Wellness in the Workplace

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Despite Obamacare, of all the various issues that small businesses deal with, the high cost of health care still ranks among the most important. So that then begs the question: What, if anything, can you do?

Two words: Wellness programs. These innovative programs are a great way to both keep healthcare costs down and also bring morale up.

Wellness programs are on the increase throughout the country. According to a recent survey I saw, more than 80% of businesses with 50 or more employees have some form of health/wellness programs. The most popular types are:

  • Exercise and weight loss
  • Stress reduction
  • Stopping-smoking, and
  • Back care

Needless to say, these programs are popular among employees for obvious reasons, but that such wellness programs positively affect the bottom line has made them maybe even more popular with small business owners and management.

Businesses that have adopted such programs especially like the savings in insurance premiums and time lost due to sickness. For example, at Berk-Tec, a manufacturing plant employing 1,000 people, a wellness program reduced health care costs in one year by 18%. Or consider the city in California that offered back health classes and fitness training. Worker’s comp claims went down, and so did medical costs and sick days related to back injuries.

So the medical cost savings to your business resulting from having health and wellness programs are quite real. And yet even so, the benefits go beyond money savings and include higher productivity, reduced absenteeism, less injuries, and greater morale.

So, how would you implement a wellness program in your workplace?

Start by picking someone to coordinate the program. This obviously needs to be someone enthusiastic about health and exercise. If your business is big enough, you may even want to create a wellness committee. They then need to come up with a sensible budget for the program. But remember, every dollar spent should save you more than that down the road.

Next: the person or people in charge need to decide upon the goals of the program and which types of classes might be the most popular. Summer hikes are great, as are other outdoor activities. Consider also offering healthier food and snacks, bringing in speakers, and having health-oriented contests.

Some employees may be resistant to your new efforts, while others will be excited. That’s OK. The important thing is to make the program fun, educational, and flexible. Do that, and watch your workplace – and healthcare budget – change in a variety of healthy ways.