Men and women doing shoulder presses with dumbbells

Most small business owners understand the value of preventative maintenance for their equipment, but the same philosophy also can help employees stay healthy and avoid sick leave and doctor’s visits.

Wellness programs can and should match the specific needs of your employees, so there’s no one-size-fits-all approach that will work for every small business. But there’s plenty of help out there.

Here are 6 tips to help you get started:

1. Survey employees

Don’t guess what kinds of wellness programs your workers want, ask them. Getting employees involved in planning wellness programs is a good way to ensure they will use whatever your company offers. Understanding who your employees are can help identify specific services helpful to them such as blood pressure screenings for older employees. The CDC offers resources for workplace health strategies covering a broad range of conditions, ranging from alcohol and substance abuse to obesity and work-related ergonomics.

2. Start small

Not every wellness program has to begin with a comprehensive range of services. Just replacing the junk food in a vending machine with healthier snacks or partnering with a local gym to offer employee discounts can send a message. So can banning non-essential emails on nights and weekends to help employees relax when they’re not on the job.

3. Focus on education

Knowledge empowers employees to take charge of their health. Small businesses can work with their insurance companies or other providers to offer voluntary individualized health assessments for employees. Companies can include health tips in company newsletters or other ongoing communication, as well as offer health fairs for employees to introduce them to services that can help them stay healthy.

4. Think outside the box

Whether it’s conducting walking meetings, creating an office obstacle course, instituting regular breaks for employees to stand up and walk around or simply placing healthy cookbooks in your office’s break room, the only limit to low or no-cost programs is your imagination.

5. Be mindful of unintended consequences

Even the most well-intentioned plans should be reviewed to ensure they don’t violate employee privacy or limit benefits for employees with disabilities. Small business owners should consider the legal implications of wellness plans before putting them in place.

6. Keep it fun

Studies have shown that peer support is one of the best ways to encourage people to stick with healthy plans, so some companies have turned wellness into a friendly competition.

Consider offering prizes or gym memberships to employees or teams of employees who lose the most weight or log the most miles exercising. Everyone will have fun, your employees will feel better and your business will benefit from the increased camaraderie.

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