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Feb 8, 2024 | by What Works Centre for Wellbeing

Comparing benefits and costs of wellbeing activities at work: updated business calculator

For employers, it is essential to understand what improves job quality and promotes workplace wellbeing, in order to tackle a range of issues from productivity to burnout. But how do we know which activities or actions to invest in and which are the most cost effective?

In 2020, we published a how-to guide, user manual and calculator, to help evaluate and compare various wellbeing activities in the workplace. These resources were recently built on by Evolve workplace wellbeing, in an updated calculator.

Here, we explore wellbeing in the workplace, the role of a cost effective calculator, and summarise the Evolve Business Case Calculator.

Life satisfaction is lowest among working age people. One way to support this age group is through improving their wellbeing at work.

By building up our collective knowledge about what works, what doesn’t, and how much it costs, we can design more effective and sustainable initiatives.

Cost effective calculator

The calculator and its companion resources, a how-to-guide and user manual, are tools for businesses and employers. 

They were developed as part of our work and learning programme and support wellbeing evaluation and developing business cases, and are in line with HM Treasury’s guidance:

As well as supporting business cases and evaluations, the tools can help with deciding between different interventions or deciding whether to scale up an intervention or not. It does this in part by producing a common measure to compare the cost effectiveness of different initiatives and programmes aimed at improving wellbeing. 

Time and money are important in any context, but especially when it comes to investing in staff. It is helpful for organisations to gain knowledge of whether actions to improve wellbeing are effective, relevant to its context and not causing harm. 

Workplace wellbeing interventions can be and need to be understood more in terms of effectiveness. What we know and the evidence for activities has not always kept pace with what is happening in practice. Our calculator helped to support these efforts and offered a way to understand cost-benefit in this area.

How it works

The companion resources explain the different steps needed to use the tool and what data is needed to conduct the cost effectiveness analysis of any wellbeing intervention – whether it’s flexitime, a compressed working week, mindfulness training, and so on. 

Users need to measure the change in the wellbeing of participants in any intervention – a before and after evaluation – asking the same wellbeing questions. Data is also needed on the estimated costs of the intervention. This data is then inputted into the calculator in order to make relevant calculations. 

The tool and companion resources can be used at all stages of an intervention, from assessing options and designing a trial through to monitoring and evaluating its success. 1Case studies to illustrate in Nasamu, E, Connolly, S, Bryan, M & Bryce, A, 2021, Evaluating the costs and benefits of workplace wellbeing initiatives. in P Brough, K Daniels & E Gardiner (eds), Handbook on Management and Employment Practices. Handbook Series in Occupational Health Sciences, Springer.

Evolve Business Case Calculator

A new version of the Business cost effectiveness calculator does not require users to input wellbeing data from their workplace and offers a selection of nine initiatives to choose from:

  1. Addiction support 
  2. Physical fitness
  3. Nutrition
  4. Health
  5. Mental health 
  6. Stress management and mindfulness
  7. Wellbeing apps and online support 
  8. Financial wellbeing
  9. Volunteering

Users choose from this range and, if known, provide details of the average wage of their workforce, before a calculation is made. As far as possible, the calculator gives benefits and costs in monetary terms, allowing a direct comparison to aid decision making and business cases.

The new tool was developed using data from Britain’s Healthiest Workplace 2014-2019 and a longitudinal structural equation model to estimate:

  • improvements in wellbeing, such as job satisfaction and mental and physical health;
  • improvements in productivity, for example reduced absenteeism and presenteeism.

Evolve workplace wellbeing, who created the updated resource, carry out research on wellbeing and productivity. They are made up of The Workplace Wellbeing team at the University of East Anglia and RAND Europe. 

During this work, they discovered wellbeing and productivity benefits associated with using health interventions, and also improvements associated with being aware of the provision within the workplace. 

Further resources and tools

In addition and for use alongside the calculator we have developed other resources to help with capturing, understanding and improving wellbeing within a workplace:


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