Having healthy employees not only makes for a happier workplace, it’s also a smart way to run a business. After all, healthy employees use fewer medical and mental health services — and that could help save your company money.
“Our research shows that 67 percent of employers cite ‘employees’ poor health habits’ as one of the top three challenges to keeping health coverage affordable,” says Jason Lang, team lead, Worksite Health Programs, at the Centers for Disease Control’s National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion.
According to Lang, it’s not as difficult to encourage workplace wellness as you might think. By taking advantage of low-cost or free services offered through your health plan provider, getting role-model employees involved in promoting wellness, and making some simple changes in your place of business, you may be able to help significantly improve your employees’ health.
Managers need to be willing to practice healthy habits at work if you expect employees to follow suit, notes Lang. That could mean having managers to hold “walking meetings” or attend weight-management courses before promoting the idea to their direct reports.
Encourage managers to hold ‘walking meetings.’ Twitter Icon
“Given the high rates of chronic disease, strategies to address a few lifestyle risk factors can provide a solid foundation for a wellness program,” says Lang. The key habits you may want to tackle first are physical activity, healthy eating and tobacco cessation programs. A few ways to implement them: Swap some of the junk food or sugary beverages in your break room with healthier options; sign up a work team for a local charity walk or fun run; and offer small, fun incentives for joining a “quit smoking” program.
Swap junk food or sugary beverages in your break room with healthier options. Twitter Icon
Employees who have already overcome health obstacles (they’ve lost weight, for instance) or who have a natural passion for health can be your best wellness promoters, says Lang. Make it an official part of their work duties to solicit employee feedback about wellness programs, come up with new health-related ideas for your company, and connect with your leadership team about creating a healthy workplace.
Empower employees to come up with health-related programs for your company. Twitter Icon
Keep tabs on how your wellness efforts are doing, or whether you need to try new strategies. “You’ll never know if you have invested resources effectively into your wellness program without some level of evaluation,” notes Lang. You could use something as simple as a short survey or focus group, or you could collect more detailed information through health assessment surveys or biometric screenings. The CDC also offers a free Worksite Health ScoreCard to help your company understand and track your wellness efforts over time.
For more ideas of wellness strategies to try in your small business, visit the CDC’s Work@Health website.