More and more small businesses are offering wellness programs for employees, a trend that is beginning to pay off for some companies in the form of fewer sick days and reduced healthcare costs.
A survey conducted recently by MetLife, and reported by www.msnbc.msn.com, indicated that nearly 29 percent of small companies had a wellness program option for employees in 2011. The trend is undeniably upward, according to the survey. Only 22 percent of the companies had a wellness program in place in 2010 and only 16 percent had such a program five years ago.
Spending on wellness programs can pay off, according to the Partnership for Prevention. The group determined that when a company spends $1 on wellness programs, the return is about $3.50 in savings due to a reduction in sick days and health care expenses.
Many of the programs are voluntary, with incentives including reductions in the cost of company-provided insurance. Often, employees are asked to complete seminars on health and nutrition and receive medical screenings.
Larger companies have embraced wellness programs for years. With the ever-increasing cost of insurance, smaller companies are now also participating.
There are some limits on the implementation of wellness programs, according to experts. Companies can’t make participating in wellness programs a condition to receive health insurance. Incentives are allowed, but federal law limits those as well. For example, businesses that want to give breaks on the cost of healthcare insurance to employees who take part in wellness programs can only offer up to 20 percent of the total cost of insurance in 2011 and 30 percent in 2014, under HIPAA guidelines.
Many companies are coming up with creative ways to encourage exercise in fitness. For example, the owner of a 27-member marketing firm in Greensboro, N.C., purchased four bicycles that workers could use for errands, to pick up lunch or simply for fun.
Ged King, owner of The Sales Factory said he is also offering incentives – such as gift cards – for workers who decide to exercise more, whether it’s the bikes, running or other activities.
“It makes for happier people who are more excited to come to work,” he said. “You can’t be creative if you don’t feel good.”