What Is An Employee Wellness Program?
When it comes to employee benefits, one thing that small business owners may overlook is an employee wellness program.
Whether it comes to costs or what to include in a program, many small business owners may not know where to begin and often question if starting a program is even worth it for a handful of employees. Below you’ll learn about ideas to consider when launching an employee wellness program and tips to successfully implement one in your small business.
Understanding Employee Wellness Programs
To put it simply, an employee wellness program lays the groundwork to help your employees live a healthier life. These programs don’t have to only apply to physical health; they may also include mental and financial health practices. Wellness programs can range from having a specific intent, such as a smoking cessation program, or be more general and focus on a variety of healthy habits. It’s important to note this type of program does not replace health insurance plans. Instead, most employee wellness programs are used in addition to health insurance plans to further encourage positive lifestyle habits.
If you’re wondering how much this is going to cost you, don’t stress. The good news is starting an employee wellness program is free, and the activities you come up with don’t have to cost anything.
Some low-cost options to get started with are:
- Hosting a healthy recipe exchange
- Replacing muffins and doughnuts for breakfast meetings with fruit
- Encouraging standing or walking breaks
Benefits of Employee Wellness Programs
Now that you know a little more about what is involved in a wellness program, you might be wondering if the startup and implementation are worth the benefits in the long run. An employee wellness program can lead to increased employee engagement and shape your small business culture. Typically, healthy employees are happier and more productive employees. When you have healthy employees, you have individuals who have more energy and focus, which makes crushing to-do lists easier. Additionally, healthy employees are typically better prepared to handle stress and find a work/life balance, and generally take fewer sick days, which benefits both them and for your business.
How to Start an Employee Wellness Program
You know what the program is, what the benefits are, so the next step is figuring out how to get a wellness program started. Since communication is key in all relationships, the first step should be talking to your employees to gauge interest and see what their health concerns/motivations are. Perhaps you have employees who are trying to cook more meals at home and rely less on takeout for lunches or are trying to stop smoking or vaping. By understanding their goals and priorities, you can all brainstorm together what should go into the wellness program. Only have one or two employees? Having a small team doesn't mean you have to avoid programs that may appear to be suited towards larger groups. You can still launch a successful program and may make it even stronger due to the specific customization of a smaller team.
In addition to getting employee input, you’ll also want to consider the various aspects of health. Holistic health combines physical, mental, and financial health. While your wellness program doesn’t have to have to be divided equally across each aspect, you should consider at least be touching on each category. To get you started, here are some activities you can consider adding to your wellness program.
Physical Health: Kicking off a plan to increase physical health can take many shapes. There are the previous free activities we mentioned, like starting a walking club, but there are also some activities you can consider that have a little cost associated with them:
- Ergonomic desk equipment
- A gym membership stipend
- Preventative health screenings
- On-site flu shots
- Chair massages once a month/quarter
- Join a community sports league
Mental Health: With so many mental health conversations happening in the world, the stigma surrounding the topic is decreasing, but it’s still a delicate area to discuss with employees. If you do have employees who are looking to improve their mental health, they may not want the rest of their co-workers to know. With this in mind, your plan to incorporate mental health into your wellness program doesn’t have to be overly complicated.
- Increased or unlimited vacation days
- More meetings outdoors
- Flexibility in scheduling daytime therapy appointments
- Working remotely
Financial Health: Studies have shown that the biggest source of stress for Americans is money. From mounting student loan debt to the fears of recessions, almost everyone is worried about having enough cash. As a small business owner, it may be challenging to give your employees consistent raises, but there are some things you can incorporate into your wellness program.
- Provide resources on budgeting
- Offer 401(k) plans or share resources on retirement planning
- Clear information on when employees would be eligible for a raise or bonus
There is no right, or wrong way, to launch an employee wellness program, and it is possible for small businesses of all sizes to implement some type of wellness program. No matter how many times “get healthy” is put down on New Year’s resolution lists, there is always room for improvement and steps to take. People who band together to reach health and fitness goals are more likely to succeed, and when there is a good chance you’re with your employees 40ish hours a week, there’s already a built-in support system for all of you.