DIY wellness: Ideas and tips to get you started

As we wrote about in an earlier post, wellness programs are a win-win for you and your employees.

To recap:

  • An analysis of 56 studies on worksite wellness programs found, on average, such programs helped companies reduce their health care costs by 26 percent.
  • Another study showed these programs increased employee retention, attendance, and
  •  productivity, not to mention improving employees’ quality of life.

Even though wellness programs have such a positive bottom-line impact no matter what the size of the company, many small business owners are unwilling to give them a try. They think (mistakenly) that they don’t have the time for this or that these programs are too complicated or expensive (realty check: their ROI for wellness programs is about $5.81 for every $1 spent).

If you’re still not willing to take the plunge, then here’s a way to get your toe in the water: Bootstrap your own, do-it-yourself wellness program. If, like most small business owners, you made DIY work for your business, then why not try it to improve your employees’ health?

That was the thinking of Harold Jackson, the CEO of a medical equipment company, when he began building a DIY wellness program for his 18 employees. Without a master plan or major investment, he started by awarding a bonus to employees who quit smoking and shopped around for insurance that covered tobacco cessation and other health maintenance services. He asked employees for their input and concerns, and some of their suggestions — such as offering on-site flu shots and having employees take turns sanitizing the common areas with Lysol during flu season — became policies. Other ideas included replacing the box of candy in the lunch room with fresh fruits and vegetables.

“It wasn’t like one day we sat down and said okay, these are going to be the rules for our wellness program,” Jackson said. “It was more like us sitting around brainstorming and thinking, given that we’re a relatively small company and don’t have a lot of resources, what sorts of things could we do that would help improve our employees.”

Since losing weight can help prevent or minimize risks for various health problems, another company has an annual, 12-week “Biggest Loser” contest with $500 given to the winner. It also organizes and promotes walking groups and sends employees emails with tips for healthy living.

Here are three more tips from the Wall Street Journal for small companies that want to get started with wellness at work.

1. Replace the cookies and candy bars in your vending machines with healthier snacks such as granola bars and reduced-fat or low-calorie treats.

2. Buy pedometers for your employees (they only cost a few dollars each) and encourage them to walk a few extra steps each day. You might even want to start a walking competition.

3. Give employees fast-food facts to help them make better decisions at the drive-through window. You can find information on most major fast-food chains’ web sites or at CalorieKing.com.

However you want to begin, two keys to a successful DIY wellness program is:

1) Making sure employees understand the goal is to help them become healthier (not lower insurance costs)

2) Get everyone involved.

The Wellness Council of America can provide you with many more ideas through its treasure trove of free resources.

About Ken Dallafior

Ken Dallafior is Senior Vice President, Group Business and Corporate Marketing at Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan (BCBSM). Dallafior leads BCBSM's group sales force, oversees corporate marketing and product development, and develops and implements key corporate strategies. He also provides leadership to critical sales operations such as agent relations and commissions, sales incentives and complex issue resolution for group customers and sales agents. In addition to working in the insurance industry for nearly two decades, Dallafior played professional football from 1982 to 1992. He is founder and board member of the Detroit Lions Courage House.
 
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