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The Top 7 Reasons to Start an Employee Wellness Program

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Summary: Here are the benefits of starting an employee wellness program.

  • Are your employees unmotivated?
  • Are your employees a bit out of shape?
  • Are your employees not as loyal as you hoped?
  • If you answered yes to all three questions, maybe you should establish an employee wellness program for your employees.
  • Keep reading to learn 5 easy wellness program ideas you can use to get started.
The Top 7 Reasons to Start an Employee Wellness Program

Cubicles and Cigarettes

Believe it or not, there was a time when office workers were able to smoke within the office. That’s correct; from the entry-level intern upwards to the CEO, anyone who suffered the nicotine habit could appease their need without much more effort than striking a match and lighting the tip.

And believe it or not, these same workers, despite the inherent dangers of their smoking, nonetheless worked extremely long hours that effectively decimated any notion of a work-life balance.

In fact, back when a person could smoke in their own cubicle, the work-life balance idea was only softly suggested in corporate America. What consequently mattered was that a warm, yet capable body was all a company needed for most tasks, and as far as their health goes, well, that aspect of the workplace had no business in the workplace, at least not then.

Baby Boomers will tell you that the mid to late 1980s was when one could last perform the lascivious acts of smoking and yes, even drinking within the workplace. It was then that office managers and firm owners began to lay down the new laws of their workspace.

Smoking within the office was quickly snubbed out to what is now a completely smoke-free office space in nearly all American businesses.

However, things didn’t stop there.

In the mid to late 90s, on through to where we currently are in the junior years of the 22nd Century, wellness programs have begun to crop up in many large, medium and small businesses.

In this article, we will examine why wellness activities in the workplace are so prominent in today’s business world. Specifically, what are the advantages of these programs to business owners and employees? We will also cover five easy wellness activity ideas that can help your business create its own wellness program.
 
Why Introduce a Wellness Program?

We all know the bottom line for any business is its profit. Profit is what keeps a business in business, fueling its veins and helping it grow.

So, what sort of business might you have if your employees were sad sacks of jiggling body mass, chronically fatigued and/or calling in sick on a continual basis? Yup, you’d have a failing business.

The fact is a company that needs to function and perform at a high level can be greatly aided by a wellness program geared to employees. The introduction of such programs has been successful simply because the employees as well as the company benefit, particularly when it comes to the company’s bottom line.

Wellness programs focus on the physical well-being of employees. They make medical requirements and personal health a workplace priority, with programs that offer weight loss regimes, smoking cessation programs, stress management, exercise, and dieting and fitness advice.

Conversely, you should believe it when someone tells you as a business owner that has sick, out of shape employees clocking in and out each day, will cost a manager or business owner dearly in the end.

In short, by any means necessary, your business has to avoid the pitfalls of employing an unhealthy workforce. After all, you can’t fire them for being out of shape or fat; at that point, you may as well hunker down for a potentially devastating discrimination suit.

There are many ways to approach a company’s employee wellness. For example, Piala, a Tokyo-based marketing firm gives its non-smoking employees six additional paid days off a year. And this is in a country (Japan) where 1 in 5 adults smoke.

The facts are there; when dealing with an unhealthy workforce, a company’s only true option is to introduce a wellness program to its employees. Thing is, you might wonder – and rightfully so – what the return on investment (ROI) will be of starting a wellness program in your business.

Well, here are seven good reasons why the ROI of wellness programs cannot be denied by any business, no matter their size or their bottom line.
 
The Top 7 Reasons to Start an Employee Wellness Program

Unless you employ a brace of robots and nothing (or no one) else, you should understand that the success of any company depends heavily on the productivity and work performance of its (human) employees. Keep reading to find out what Wellness Quotes suggests as the 7 best reasons you should start an employee wellness program in your company.

1. Having a Wellness Program Equals an ROI of Decreased Health Care Costs

Wellness programs usually start the same way within many businesses: In a need to reduce health care costs, wellness programs are quite often brought into the folds of a business. The concept of a wellness program is more or less dual purpose that on one hand combats rising health costs, while also maintaining a healthy workforce. Thus, wellness programs provide effective solutions to thwart off the high company cost of employee health care. 

2. Workplace Morale

There are many initiatives, goals and other experiences an employee can gain within a well-thought-out wellness program. But the program has to first be compatible with a variety of your employees’ needs.

For instance, just having lunchtime runs for your wellness program will undoubtedly leave some employees without a choice.
 
  • Some may not like running.
  • Some may not even be able to run.
  • Running’s fine, but you wish there was more to do than hyperventilating for three laps around the business park where you work.

