How To Start An Employee Wellness Program For Your Small Business
Dan Levenson November 15, 2016
Your employees work hard every day and for long hours. Have you considered what this does to their health?
There are many success stories out there about employee wellness programs, but perhaps you’ve held off on starting your own out of concern for time and cost. Or maybe the biggest worry is that your employees will rebel against the plan and do the opposite of what you suggest, even if it’s for their own good.
For employee wellness programs to work successfully, you need to bring unique incentives for keeping your employees healthy. Workers may not want to cooperate without having a compelling goal to strive for—or without consequences if they don’t.
While you’ll find some companies that impose penalties for not participating in individual EWPs, how you structure yours matters in genuine participation. Sometimes it requires stronger incentives to get them involved. The goal, after all, is to keep the experience positive overall.
If you’re not sure where to start with your employee wellness program, it’s smart to go by the model of what other companies do. Places like Google, Facebook, and HubSpot have great wellness programs you can learn from to keep employees motivated toward staying healthy.
Health Risk Assessments
Most employee wellness program analysts say you should only do health risk assessments with workers rather than pay for full checkups. By asking employees to fill out a questionnaire about their habits, you can tell a lot about their potential health problems.
Be sure to ask how physically active they are and whether they’re often subjected to stress. Some of this is perhaps obvious in your workplace if you know your employees well. Still, you want a clear understanding of their biggest health risks.
You can still work up a good health plan based on these criteria. It’s a better way over putting in the expense of full medical examinations, which many employees may refuse to do.
Should You Use Incentives in Your EWP?
Some still debate about whether long-term incentives really work well in getting employees motivated. Financial incentives sometimes work, though they can also lead to internal problems in the workplace. In many cases, workers want to gain more out of improving their health than money.
What’s more important is bringing a staff camaraderie that promotes a culture of health. When everyone can work together toward a goal, you get more group motivation in cultivating improved lifestyles.
If you’ve already managed to get everyone on board in your company toward working on a project goal, wellness programs work much the same way.
Above all, you reduce absenteeism in the workplace, something you should note in your wellness program. Many of your employees may already suffer the consequences of having to work for those who constantly call in sick. Keeping everyone as healthy as possible ultimately increases productivity and puts less pressure on fill-ins.
Companies That Enact Employee Wellness Programs
Some of the best-known companies in the world put together health programs to ensure each employee stays physically fit and eats well.
Google, for instance, has on-site fitness centers so employees can work out during off hours. They even offer cafes and micro-kitchens that serve healthy food all day.
Facebook has had a strong health program in place for a number of years as well. Their push is to get employees healthy and keep them that way beyond the context of their jobs.
When Boston Magazine wrote a profile on HubSpot a couple of years ago, the latter gave more details about their own health initiatives. They managed to not only bring exercise and nutritious eating to their workplaces, they even added nap rooms. This brought attention to how important sleep is to better health.
Bringing Fresh Ideas to Your EWP
Here are a few fun ideas you may want to try that go beyond what the big guys are doing:
- Create a healthy office cookbook with health-conscious recipes your employees can make. While your employees may use this at home during off-hours, don’t hesitate to promote the use of it directly in the office kitchen if workers make food there.
- Weight loss contests have become more popular in workplaces. Otherwise known as “Biggest Loser” competitions, this truly motivates employees to work toward their own personal weight goals. When working together in friendly competition, the psychological motivation only increases.
- Encouraging use of employee vacation time helps reduce stress, hence bringing far less illness from work pressures. Separate from changing diet, eliminating overwork does a lot to increase immune systems.
Of course, there are additional things that you can do as the employer to supplement these programs, including offering group health insurance. When employees have reliable health insurance, they’ll be more likely to keep up with their own health concerns, which can help avoid serious medical issues down the line that might put them out of commission. Plus, knowing that their employer is concerned for their overall well-being can provide a huge boost in morale and help retain (and recruit) valuable talent over time.