Healthier Employees Can Help Your Business Thrive

Posted on May 13, 2016

Feet Running On A TreadmillWhen we talk about the well-being of employees at work, especially in the trades, it almost always has to do with safety: Make sure employees are following the proper OSHA standards and mandates. Make sure employees are wearing their personal protection equipment. Make sure you hold regular meetings to discuss safety procedures. While businesses in the trade industries hold safety in very high regard – and rightfully so – we don’t always recognize that the overall health of employees is important as well.

Many may argue that an adult’s health is their own responsibility, but it’s hard to ignore the impact that an employee’s overall health has on their productivity and ultimately, the company’s bottom line. Think about obesity, a health issue that affects nearly 40 percent of adults in the U.S. and a little over 24 percent of our workforce. Obesity and other chronic diseases are some of the most common – and most costly – of all health problems for employers. Obese workers file twice the number of workers’ compensation claims, have seven times higher medical costs from the claims, and lose 13 times more days of work from work injury or work illness than other workers.

It’s statistics like these that have more and more business owners taking an interest in making the workplace a setting that offers opportunities for better health. Specifically, businesses are implementing what’s called a corporate wellness program.

Working Out At Work

An analysis by the RAND Corporation found that half of all organizations with 50 or more employees have corporate wellness programs. Social media giant Twitter offers onsite yoga, Pilates and Crossfit classes, as well as massages and acupuncture sessions for its crew. Progressive Insurance offers Weight Watchers reimbursement programs, boot camps and a smoking cessation program.

While offering an onsite gym or a free massage may seem a bit out of touch for all but the largest companies, there are a number of things that small-business owners can do to encourage a healthier workforce:

  • Offer free gym memberships as part of your benefits package, or reach out to a local gym to negotiate a discounted group rate.
  • Have your team spend 10 minutes each morning doing calisthenics to loosen up and stretch their muscles.
  • Offer healthy snacks, such as fresh vegetables, granola bars, yogurt and mixed nuts, in your break room.
  • During the warmer months, conduct regularly scheduled meetings outside on a walk.
  • Provide free health screenings and offer free flu shots.
  • Provide free nicotine patches to those who want to quit smoking.Host a weekly or monthly potluck or crew lunch in which everyone brings a healthy dish.
  • Provide secure bicycle parking to encourage employees to ride their bikes to work.
  • Sponsor workers in fitness competitions and races, paying part or all of their entry fees.
  • Start a softball or sand volleyball team that is made up of employees and sponsored by your business.
  • Put out bottles of hand sanitizer to slow down the spread of germs.

Owners should reach out to their teams for input, too. An employer’s interests and methods of staying healthy might differ significantly from those of their employees, and it will be easier to get crew members on board if it’s something they enjoy doing.

Healthy Results

While it’s challenging to prove definitively that corporate wellness programs improve employees’ health – or consequently, boost profits, the majority of participating businesses do believe they have a positive impact. A survey by Kaiser found that 71 percent of all firms think such programs are “very” or “somewhat” effective. According to the Institute for Healthcare Consumerism, companies that implemented a wellness program experienced a 28 percent reduction in employees calling in sick. Furthermore, OSHA reports that for every $1 invested in workplace safety and health, employers see a $4 to $6 return.

In other words, there is a lot of upside to keeping employees healthy. It makes sense. The fewer workers who are sick, the more work that can get done. And with ever-increasing workloads for the trade industries, it’s more important than ever before to have everyone available to contribute.