Small Employer Wellness – 5 Strategies Every Small Employer Should Do (Yes Now!)

The wellness program movement has generally ignored the small employer. I think employees who work for this size employer should have access to wellness programs too, don’t you?By far, the largest group of employers when ranked by size is the small employer. The U.S. Census shows that 75% of U.S. small businesses employ 10 employees or less, and another 23% employ 99 employees or less. 1.Small businesses employ the majority of the workers in any community and therefore represent a very important concern for all communities. Historically, for a number of reasons, these employers have generally not initiated worksite wellness programs. While their need is great, they equally have great potential to affect the health of their community. I have written previously that, I believe, small employer wellness programs are the next frontier for worksite wellness. 2.Traditionally, worksite wellness programs are employer centric. Each employer creates their own stand- alone program. This approach is just not feasible for the employer with less than 50 employees. So I asked the question: What is reasonable and realistic to ask of each and every small employer?I came up with the following five actions I believe every small employer can undertake with a minimum amount of support from a community partner such as a public health agency or community based health related non-profit.Strategy #1: Solicit Employee Input Periodically ask employees for their input and ideas regarding the work environment, work processes and their needs and interests.Suggested Specific Actions:• Ask individual employees and groups of employees – use focus groups• Conduct needs and interests surveys• Conduct culture/climate surveys• Conduct safety surveysStrategy #2: Provide Health/Wellness and Safety Awareness Materials and Educational OpportunitiesEither alone or in cooperation or collaboration with other nearby employers, the small employer can provide health/wellness and safety awareness materials and educational opportunities to employees.Suggested Specific Actions:• Use the National Monthly Health Observances monthly calendar to guide awareness material delivery.• Give out newsletters, bulletins, tips sheets etc.• Link to community health and wellness educational opportunities• Invite your local hospital, local community agencies and non-profits to deliver on-site educational opportunities based on employee needs and interestsStrategy #3: Utilize or Modify the Work Environment Small employers should look to see how they might utilize or modify the work environment to make healthy and safe choices the easiest choice.Suggested Specific Actions:• Establish an employee break-room with sink, refrigerator and microwave• Create opportunities for recognition or rewards• Follow safe housekeeping best practices• Use available indoor and outdoor facilities such as stairs and parking lots for physical activitiesStrategy #4: Adopt and Implement Appropriate Employee Management PoliciesSmall employers should adopt and implement appropriate policies regarding health, safety and wellness. At a minimum, employers should make sure they have the policies in place required by state and federal law or regulation.Suggested Specific Actions:• Wellness related policies such as tobacco use, physical activity, nutrition, lactation support• Safety related policies• Work/life related policies such as availability of flex-timeStrategy #5: Promote Connection with Community Based ResourcesSince the small employer can’t do it all, they should look for ways to connect employees with health/wellness/safety related community based resources, activities and events.Suggested Specific Actions:• Farmers markets• Community 5K – Fun Run• Walking trails• Tobacco cessation services at the local hospital• Activities at local non-profits, schools and other locationsThese five specific strategies can start the wellness ball rolling. There is no reason why small employers cannot offer their employees a worksite wellness program.References:1. U. S. Census Bureau – http://www.census.gov2. McPeck, William. Ryan, Mari. Chapman, Larry. 2009. Bringing Wellness to the Small Employer. American Journal of Health Promotion, Vol. 23, No. 5, May/June.

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