A sign of a good, well-established wellness program is its diversity. If you’re not entirely sure your wellness program is diverse, ask yourself these questions:
 
  • Does your wellness program cover a broad range of healthcare initiatives?
  • Does your wellness program offer a full range of exercise programs, particularly for any disabled employees?
  • Does your wellness program give nutritional advice in accordance with your employee’s dietary needs?

These three questions can help you optimize your wellness program so that it will benefit all of your employees, no matter their shape, size or physical ability. The result will not only be happier and healthier employees, the program will also create loyalty and responsibility that can translate directly into greater productivity.
 
3. Reduced Absenteeism

Are there a few of your employees who continually call in sick? Well, if so, don’t first chalk up their absenteeism to being hungover from Sunday, Monday or Thursday Night Football. You should initially take heed of their health as a cause of they not showing up for work, which can more than likely be the case. If one or two, some or many more of your employees tend to call in sick due to their various health issues, this can further fortify a need to establish a wellness program in your company.

Wellness programs tend to address those with eating disorders and in some cases, substance abuse. A wellness program which provides exercise and dietary advice can also provide counseling that can help reduce sick days taken by your more at-risk employees by looking into and offering advice toward their lifestyle and overall health and wellbeing.

Remember, healthier employees tend to show up to work more alert, more empowered and most importantly, more often. Employees with health and/or dependencies, well, not so much.

4. Reduced Waistlines Means Reduced Costs

As was mentioned earlier, the bottom line is what matters in any business. And while that bottom line can be easily found in the services rendered vs. the accounts received ledger that charts your company’s profitability, in the realm of employee wellness, such profitability isn’t necessarily as easy to ascertain. Just know that while your employees take part in a wellness program, they are indirectly bringing profit to your company while also protecting you from:
 
  • Loss of production
  • Lawsuits due to unhealthy employees and job demands
  • Rising insurance rates

For some managers, this may be all a company needs in a wellness program. For others, the fattening of the bottom line due to decreased insurance rates, because they have a healthy workforce, can be the perfect ticket to appease stockholders.

5. Increased Productivity 

In the world of machines – airplanes, race cars, bicycles; you name it – something that should be universal to anyone with a thinking brain is that the lighter a vehicle is, the more efficiently it will operate, particularly at speed.

A well-established wellness program will optimize your employees’ health, thus making them much more efficient on the job, which will then increase productivity. Simply in that, introducing a wellness program to your company will result in a win-win for your bottom line.

6. Increased Responsibility 

Okay, while this may sound a bit selfish, it’s still very important that your employees feel appreciated. An employee wellness program is potentially one of the better, as well as inexpensive ways to show your appreciation of your workforce. Inevitably, that importance will be reciprocated in the long run through your employees demonstrating their own appreciation for their employment.

This will become apparent through increased employee production in addition to responsibility for their tasks. Your employees will want to do a better job for you as they experience the care you have for them through programs such as employee wellness.

As this type of attitude within the workplace is invaluable, an employee that feels like the company takes an interest in their wellbeing and health will take a stronger interest in performing to the best of their ability. 

7. Increased Company Loyalty

Loyalty is difficult to find throughout many workers and many workplaces. Issues of overwork, employee benefits that are sparse at best, and a poor work-life balance will eventually go against an employer’s favor, leaving that employer with a revolving workforce that can negatively affect productivity.

As is the case with #6 Increased Responsibility, a wellness program can initiate a much stronger sense of loyalty among your employees. Again, there is no measure of this increase in loyalty as to how it will impress itself upon your company’s bottom line, but then again, intangibles can make a difference, particularly in lieu of situations in which you are continually spending money on training new employees simply because you didn’t hold your last workforce in the high regard a wellness program instills. Increased employee loyalty is another significant selling point of an employee wellness program. While this is another of those intangible benefits that you really can’t put a price on, company loyalty can still result in reduced costs in terms of recruitment and turnover. This also makes for a more harmonious work environment.
 
How do you establish a wellness program? Here are 5 wellness program ideas to get you started.

Now that you’re sold – as you should be – on a wellness program for your employees, you might wonder where you start with what might feel like a daunting program. To that point, Snack Nation offers a plethora of advice as to how to stock your work cupboards with healthy foods. Let’s start off with every employee’s favorite, which are snacks.
 
