Creating a Corporate Wellness Program for Your Small Business

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Creating Corporate Wellness Program Small Business

Did you know healthy employees are more productive employees? A meta-study by the Institute for Health Care Consumerism found that employees who participated in a corporate wellness program took a full 28 percent fewer sick days. Meaning that’s 28 percent more work they could be doing.

Happy employees are of even greater benefit. A study from AFLAC found that employees who participated in corporate wellness programs were “more likely to have a higher level of job satisfaction, feel happier with their employer, and be more satisfied with their overall benefits.” And a motivated employee, as you know, is more productive.

And even if employee happiness is not nearly as important to you as the bottom line, consider this: That same meta-study found that corporate wellness programs reduced health costs by 26 percent, and workers comp and disability costs by 30 percent.

Between happy employees and saved money, there is absolutely no excuse to not have some sort of corporate wellness program in place, especially for a small business. Insurers see this when they set your health care premiums, and every dollar you can save there will dwarf the cost of setting up a program.

Creating the Right Wellness Program for You

Wellness, if you’re not a mountain-dwelling health guru, is about a lot more than just offering fresh fruit in the breakroom and a $10 a month discount top your local gym. It’s about creating a company culture of health that gets people engaging in healthier habits.

Of course, like any major change, it is easier said than done.

The first step is to ask your employees what they’d like to see in a wellness program. More importantly, find out what motivates them to be healthier, and incorporate as much of it as you can. Like with any incentive system, what motivates you might not motivate them, so get their feedback and use that to start your planning.

Secondly, determine what your goals are for the program. Time spent exercising met? Steps taken per day? Participation in group wellness activities? Setting specific goals for your employees is crucial to getting buy-in, so they all know what they’re striving for.

Next, you may be able to work with your insurance provider to conduct health risk assessments with all employees. Many providers offer wellness programs to help you decrease your insurance rates and it’s a surprisingly short process, where you find which behaviors employees engage in that are counterproductive to wellness, and work with them to set specific goals. One employee might be in great shape, but perpetually stressed because she can’t disconnect from work. Another might smoke. Wellness is not one size fits all, so your insurance provider can work with each employee individually to develop goals for physical, mental, and spiritual health.

Also, take a look at health insurance claims from the last year you have data, and see which types of issues your employees are having. If you notice a trend that might be fixable with a wellness program, make that one of the focal points.

And finally, if all this seems like yet another thing you don’t have time for, outsource it. There are companies that develop corporate wellness programs everywhere.


Wellness: It’s Not Just Yoga and Blueberries

So yes, while we did say wellness was more than simply offering healthy food and gym memberships, you should do that too. After all, it’s hard to encourage people to participate in your wellness program, and invite everyone to the office Happy Hour.

“Lead by Example” wellness programs start with corporate culture. And that culture begins with you. So even if you are already in great shape, you need to be the wellness program’s biggest cheerleader and most avid participant.

  • Offer only healthy food and activities - Make sure your business is only offering healthy food to eat on-site like fruit, granola bars and bottled water. And instead of office happy hours, offer group activities like bike rides, walks, 5k runs or other healthier options.
  • Get them in the gym - Gym memberships are great, but pretty useless if people aren’t going. And how do you motivate employees to use said gym time? Competition, of course. In a small business you can easily track how many hours people spend at the gym, and have them bring proof from the gym’s records. No matter what the incentive, offer something up to the person or team who logs the most gym hours.
  • Invest in pedometers - Sitting behind a desk all day is a great way to ensure your dinner ends up in your thighs. Inexpensive pedometers will encourage employees to do things like get up and ask a co-worker a question instead of emailing, take a walk to get coffee, or maybe even walk to work. Especially if you have a contest for whoever can take the most steps in a week. The reward will get people moving.
  • Get them to unplug - Some companies actually don’t allow company emails to be sent during non-business hours and on weekends, except in emergencies. And while in small business it is often hard to maintain banker’s hours, encouraging work-life balance with actual RULES that discourage taking your work home will do wonders to reduce stress.
  • Offer longer lunch breaks - Even if your workforce is out by 6pm, if they want to work out, and shower before they get home, this typically means walking through the front door at 8:30pm. Which leads to eating fast, unhealthy food for dinner, eating it later at night, and pretty much negating said workout. Encourage employees to workout on their lunch hours by giving 90 minute lunches. The 30 minutes of lost productivity will more than be made up for by the energized employees coming back after an intense workout.
  • Get other discounts - Gym discounts are great. But if there is, say, a small bike shop nearby, see if you can work out a deal for your employees to get 10 percent off. Or a workout apparel store. Or a small natural foods store. You can offer a value-added benefit to your employees while supporting the local economy, and making everyone healthier. 

Employee wellness is not really something that’s optional. With healthcare costs remaining a major expense for small business, the more you can mitigate these costs, the greater your chance for success. And with more money and better workers, you might even be able to stress less and experience a healthier you.

Matt Meltzer is a professor of business communication at the University of Miami. He is a veteran of the United States Marine Corps and holds a bachelors degree in business administration from UM, as well as a Masters of Mass Communication from the University of Florida.