With large companies, like Google and Facebook, taking wellness programs to extremes - and spending a large chunk of money in the process -- it can be difficult to understand how the costs balance out for smaller businesses. With just a little digging, though, it’s clear that employee wellness is a sound investment for even the smallest of businesses.
At a small business, employee wellness brings about a unique set of benefits. Yes, you could still see a positive ROI, which is a great perk to wellness in any business. You might also notice improved productivity, easier talent acquisition and retention and an increase in brand recognition.
Perhaps you’ve heard about all these great wellness benefits. Maybe you’re thinking of starting a wellness program where you work. Or you might even be revamping a program you’ve already implemented. Regardless, there are a few things you should know before diving into a wellness strategy.
1. There’s no “right way.”
There really isn’t a formal definition of "wellness program." Your wellness program can include anything from providing health education materials to bringing preventive services into the workplace. There are a wide variety of things you can work into your program, and it’s completely dependent upon your corporate culture and goals.
Many people get caught up in the idea that employee wellness needs to include crazy and expensive wellness perks. That’s simply not true. Your program can be as robust or as simple as you need it to be. Don’t get caught trying to find rules, requirements or the right way to do wellness. None of those things exist.
2. Inclusivity is important.
One common misconception about employee wellness is that it excludes people with existing health conditions. Many people worry that wellness only works for people who are already relatively healthy. If that’s the case in any wellness program, it’s not being done right.
You can’t force employees to participate in your wellness program, but you do need to make it accessible to every employee at your company. If disabilities or health conditions are a concern, plan for that and make adaptations to your wellness activities as needed.
3. Adaptability is mandatory.
Like many corporate strategies, a wellness program isn’t something you can plan and then forget about. It needs to be a living, breathing strategy that changes as your company changes. Be flexible.
Ultimately, employee wellness should mesh seamlessly with your corporate culture. In a startup or small business, that culture can change as you try to settle into your industry, and develop your corporate identity. Let your wellness program be adjusted according to your culture.
4. It’s actually working.
There’s no reason to be skeptical about whether employee wellness is worth your effort. It is. And there’s plenty of research to show it. In fact, according to a survey by Kaiser/HRET, 59 percent of employers reported their programs actually improved employee health. Similarly, wellness activities have been associated with an eight percent increase in productivity.
The best way to tell if wellness is working at your company is to be sure you build you program with evaluation in mind. Obviously you’ll have measures to track your direct ROI - just as you would with any new business investment. You can also track things like biometric health results, productivity and employee satisfaction year-over-year (YoY) to determine the longer term impacts your program is having.
5. You’re not alone.
A majority of companies have begun to think about employee wellness as a business strategy. While the percentage of smaller businesses that have actually begun implementing wellness programs remains fairly low, few small business owners dispute the idea that a wellness program would be good for their bottom line.
Increasingly positive attitudes toward employee wellness suggest a coming surge of wellness program implementation. Staying ahead of that surge can help give your business an edge and one added benefit. Being an early adopter of employee wellness allows you to differentiate your business from others in your corporate space in regards to both public image and recruitment of talented employees.
Starting a wellness program is a great way for a small business to invest in both its workforce and its bottom line. Getting started with employee wellness can seem overwhelming or confusing, especially when it comes to scaling down the large, expensive wellness programs that are often thrust into the public eye.
If you’re considering wellness where you work, or trying to get a program started, you’ve made an excellent first step. Keep gathering information and building a program that works for you, your employees and your company.