6 Steps to Starting a Wellness Program for Your Small Business

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You don’t need to build an onsite gym or hire a full-time personal trainer to create a wellness plan that works for your small business.

With a little advanced planning, companies can encourage their employees to improve their health and well-being simply by being consistent.

“Wellness always seems to be the first thing that gets forgotten or overlooked,” said Ryan McCahill, vice president at the Grand Rapids-based McCahill Group, which has been doing corporate wellness for close to 30 years.

Small business owners often have the best of intentions when it comes to starting a wellness program, but after a few months, the activities get lost in the shuffle, he said.

“They forget — ‘Oh, yeah, we should do something for wellness,’” McCahill said.

But there can be a big payoff for small businesses that do their due diligence in creating a wellness program. Many companies report that their employees are healthier, more productive and visit the doctor less often.

But employees win, too — and that’s where companies should focus when planning their own wellness programs, McCahill said. Small business owners need to ensure that their motivation hinges on their desire to do the right thing, and when that happens, everyone wins, he added.

“You want to show your employees that you care about their health and it’s something that you believe in,” he said.

McCahill has these tips for small business owners that want to start a wellness plan at work, but don’t have a lot of resources:

  1. Start with your budget. Even if your budget is miniscule, it’s a starting point. “Then with that budget, figure out what your goals are,” McCahill says. “If you’re just starting out from scratch, maybe those budgets go toward incentives that you offer individuals for participating.” You can also do things like remove unhealthy foods from the vending machines as a first step toward a healthier workforce.
  2. Do some planning. “Sit down and set a plan,” McCahill says. “For the next six months to a year, (determine) what your goals are as far as programming.” Maybe you want to get people more active, so hand out cheap pedometers. Perhaps healthier eating is your goal. Whatever you decide, be clear about how you’re going to get there.
  3. Get senior leadership on board. If employees see you or your leadership team participating in the wellness program, they’ll be much more likely to participate as well. “A lot of the good companies that are small have some wellness programs that are successful, and typically, it’s because of the senior leadership,” McCahill says. If you’re encouraging employees to get some exercise at lunch, get out there and go for a run or a walk yourself. McCahill also suggests that getting middle management on board is almost as important. If the managers aren’t on board with the program, then you can’t expect their direct reports to be on board either.
  4. Review your claims. When renewal time rolls around for your health insurance, review your claims data. If you see blood pressure medications are high, consider creating communications and programs to talk about managing the condition.
  5. Tell success stories. Employees will be motivated by the success of others, so make sure you’re connecting with those who are working hard to make changes.
  6. Don’t expect an immediate financial ROI. Small businesses are typically grouped together when they’re rated for health insurance, so any improvements you see in your employees’ health likely won’t affect your bottom line. McCahill encourages his clients to invest in wellness because it’s the right thing to do. “(Show) you care about their health, you want them to be long-term employees, you want to recruit great employees. Having a corporate culture for health and wellness can definitely help you be a more successful company overall.”

Article from West Michigan’s Healthiest Employers Award / May 26, 2015

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