Most agree that promoting good health in the workplace can ultimately benefit small business. Not only can it save in insurance premiums and sick days, but it also contributes to a more effective work environment with more productive employees. Unfortunately, that’s something that hasn’t yet been quantified enough to justify the cost for many businesses. Not to mention, small businesses generally have a narrow budget that doesn’t often allow for the incentives necessary to make these wellness programs work. But that will change with new health-care reform through which many small businesses qualify for grants intended to fund wellness programs for their employees.
The legislation provides for $200 million in grants for small businesses interested in starting wellness programs. According to BLR (Business and Legal Resources), qualifying businesses can apply for these grants, beginning in 2011, that will fund programs that must include:
- Health awareness initiatives (including health education, preventative screenings, and health risk assessments)
- Efforts to maximize employee engagement (including mechanisms to encourage employee participation)
- Initiatives to change unhealthy behaviors and lifestyle choices (including counseling, seminars, online programs, and self-help materials)
- Supportive environment efforts (including workplace policies to encourage healthy lifestyles, healthy eating, increased physical activity, and improved mental health)
The importance of employer incentives cannot be underestimated. In an article published on Fox Small Business Center entitled “$200M in Health Bill for Healthy Companies,” author Rob Reuteman claims that according to Employee Benefits Institute of America, wellness programs enjoy 70% more participation when employers offer incentives.
In the same article, Universal Accounting Center was used as an example of a small business offering incentives to 50 employees for participating in their wellness program. Employees can claim points for practicing healthy behaviors like exercising, avoiding certain foods, or eating a specified number of fruits and vegetables every day. The points can be used to redeem small monthly prizes or saved in order to redeem more valuable prizes later. In attempts to encourage greater physical activity, Allen Bostrom, President and CEO of UA, created a map of Universal’s campus indicating distances between various locations.
Brad Rutledge, spokesman for Universal explains, “The existing program has been successful in terms of participation and in changing behavior. But ultimately, the company wants healthier employees and lower insurance premiums.”
So if you’re interested in creating a wellness program for your employees, we encourage you to watch and prepare for 2011 when you can submit a grant application. David Lewis, president of OperationsInc based in Connecticut, describes the appeal for small business owners when he says, “There’s a great altruistic twist for a small employer to come out in support of a healthy lifestyle that will result in more productive workers. But the bottom line for these folks is what it will do to put more money in their pockets or at least offset expenses.”
–. “Healthcare Reform Update: Grants for Workplace Wellness Programs.” 12 April 2010 HR.BLR.com
Reuteman, Rob. “$200M in Health Bill for Healthy Companies.” 22 April 2010 FoxSmallBusinessCenter.com