Ten Steps to Small Business Wellness: Part I

My job entails working with businesses of all sizes across the state.  For the small businesses that I work with, I serve to remind them that there are feasible ways they can work with employees to improve health.  I know this is possible because I work in a small business.

With seven employees in our office, we fully understand how difficult it is to offer affordable health insurance to employees that meets the needs of their families without consuming their entire paycheck.  Our high deductible plan makes it vital for each of us to take personal responsibility and make smart health decisions.  Incorporating health and wellness into our operations will not change how much we pay in insurance premiums, but can help us to stay healthy and out of the doctor’s office which cuts down on our out of pocket costs.  Our wellness program has also increased camaraderie and helped us to support one another to meet our individual health goals.

We use a 10 step framework to guide our efforts.  Below are the first 5 steps that can help you get started or re-energize the wellness program at your small workplace:

  1. Get support from the top. If you are the owner or President, you have the power to help a wellness program succeed.  If you are an employee, talk to the owner and find out what financial or personnel resources he or she is willing to commit.
  2. Find a champion for healthy living. Establish someone in the workplace as the go-to person for the wellness program.  This person can help build excitement among employees, guide the program and keep momentum.
  3. Find out what employees are interested in.  This can take the form of a formal survey or informal conversations at a staff meeting or in the break room.  This will help you meet the needs of your employees which will better ensure their interest.  You can find a sample questions here.
  4. Encourage employees to find out more about their health risks. When an employee knows what their risks are, they can make better choices to lower those risks.  If you have insurance, it’s likely that your provider has an online health risk assessment that employees can use. There are also free assessments that are available online from Healthy Maine Partnerships, the American Heart Association and other public health organizations.
  5. Find ways to increase physical activity during the work day.  Offer a physical activity challenge and change the culture.  Help organize employee walks or challenge employees to track their activity for a month.  Instant Recess has a great toolkit for increasing activity during the workday.  Also consider how you will reward employees for being more active such as providing pedometers, planning a staff outing on a nice day or raffling off a gift card.  Your incentive does not need to be expensive, just something to show employees that you value their participation.

Think about what you can do to get moving on these steps and start some conversations at work.  Next month’s post will detail the next 5 steps you can take to help your small business wellness effort succeed.