Many people refer to them as corporate wellness programs but employee wellness programs are a great idea regardless of the size of your company. Most people spend the majority of their waking hours at their job so the workplace has a great deal of influence on their health. Healthy employees are more productive, miss less work, and have lower health care costs so there’s something in it for you as a business owner too. The federal government may even help you get started.
$200 million dollars has been allocated to help small businesses take better care of their employees as part of the federal health care reform laws. To be eligible for a federal grant to establish an employee wellness program, your company must have fewer than 100 employees who work more than 25 hours per week. You must also not have had a wellness program for your employees in place prior to March 23, 2010.
For an employee wellness program to qualify it must be considered comprehensive. It has to educate employees and make them aware of health risks. The plan must also include efforts to get as many employees to participate as possible, including financial incentives. A comprehensive program will also give employees the tools that they need to change unhealthy behaviors and make better lifestyle choices through coaching and counseling, seminars, and self-help materials. You will also need workplace policies that create a supportive environment and promote proper nutrition, adequate physical activity, and improved mental health.
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) will begin issuing the grants in 2011. The HHS Secretary will develop an application process and determine how much grant money will be available to each employer later in 2010. The funds are expected to go quickly so start preparing now.
Dr. Marc Tinsley is a health, fitness, and wellness expert who works with organizations who want to stop losing money and be more productive by taking better care of themselves and their members.