  1. Snacks: The before and after lunch pick-me-up need not be something that is marginal at best as it’s ingested through the bodies of your employees. Plenty of healthy snacks can exist in the workplace, much of which can have a very long shelf life. Bottled water, not tap, as well as good coffee and strong teas, will also be appreciated by your staff. 
  2. Refute the false and poorly found eating myths: Okay, as myths, some of what you hear about healthy eating is indeed true, such as big meals in the middle of the day can cause a person to doze off, especially at work. Or that eating a big meal before going to bed can cause workplace sluggishness the next morning.

    Other myths aren’t so cut and dry, or rather, less false than true. Circulate what you can in regard to healthy eating for your employees. Post new findings on a bulletin board in your company’s eating area(s), and look for good well-researched articles on nutrition written by respected authorities.
  3. Creamers are a no-no: It seems as if the centuries’ long insistence that Americans drink coffee with cream is so deeply embedded in us, that presently it has become culture. And while pouring cream in coffee is as fine as putting cheese on a burger or mustard on a dog, neither one of those foods are consumed with as much regularity within downtown corporate offices as cream.

    From a health perspective, the issue with cream is it’s probably the heaviest milk-like product offered in the dairy section, and with that, more than capable of being a fat source.

    Instead of cream, offer your employees a healthy alternative such as almond milk or another type of cream-like substitute that contains fewer calories and most importantly, won’t slow your employees down. Of course, as you do this, take into consideration anyone with allergic issues and/or other intolerances.
  4. Potluck party lunches: If you really want to impress healthy eating on your employees, encourage them to have potluck parties. Mandate that these parties are to be healthy events with healthy, lean foods.

    Be a team player in your employees’ wellness by participating in the potluck. Bring a dish yourself to show that you not only care for your employee’s wellbeing but that you can cook up a healthy meal alongside the best of them.
  5. Wellness bulletins and contests: Use techniques and documentation to fortify your employee wellness program. Try to publish your own newsletter that can be distributed amongst your employees. Use the newsletter to showcase new workouts or food recipes.

    And of course, contests are always fun. Arrange a physical contest or a weight loss competition that can build camaraderie among your workforce. Make the prize worth it, such as a half-day off, free movie passes or a gift card with which your employees can buy anything they want. 
Legalities you should be aware of before you begin your company wellness program

You care; that’s evident. Your employees are some of the most important people in your life. That’s why you’re thinking of starting this wellness program from the get-go.

However, you should also know about the risks involved, and even if you are trying to improve your workforce’s health, how you need to legally protect yourself.

According to Business.com corporate wellness programs come with risks to the companies that provide these programs. And before you begin your wellness program, you should understand these risks in order to limit your company's liability, particularly in the realm of employee equality and privacy.

The more formally structured and involved a company's wellness program is, the higher the risks of it running afoul of federal laws.

The core federal laws that pertain to corporate wellness programs are outlined as follows:

HIPAA

The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act sets core standards governing the collection of personal and identifying information about employees, including their health, and mandates what sort of information employers can collect under the umbrella of wellness programs, how it can be used, and how it is stored and handled.

ERISA

Under the remit of the Employee Retirement Income Security Act, employers are prohibited from discriminating against employees because of their health status. However, there is a narrow exception within ERISA to permit employers to offer discounts on wellness services based on the health status of any given employee.

GINA

The Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act dictates that employers must not require or request that employees provide genetic information about themselves, such as their family history or the presence of hereditary health conditions.

ADA

The Americans with Disabilities Act prohibits discrimination against employees on the basis of health or health status, with certain exceptions in place for voluntary participation in wellness programs.

ACA

The Affordable Care Act specifically restricts the allowable cost of corporate wellness program incentives to a cap of 30 percent of the cost of health coverage.

Other legal considerations

Under the remit of the ADA, employee participation in corporate wellness programs must be voluntary. It is permissible to incentivize employees within the limits outlined under the Affordable Care Act, but employers cannot mandate participation, nor penalize employees for refusal to partake.

Additionally, companies are strongly advised to incorporate a comprehensive, legally compliant waiver into their corporate wellness programs, in order to reduce the risk of lawsuits by employees that may become injured or otherwise adversely impacted by means of wellness program participation.

If you need help with implementing a legally compliant corporate wellness program, require guidance or are facing litigation due to your corporate wellness program, we recommend you speak with an employment lawyer immediately. 
 
In conclusion

Without a doubt an employee wellness program can be one of the best investments an employer or manager can make within their company. Not only will such a program improve morale, productivity, camaraderie, and in the end, help your bottom line, a wellness program will ensure your employees are healthy, up to their tasks physically, mentally and emotionally, as well as embolden themselves to you in loyalty.

Beyond the legal responsibilities, the outcome of a wellness program can be a win-win for both management and those individuals who management, quite frankly, can’t function without.

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