For a small business, losing just one employee to frequent sick days or an extended absence can lead to significant productivity losses. It can also damage morale as the remaining employees are forced to pick up the slack.
These days, large businesses are not the only ones implementing employee wellness programs. Small businesses are following in their footsteps, realizing that employee wellness programs can not only reduce healthcare costs, lessen worker’s compensation claims, decrease absenteeism, and curtail employee turnover, but also increase productivity, reduce stress, and improve workers’ attitudes.
Numerous studies have shown that investment in an employee wellness program can be well worth an employer’s initial cost outlay, and some large companies have earned some amazing financial results. For instance, Union Pacific has seen a $3.6 million return on investment (ROI), while Johnston & Johnston says it has seen a $13 million annual ROI as a result of its corporate wellness program.
Generally speaking, a company-wide employee wellness program can save $2.43 for every $1 spent, according to a case study conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. What’s more, according to a report from U.S. Corporate Wellness, a commitment to an employee wellness program can result in a 20 to 55 percent reduction in health care costs.
If you’re looking to save money and have a healthier, happier workforce, consider these employee wellness program best practices.
- Utilize health risk assessments (HRA) – What’s an HRA? An HRA is a health-risk and quality of life questionnaire employees complete in relation to family health history, present and past health conditions, and lifestyle choices. Based upon those results, employers learn where to focus when developing their worksite wellness programs. HRAs also give employees guidance on health risk areas they should work on improving. Employees can also share their HRAs with their doctor.
- Implement employee health screenings – Employee health screenings help to identify current medical problems. Typical areas screened include cholesterol, blood pressure, weight and body fat analysis, BMI, mental health, and nutrition analysis. Annual influenza vaccinations are also often offered. Health screenings should be conducted at least annually, and any employee who receives high-risk results are encouraged to see their physician.
- Provide rewards and incentives for participating – Give incentives, such as monetary compensation and gift cards for program participation, completion of HRAs, and obtaining medical screenings. More importantly, reward employees when they achieve health-related goals. For instance, give $50 if an employee drops his overall cholesterol below 200, $250 if she stops smoking for a year, or a gift card if he achieves a weight loss goal.
- Encourage high participation – Contests, challenge strategies, and frequent communication heighten program enthusiasm and promote participation.
- Include variety – A workplace wellness program is more than posters, flyers, and brown bag lunches. Include a wide breadth of offerings, such as smoking cessation programs, physical fitness/discounted gym memberships, health risk assessments, health screening, disease management, health fairs, wellness workshops, stress management classes, ergonomics training, nutrition programs, and more.
- Ensure management support – Endorsement by management is key to achieving high rates of employee wellness program participation. If key management or senior management executives are role models themselves, strong employee participation will likely follow.
- Make a long-term commitment - Healthy lifestyle changes take time. Make business health promotion a year round event.
For more information check out the CDC’s Healthier Worksite Initiative, which offers step-by-step toolkits and additional resources to help boost the health and morale of your employees through workplace wellness programs.