There are many benefits to making wellness a priority at your business. As health care costs continue to rise, many employers are turning to worksite wellness programs to counteract the expenses associated with an unhealthy workforce.
In addition to the cost of health insurance premiums, employers pay for unhealthy employees in the form of employee turnover, employee absenteeism and presenteeism. Presenteeism is a term used to describe employees who may be present at work, but they are not fully productive due to reasons such as physical or mental health barriers.
Frequently, small business owners and startups will assume that implementing wellness policies and programs at their worksites are not affordable or sustainable, but there are several low-cost initiatives that can be implemented.
Get Started: Getting management on board is an excellent starting point when you want to make wellness a priority. Then, it’s important you get input from employees. Find out what they value and what changes they would like to better support health in the workplace. Next, identify wellness champions and form a wellness committee, which should meet regularly and develop an action plan with specific, measurable, achievable, realistic and time-bound objectives. The committee can communicate wellness opportunities to staff and can hold the company accountable to the goals and objectives identified. It’s important to evaluate your wellness program and policies so you can determine employee satisfaction, return on investment and opportunities for improvement. Start small, and remember that not all changes happen overnight.
Be Flexible: Supporting flexible scheduling can bolster health by creating a culture that promotes work-life balance. Some small businesses and startups are not able to compete with the salaries paid at larger corporations for similar positions. Offering appealing benefits is one way to offset salary differences when competing for high-quality professionals. A small employer may allow flexible scheduling for physical activities, taking alternative transportation or meeting family and other obligations. Allowing employees to work from home periodically, when possible, is a great way to save on commuting time and increase employee satisfaction and productivity.
Stay Active: You do not need an on-site fitness center to promote physical activity at your workplace. Encouraging walking meetings or providing bike racks at your facility can support employees to be more physically active. You also can hold fitness challenges and recognize employees who achieve certain goals.
Eat Right: Nutrition initiatives can be simple. Ask your vending provider about their options for healthy vending. Also, think about the break room. Does it allow for employees to bring and prepare healthy foods? Do you offer refrigeration, a microwave oven and basic kitchen equipment? Another way to support nutrition is by implementing breast feeding-related policies. Did you know that Tennessee law requires employers to provide breast-feeding mothers the space and time to express breast milk for one year post-partum? It’s to the employer’s advantage to promote breast feeding at their workplace because breast feeding mothers and infants are healthier, so mothers miss less work due to illness.
Don’t Stress: Work can be a major life stressor, but it doesn’t have to be. More employers are recognizing the benefits of stress-reduction initiatives. Staff who feel engaged and appreciated are more likely to stay long term, reducing employee turnover. Physical activity is widely recognized as a stress reduction tool, so encouraging employees to be active has mental and physical health benefits.
Investing in small steps to improve your employees’ health could pay big dividends when you are able to recruit and retain a high-quality, healthy workforce. While it can cost some money to make policy and program changes on the front end, it likely will cost your business more to do nothing.