February is American Heart Month, a time when caring organizations and individuals work to raise awareness about heart disease and ways to prevent it. This time of health consciousness is also a good opportunity to focus on employee wellness. By making wellness a company priority, you can help employees make it a priority as well.
According to a National Small Business Administration (NSBA) survey 93 percent of small business owners think employee health is important to business but just 22 percent currently offer any kind of wellness program. Small business owners often perceive barriers to creating their own programs but, in reality, it can be done effectively with minimal cost and burden on the employer.
Plus, a wellness program can have direct impact on your organization’s bottom line.
Wellness = Recruitment Tool
One of the key factors in introducing wellness programs is employee interest. New startups find their employees, many of them millennials, prefer and pursue such offerings. More established companies may have a harder time gauging interest and figuring out how to engage employees who have established their routine. However, it can be done and is worth the effort.
An HR or benefits professional with experience implementing wellness programs can provide essential guidance in such cases. Regardless of the size of the organization, the NSBA survey showed that the initiatives are a useful tool for employee recruitment and retention.
Wellness = Cost and Productivity Savings
Employee illness can be a bigger burden to small companies than larger ones: nearly 40 percent of small business owners said they see an immediate decrease in productivity when employees are out sick. That’s compared to 29 percent of larger firms. Healthy employees can mean lowered healthcare costs, fewer sick days taken, increased productivity and even higher employee satisfaction. Therefore, implementing a wellness program can result in cost savings, as well as improved employee retention. With a little planning and structure, most companies can implement and maintain a wellness program.
Select a wellness point person and/or a committee. Have a brief meeting to get ideas and feedback from all employees. From there, it will be easier to establish a plan about schedules, activities, classes and incentives. Make a plan and stick to it. Can you schedule lunchtime sessions once a month to learn about things like healthy eating or managing stress? Would employees attend a weekly group yoga or zumba class? Do you have employees interested in stopping smoking?
Get leadership’s buy-in and have them set the example. If the boss is sweating along with staff, it shows a commitment to the program and everyone’s success.
Put your resources to work for you. There are many helpful online resources. You can easily get healthy tips to hand out at staff meetings or put in a weekly motivational email. Weight loss trackers and activity logs are available for download as well.
Encourage engagement. When developing your plan, competition and incentives for successes can help colleagues succeed. For example, if an employee reaches her weight loss goal, you could reward her with a small item like a pedometer, stress balls or wrist pockets. The department that logs the most physical activity time could receive a basket of healthy snacks. At TriNet, we recently had a team wellness competition with the winning team’s chosen charitable organization receiving a monetary donation.
Provide incentives. If the budget allows, consider helping employees pay for gym memberships or boot camps that they do on their own time. That shows that the company is serious about overall health.
Other options are annual health screenings – have medical professionals come and test employees for things like cholesterol, blood pressure, glucose levels and BMI. If they have a known starting point and are given guidelines on healthy ranges, they can set goals and track their progress. Also consider paying for employee flu shots. By spending a little up-front, the company can potentially save thousands later in sick days and lost productivity time.
Seek feedback and adjust as you go. Use surveys or questionnaires before and after implementing a wellness program to see if the environments, practices and opinions changed.
Review the bottom-line factors of attendance, sick leave usage and employee turnover before, during and after creating a program. You can then tailor future efforts based on outcomes and what you really want to achieve.