Apparently only 17% of businesses have a link between wellbeing and business success. That's pathetic.

It's especially pathetic considering that 50% of businesses run some kind of health and wellbeing initiative. Consider then that a third of employees would consider leaving you due to a lack of wellbeing policy, then we start to see that direct link between health and business success – and we haven't even started talking about productivity yet.

One of the main problems with wellness is that it's a fluffy, ill-conceived term that appears to encompass everything, yet actually describes nothing. We need to sell it to the board, and we need to demonstrate its value.

Nudging a healthy lifestyle

So, you could do all of the following:

… and you could call it a wellness programme. Each component will cost you, one way or another – and each component will give you an ROI, in one form or another. So how do you know what's working? It's hardly scientific.

And this is where wellness falls down with boardrooms everywhere. Here are a bunch of initiatives – and for the most part, their impact is either not measured, or it is measured as a whole. 

Nudging a healthy environment

Wellness should never be limited to physical health. I was fascinated by a recent article on HR Zone about loneliness being the next 'workplace ticking time bomb' – doesn't this fall under wellness? 

Too many businesses stop at healthy lifestyle initiatives without considering how the workplace itself is having an impact on mental health.

Does this mean that we should be encouraging employees to be 'friends'? Does it mean that remote working is – as Marissa Mayer may point out – detrimental?

Office-based employees are especially prone to loneliness, anxiety, even depression. Being sat in front of a computer 8 or 9 hours a day, with little communication other than passive-aggressive e-mails can be disheartening, especially with policies designed to keep employees off social media and other distractions.

Mental health issues come at a cost, yet we barely factor them in when discussing 'wellness'. They're even more difficult to factor in when you consider that none of the above problems can be solved by simple initiatives such as putting a few apples in the kitchen.

So talk productivity, not wellness

By talking about wellness – we're entering a vague world that can easily be misconstrued, and can easily be dismissed as 'light' or 'fluffy'. By talking about productivity, however, we're able to shift the conversation towards ROI, and therefore our initiatives can cover a wider range.

For instance, we haven't been talking about loneliness as part of wellness programmes, but we should be talking about it in terms of productivity. This is where we can intervene and propose solutions such as collaboration software – it removes the stress of having to deal with constant e-mails and gives employees a familiar Facebook-style 'stream' around which to discuss work topics.

We can continue to provide initiatives such as the 'apples in the kitchen', but instead framework them in a productivity discussion. Measure these initiatives in isolation – decide what you're going to measure and define the impact in terms of productivity. And talk up the results.

Once we discuss our initiatives in the light of productivity, we can cast our net wider. We can wield our influence – and show results – throughout the business, and we'll get the backing for it.