A 2016 report from the Society for Human Resource Management found that 78 percent of surveyed businesses offered wellness benefits to their employees. It is true that wellness programs are most common in large corporations, but small companies also can offer these benefits and reap the advantages.
Generally, wellness programs may improve worker morale and perhaps lead to greater retention of key employees. Direct results might include fewer health-related absences, greater energy, and more on-the-job productivity. Cost reduction also may result, if the company winds up paying less for health insurance and workers’ compensation.
Education & motivation
If you decide to offer a wellness program to employees, where do you begin? One popular starting point is to offer education and information leading to better health choices. Wellness tips might be delivered by health-oriented newsletters, email, or tweets. Companies commonly schedule ‘health fairs,’ events where vendors and exhibitors come to the workplace with educational materials on health and fitness. Often, employees can get readings on blood pressure, cholesterol levels, and other physical conditions at health fairs.
Taking fitness information a step further, some wellness programs bring in health or lifestyle coaches for the employees. Although these coaches will differ in their approach, they generally attempt to help plan participants discover and articulate wellness goals. Those objectives might include weight loss, better eating, smoking cessation, and stress reduction. Once the goals have been expressed, wellness coaches may help employees make reasonable choices towards achieving the desired results.
Stepping into wellness
Beyond information, wellness programs can include simple group activities such as stretching and walking. ‘Stretch breaks’ might be led by trainers, who will demonstrate simple exercises that can be done at work to prevent soft tissue injuries. Walking programs, which often are popular among employees, might involve establishing walkway routes around the office to encourage employees to become more active. The American Heart Association offers a Workplace Walking Program Kit to help companies get their employees to take ‘the first step on the path to wellness,’ as the association puts it.
Wellness programs also can deliver medical benefits to employees. For example, many health care companies offer on-site flu vaccine clinics. Convenient and cost-free for employees, such benefits may attract workers who do not otherwise participate in wellness programs, perhaps enticing them to become more active. Of course, widespread flu vaccination likely will cut down on employee sick days lost to influenza.
Another popular benefit available from health care companies is a toll-free 24-hour nurse telephone line. Participants, covered spouses, and eligible dependents can receive immediate answers from registered nurses to questions about possible illnesses, minor injuries, prescription instructions, and other areas of concern.
Wellness programs can be tailored to suit the needs of your employees. Benefits might include smoking cessation or weight loss programs, CPR and first aid training, visiting guest speakers from local hospitals and universities, and more.
To encourage participation in wellness programs, you might offer discounts on health insurance premiums for getting an annual health risk assessment, for example, or for not smoking. Conversely, employees who smoke might have to pay higher premiums. One way to start a wellness program is to ask your health insurance company which benefits have proven to be most effective.