Wellness is the way: Wellness initiatives for small businesses

Workplace wellness programs are a great way for businesses to safeguard their investments in employees. These programs often increase productivity and reduce absenteeism. In fact, a report by The Centre for Health Promotion at the University of Toronto found that companies that instituted a workplace wellness program saw a return on investment of up to $8.81 per dollar spent, thanks to savings on reduced medical, absenteeism and turnover costs. After the Canadian Wheat Board implemented a workplace health promotion program, for instance, it saw an annual rate of 3.8 sick days per employee, compared with the national average of 6.2 as reported by Statistics Canada.Still, some small businesses forgo workplace wellness initiatives, citing budgetary restrictions or too few employees to get a program off the ground. In reality, workplace wellness initiatives aren’t just for major corporations and can be created with any budget or number of employees in mind. Consider these tips for implementing your own workplace wellness plan today:

  1. Determine the mission and purpose of your workplace wellness initiatives
    A mission and purpose will help employees understand why the business is exploring wellness initiatives and clearly outline the potential benefits. Perhaps your business wants to help its employees feel healthier to improve morale, or maybe your business seeks to minimize employee sick days. Whatever you decide, a clearly defined mission and purpose should also ultimately provide some sort of baseline for measurement.
  2. Get everyone on board
    Without support from your business’s leadership, a workplace wellness initiative is unlikely to gain support from other employees. Consider developing the wellness plan, mission and purpose as a team to make sure everyone has the opportunity to provide input and feedback. Launch your business’s wellness initiative during a staff meeting or retreat and give away logo’d items like this Wellness Message Bag or this Sport Bottle to create excitement.
  3. Create a healthy environment
    Take efforts to live the philosophy of the wellness initiative in all aspects of work. Stock employee refrigerators with bottles of water, fruits and veggies or other healthy snacks. Implement or alter policies that allow employees time to take walks or exercise during the work day, or maintain flexible work hours to support healthy work-life balance. Offer to purchase ergonomic office equipment, heaters, fans or other tools that will increase the comfort of staff while they are at work.
  4. Facilitate wellness education
    Designate a handful of staff meetings per year or reserve a few minutes of each staff meeting each week—whichever your business feels is most effective—to talking about health and wellness with an expert. Invite a nutritionist, a yoga instructor, a nurse or other health-minded community members to present on topics relating to your business’s wellness program. Keep the interest and excitement high by offering giveaways to those who participate in discussion or answer questions correctly, like Hand Sanitizers or Jump Ropes. If your business cannot dedicate time to on-the-job wellness education, provide incentives for employees to seek out this education on their own, such as larger wellness giveaways like the Travel Exercise Kit.
  5. Institute a little healthy competition
    A little competition goes a long way to getting employees involved and excited about wellness initiatives. If your business chooses to focus on physical health, consider distributing pedometers to all staff willing to participate and rewarding the employee with the most steps logged within a certain time period. If your business chooses to focus on nutrition, distribute Fitness and Nutrition Diaries and reward the staff member with the most number of entries within a certain time period.

The final considerations in all successful workplace wellness programs are rewarding all staff members for participation in some way—whether through giveaways or recognition in employee newsletters—and periodically measuring the success and effectiveness of the plan. It won’t be long before your employees develop a positive attitude towards health and wellness, and your business notices a bump in productivity and employee health!

“The Case for Comprehensive Workplace Health Promotion.” The Centre for Health Promotion, University of Toronto. Retrieved from the Web on 29 Mar. 2010.

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