work stress

ROI for Wellness Programs

The World Health Organization estimates that stress costs American companies over $300 billion a year in absenteeism, turnover, diminished creativity, decreased productivity, and healthcare expenditures. 

Given these costs, it's no surprise that more and more companies are turning to corporate wellness to decrease stress, boost morale, and reduce turnover. We've done a deep dive and found that it really does pay to invest in corporate wellness. Here's why.

Understanding the negative impact of Work stress

Workplace stress has been called the health epidemic of the 21st century. Sixty-five percent of American workers cite work as a significant source of stress, with more than one-third experiencing chronic work stress, according to the American Psychological Association ("APA"). 

According to the APA, work stress leads to headaches, stomachaches, disturbed sleep, anger and irritability, fatigue, and difficulty concentrating. Chronic work stress is more severe, resulting in high blood pressure, lowered immunity, weight gain, insomnia, anxiety, depression, and substance abuse. In some cases, chronic stress can lead to burnout

Chronic stress also "degrades capabilities with regard to creativity and innovation" says Rick Hanson PhD, a California based neuropsychologist. "It's harder to think outside the box, nimbleness and dexterity take a hit, and the response to sudden change is more difficult to manage."

Not surprisingly, chronic stress is correlated with increased absenteeism as seen in the most recent Willis Towers Watson Survey linking increased work stress to employee absences. 


Happy and healthy employees are more engaged, creative, and productive. Chronic work stress erodes employee wellbeing and thus, a company's bottom line.

Mindfulness-based activities -- like yoga and meditation -- help employees counteract the effects of chronic stress and improve performance. Studies show that such mind-body programs: 

  • Reduce stress and anxiety
  • Improve sleep
  • Improve concentration 
  • Improve short-term memory
  • Decrease pain
  • Increase resilience
  • Increase empathy
  • Improve overall happiness
  • Boost creativity & problem solving skills
  • Improve emotional intelligence 

These benefits aren't purely academic, but offer real returns. As noted by Forbes, companies who introduce mindfulness-based programs see higher rates of employee wellbeing and productivity, with Aetna reporting a gain in worker productivity worth about $3,000 per participating employee per year. 

Research by the iOpener Institute supports the idea that a happy employee is a high-performing one. According to their research, happy employees take one tenth the sick-leave of their least happy colleagues, are six times more energized, and are twice as productive. 

Decreased Medical CostS

Stress-related health problems are responsible for up to 80% of doctor visits and account for the third highest health care expenditures, behind only heart disease and cancer.

Mind-body interventions counteract the effects of stress and reduce medical costs. That's in part, because they elicit the relaxation response by decreasing the production of stress hormones such as cortisol and adrenaline, decreasing blood pressure and hypertension, lowering cholesterol levels, and increasing production of the anti-aging hormone DHE.

Counteracting the effects of stress translates to a significant decrease in costs. Harvard affiliated Massachusetts General Hospital recently found that individuals participating in mindfulness-based programs like yoga and meditation used 43% fewer medical services than they did the previous year, saving on average $2,360 per person in emergency room visits alone. Aetna noted similar results, reporting a reduction in healthcare costs of about $2,000 per participant.

According to a recent Harvard Health Publication, this means that "yoga and meditation programs could translate into health care savings of anywhere from $640 to as much as $25,500 per patient, per year."

Attract & Keep Talented Employees

Health programs are consistently listed as one of the top perks to attract, and keep, top talent. Mindfulness in particular was just listed as one of Forbes' Top Corporate Wellness Trends to Watch for in 2017.  That's because on-site wellness programs improve workplace atmosphere, increase employee engagement, and promote bonding between co-workers. 

A recent survey conducted by Harvard Business Review found that employees participating in wellness programs reported a more positive attitude toward their employer and indicated that they were more likely than nonparticipants to stay and refer others to the company. Seventy percent of employee participants reporting that they viewed their company’s wellness offering is an indicator that their company cared about them. 

Real Returns 

For companies tied to the traditional return on investment ("ROI") model, Harvard Business Review reports that companies who invest in corporate wellness see a ROI of $2.71 for every dollar spent. Aetna, one of the pioneers in corporate wellness research, found that their mindfulness-based yoga and meditation program yielded an 11:1 return on investment. 

Tax Breaks

If you're a small business in Massachusetts, you're in luck! The Massachusetts Wellness Tax Credit Incentive program gives small businesses in Massachusetts a state tax credit for certified employee wellness programs. That means qualifying companies can receive a tax credit of 25%, up to $10,000, on money spent on wellness programs.


Want to bring corporate wellness to your workplace? Founded by a physician at Massachusetts General Hospital and former corporate layer, Aria Yoga Co. offers a variety of personalized mindfulness-based programs to reduce workplace stress and improve your company's atmosphere and energy. Learn more about our Services or contact us at  


About the Author. Elisar Hares, ESQ. is a Yoga Alliance Certified yoga instructor and co-founder of Aria Yoga Co. She has completed 200 hour yoga teaching programs in two disciplines, power vinyasa and PranaVayu. In addition, Elisar studied inner engineering, meditation, and Ayurvedic healing modalities through the Isha Foundation and the Chopra Center. A graduate of Wellesley College and Northeastern Law School, Elisar founded Aria in order to give people tools to live healthier, happier lives.