Small Business Strategy: Healthy Employees for Healthy Business

The health and wellness discussion is happening all over the business world due to the impact it is having on business. Healthcare has become the second highest expense in many businesses (after payroll). You can find wellness initiatives in businesses of all sizes. Large companies have been doing it for years and smaller companies are…

The health and wellness discussion is happening all over the business world due to the impact it is having on business. Healthcare has become the second highest expense in many businesses (after payroll). You can find wellness initiatives in businesses of all sizes. Large companies have been doing it for years and smaller companies are now seeing the importance as well. Large or small, the companies that have seen success have done some simple things to ensure that success.
It starts with awareness

When a business is aware of the control they have over healthcare costs, they can make an impact. Businesses of all sizes are experiencing challenges in this area as costs continue to rise. The first step that small businesses have to is look at why they are rising. You can complain about the insurance companies, healthcare reform or any other part of the system, but there is one thing that is impacting healthcare more than anything else: health. The costs are rising because we are spending more than we are putting in. The premiums that businesses pay are being overshadowed by the claims coming from their employees. Where are these claims coming from? They are coming from employees with declining health. Each year the cost increases because the employees on their plan are costing more each year to deal with medical conditions, taking medicines and needing more care in general.

The Good News for Small Business
The care small businesses are paying for is going towards treatment of preventable issues. In fact, as much as 75% of what we spend on healthcare today is spent on preventable issues. That means that we have control over it. Obesity and smoking are at the top of the list and leading to many other related issues. Small businesses can prevent many of the costs associated with their healthcare plans by preventing these issues.

The next step is education
Once a business is aware that they can make a change, they can start educating employees. The difference between healthy and unhealthy is often just a matter of knowing what to do and how to do it. The key to remember is that employees are not causing harm to themselves and their health on purpose. They want to be healthy and when their company educates them and helps support healthy living, it is much appreciated and goes a long way.

The Good News for Small Business
You will see benefits in health and many other areas that will impact business. Healthy employees have more energy. They are more productive and will be able to do more for you. They will also want to do more for you because your goals are aligned and they appreciate the support.

The Missing Link: Facilitation
Looking at the health of today's society, we see many issues. This may lead you to believe that people do not know what to do in order to live healthy. The fact is, people know. They know that an apple is better for them than a candy bar. People know that the drive-through is not as healthy as the supermarket. The problem is not knowledge. The problem is application. The key to living healthy is applying it to your routine.

The Good News for Small Business
Training is a vital part of any company. No matter what industry you are in, training is part of your process. If you do not train employees there are major consequences.

Wellness is simply training for your healthcare plan. Every system in your business has a budget and training. If you treat healthcare and employee health as a system in your business, you will see benefits just like in other areas. Employees will use the tools properly; maintenance will be part of the process which we all know is more cost-effective than dealing with repairs and replacement of costly equipment. That is what happens in health care. We go to the doctor when something breaks. If we maintain health, we avoid many of these issues and do not need the care.

The Challenge for Small Business
Most HR professionals and business owners are very busy. There is a lot to do in any business, especially a small business. When you try to add new things to the equation, things get difficult. To compound things, how many business owners and HR professionals are workplace wellness experts? Not many. Wellness is often left by the wayside due to lack of time and expertise.

The Solution for Small Business
The key to successful implementation of a wellness program is resources. That does not sound like a solution to many busy executives, but it is not as challenging as you think. A wellness program can be built with just a few hours per month. If a single employee (at any level) is dedicated to generating ideas and they can enlist a small team to help implement those ideas, they can create change.

There are many ways to get started with this process. It does not take a massive budget or a tremendous amount of resources. For a small business, wellness is about the three areas above: awareness, education and facilitation. When these three areas are in focus, you can build a healthy culture that supports health and makes it the norm for all employees.

The importance of keeping employees healthy is magnified by rising costs, but there are many more benefits to healthy employees. Increased productivity, reduced absenteeism and presenteeism (when employee is at work but not at full capacity) and improved morale, satisfaction and retention to name a few. Many small businesses are starting to dedicate resources to wellness. Time is being set aside, budgets are being created and tasks are being assigned to employees to help the programs grow.

Our society makes it very difficult to live healthy and our typical workplace is promoting similar habits. We sit all day, we have limited time to do anything and stress is at an all-time high. The workplace has an impact one way or the other. It is also a great place to implement healthy habits and build a healthy culture. You have the choice to promote health within your organization and save money or to ignore it and simply pay more for health care each year. Your business benefits very much from promoting health because the same employees that are causing costs to rise with poor health can help you control costs with good health. In other words, healthy employees lead to a healthy business.