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First randomised-controlled trial of an employee “Wellness Programme” suggests they are a waste of money

23 August 2018

Workplace wellness programmes are an assemblage of wellbeing activities like yoga or cycling clubs, packaged together with diagnostic activities like biometric screenings; their aim is to reduce sickness, increase productivity and cut insurance costs for an organisation’s members.

This is big business – in the USA, the market is around $8 billion – with a return-on-investment claim, thanks to a plethora of studies that tout the benefits of these programmes (for example, see this meta-analysis from 2010).

But whether staff enter these kind of initiatives in the first place is usually up to them, making it hard to evaluate their effectiveness, as those who choose to participate may differ in key ways from those who do not.

To assess the benefits of the programmes accurately therefore requires a randomised-controlled study. This is what the National Bureau of Economic Research published recently, and it leaves these programmes looking sickly.

Read more in a post from Alex Fradera on our Research Digest blog.

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