walking meetingsAs a small business owner, employee health care costs can be a huge expense, especially if you are paying for the costs of each item directly. According to National Small Business Association, the average business owner pays at least $1100 per employee in health care costs per year. The amount spent on health care is also expected to keep increasing.

Taking a high-level, panoramic view of this increasing issue can help you successfully meet the needs of your employees and protect your investments and business. Take a second to shift your gaze from the looming costs and zero in on the the benefits you can add to improve workplace wellness, at minimal costs.

Larger corporations have already been practicing workplace wellness reform. In fact, Johnson & Johnson reports that they have saved $250 Million in healthcare costs over the past decade by implementing strategic and comprehensive investments in their employees’ physical, mental and social health. The good news for small business owners is that strategic and comprehensive do not have to mean costly.

The Harvard Business Review (HBR) concluded through various studies, that health conditions that contribute most to lost productivity: depression, anxiety, migraines, respiratory illnesses, arthritis, diabetes, and back and neck pain. Employees with multiple chronic health conditions are especially vulnerable to productivity loss.

While you may not feel directly related to the overall health of your team, unless you are exposed to a virus or infectious disease, you will eventually begin to see the affects of poor health in their performance. This direct causation is a reason to examine ways that you can create an environment that promote wellness and health.

The HBR has also concluded, “Illness-related absenteeism is an obvious factor in productivity. Less obvious but probably more significant is presenteeism—when people come to work but underperform because of illness or stress. Research consistently shows that the costs to employers from health-related lost productivity dwarf those of health insurance.”

Another study conducted by Rand showed that the ROI from disease management programs, the bulk of health care costs, saved $136 per month, per member and lifestyle management programs saved $6 per member per month. These savings show that there is more than just a quality of life value that is being gained by your employees, but there is a financial benefit to the company as well to promoting increased health and wellness.

So how can you shift your company’s culture? The answer is one step at a time with very intentional steps that align with an overall employee wellness program, goal or strategy. You don't need to do everything all at once, start with a few items that target some of the largest issues that your workforce is facing. Here are a few suggestions from snacknation.com:

  • Create standing or treadmill desks and collaborative spaces.
  • Transition to a tobacco-free space and even consider moving towards a health plan that offers discounts or incentives for being tobacco-free.
  • Bring green plants to clean the air in your office.
  • Introduce a wellness newsletter with tips about how to get or stay healthy and how health can be a part of everyday life.
  • Stock fun workout equipment like footballs, hoola hoops or jump ropes for quick workouts. 
  • Schedule stop, drop and stretch times for 15 minutes each day.
  • Have walking meetings.
  • Partner with a local gym or fitness facility and see if they are willing to offer your employees a discount of any kind, usually there is no charge to do some kind of a group discount and it doesn't hurt to ask. 

Visit their website for more workplace wellness ideas.