Employee health and wellness programs are gaining popularity with employers to help mitigate the health and stress of their employees. We live in an “always on” business climate where people have the ability to work wherever and whenever. Many people are becoming stretched thin. And it’s not only affecting their work, but also, and more importantly, their health. Easy access to email, social media, and any information we want, workers everywhere are failing to turn-off work and shutdown their brains at the expense of their own health, and most likely their own productivity.
The Health of Employees
The World Health Organization (WHO) defines “health” as “a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity.” In the workplace, stress is a primary driver of poor health and wellness. According to a 2017 report by the American Psychological Association, stress costs businesses more than $300 billion per year from accidents, absenteeism, employee turnover, diminished productivity, as well as direct medical, legal and insurance costs. But it’s not only the cost to employers, it’s the cost of quality of life and longevity of life. And newer generations of workers are starting to take notice, and businesses everywhere are starting to accommodate their needs.
Employee wellness programs are not new, but they are starting to gain more traction. They’re moving toward becoming an expected employee “benefit.” Many medium and large-sized businesses are allowing their employees to participate free of charge.
So, what if you are a small business trying to compete for those same workers at a time when unemployment rates are at historic lows? Can you give yourself a leg up by offering a wellness program? As a small business, do you have the resources to fund for such a program? Yes.
Learn how to start an employee wellness program as a small business, what the costs are, and how it can benefit your small business.
Why Start a Wellness Program for Your Employees?
Reasons for starting a wellness program at your business are include:
- A positive return on your investment
- Healthier employees
- Fewer sick days, and less absenteeism at work
- Increased employee retention
- Decreased healthcare costs
- Happier, more productive employees
Don’t just take it from us. One study of wellness programs published in the American Journal of Health Promotion found that employers using just two-and-a-half-day wellness interventions saw improvements in:
- energy levels,
- overall health,
- and needed hours of sleep over the next 6 months.
A program dedicated to employee wellness doesn’t have to be constant or even long-term to see the positive impact it has on your business.
We spoke to Shermethyst Jones, an HR professional who manages an on-going employee health and wellness program for close to 200 employees. She sees first-hand the impact their wellness program has at her company. When asked about the importance of her company-sponsored wellness program and why businesses should consider starting one, Jones stated, “We know team members who prioritize their well-being contribute more productively in their roles here, whether it’s external customer service, or internal department collaborations.
When individuals are healthy, the overall organization is healthy. It’s a good investment in our team members and the health and happiness of our organization, which is important to our culture. We share our wellness culture and successes on social media, which can help to not only retain staff, but to attract new talent as well.”
How do small businesses start a wellness program?
There are no specific rules or guidelines governing what actually constitutes an employee wellness program. Start with a simple program of gesture to show that your business cares about the wellbeing of its staff. We all know small business owners are strapped for time, and generally have minimal budgets to work with. Don’t let that stop you! You can start small with something as simple as an awareness campaign with content on nutrition, sleep habits, and smoking cessation.
Rusti Quarles, owner of Rusti Q Health Coaching, provides consultation on the implementation of employee wellness programs for businesses of all sizes.
“Don’t assume you know what’s best for your staff. Talk to them. Survey them to find out what matters most to them. Then get to the underlying problem. Is it nutrition, or better sleep? It might even be how to get started with exercise or an inability to say no in their relationships which causes undue stress. Finding simple ways to manage stress in and out of the workplace can make a huge impact on a business and its staff.
If you can’t manage the stress in your life, it will be very difficult to implement a consistent wellness program, so consider starting with simple meditation to start the workday. There are very few things as simple that can make as big of an impact as 10 minutes of mediation.”
“Wellness walks are an easy way to create a culture of exercise and they are very popular with many businesses. But don’t assume everyone in your company likes to walk or can walk. Perhaps they even have a fear that the walks are too fast.
This is why you survey your staff. If you assume you know what matters to your staff, your program is doomed to fail.”
Rusti also suggests having your staff take an HRA, or Health Risk Assessment, like this one from Healthy Life HRA. It can help pinpoint areas for health, nutrition, and wellness improvement in your workplace.
“From these assessments, you can create and take actionable and tangible steps towards true wellness, health, and even nutrition. Most people have no idea how much sugar is in their food, or how much stress they bring to work each day. Help them create a simple plan that’s easy and manageable to attain their goals, not the goals you create for them.”
Starting a program is only the first step in the process for creating a culture of wellness in your business. Make your wellness program stick long-term.
To learn more about our dental plans for your small business, and healthier and happier employees, click here.