better for my wellness assessment, ROI or VOI?

In conclusion, we come down to an ‘age old’ question, ‘do the numbers tell the whole story?’. Which is really the most effective way to provide a comprehensive wellness assessment? Do you use just ROI, just VOI or the combination of both?

To be able to answer this, you will have to look at several factors, to see which would be the best fit for your company. These factors include:

  1. The overall goal of the mental health & wellbeing program.
  2. The availability of the necessary tools to measure the program.
  3. The size and culture of the company.
  4. The demographics of the employees vs the style of your program.

Because these mental health & wellbeing programmes involve people, there is not a one-size-fits-all program that will work for everyone. Therefore, it is best to take into consideration these factors in creating, implementing and measuring the effectiveness of your company’s mental health & wellbeing programmes.

At the end of the day, you decide what’s best for the company. However, using the combination of ROI and VOI together, should really form a holistic picture of what is going on across your organization, and help you to truly understand the effectiveness, and most effective way of running your mental health and wellbeing programmes.

Companies will often pick VOI over ROI as a sole measure, because they do not know how to track ROI. If you would like to start investigating ways of calculating ROI, then you can download our free mental health and wellbeing ROI calculator here: 


Download your Wellness ROI Calculator

Alternatively, Click here: Wellness ROI Calculator


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Written by Christopher Golby