One way that any business, small or large, can help reduce the costs of their healthcare is to create and promote a wellness program for their employees. These programs can help employees make healthier lifestyle choices, such as about what they eat, getting enough exercise, and reduce other problematic behaviors like smoking or drinking.
"Small businesses often do not consider wellness programs because they believe they are too small, or that it isn't effective," says Brian Passon, director of Corporate Fitness & Health, a Marlborough, Conn.-based wellness vendor. "On the contrary, we find that small businesses have the upper hand on bigger businesses when it comes to wellness.
These programs can be very inexpensive to implement, even for a small company. Wellness challenges can be implemented that help employees stay accountable to their peers, either on an individual or a team-basis. For example, a program that gives points for to each individual on a team for getting 30 minutes or more of exercise a day or for getting all of their servings of items from the food chart. These points can then be accumulated toward an overall team goal that can be an inexpensive reward or some type of company-wide recognition. Companies can also allow employees to create clubs to support each other, such as a weight-loss group that holds each other accountable for eating choices and weight loss. This doesnt cost the company anything, except a space onsite for the group to meet, but this type of program can have great success in motivating employees to make healthier choices.
Larger companies can do things, such as creating an on-site fitness center for their staff. However, often time, smaller business can partner with a local fitness club to give discounts to employees who sign up for a membership and work out a certain number of times per month. Many health insurance companies are now offering discounts to larger fitness clubs and employers can choose to add this onto their plan for a small fee.
Health insurance companies will also often have wellness educators on staff now that can come to a companys site and do educational talks. It is to the health insurance companys benefit to promote healthy living as much as possible in order to reduce claims later on for behaviors that have led to illnesses or injuries. Otherwise, employers can also network with their local Chamber of Commerce or even colleges in their area to find low-cost speakers who can come in over a lunch hour and meet with interested employees on a particular wellness topic.
Wellness programs need to be constantly communicated and publicized to employees in order to be successful. It needs to be in the employees daily life and a focus of the corporate culture. It can be talked about in employee newsletters, department or company meetings, inserts in paychecks, etc.
Companies who are considering a wellness program can start out by conducting an employee survey to find out what types of interests the employees have and what types of information or programs they are looking for. Often, there will be employees who are knowledgeable about a topic, such as yoga or meditation who will then offer to do a free session with employees over a lunch hour. Employers can also create a wellness committee of employees that can help guide and create the program. Programs will often be more successful if there is employee buy-in early on and employees can sell the program to their peers.
For companies that are interested and need ideas, they can also check out the Internet, which is a great resource for companies who want free or low cost materials. Wellness programs in todays society just make smart business sense, regardless of the size of the company, and are a great way to motivate, recognize and reward your employees for making healthy lifestyle choices.
According to Passon, there are several key reasons that wellness works for small firms. They include the fact that smaller firms get higher rates of participation and generally do not have to work as hard in implementing the programs."
Almost anything is achievable, Passon maintains. "Outside of creating onsite fitness centers, gyms and tracks, which are costly, any type of wellness initiative can be accomplished very effectively and efficiently for small businesses. For instance, it may seem unattainable for smaller businesses to have onsite health screenings, fitness incentive contests, weight-loss, healthy cooking, smoking cessation and other educational classes, but any of these programs, when tailored to the needs, wants, and desires of a business, can be much more effective for a small business."