Ways clients can introduce wellness programs

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Wellness programs don’t have to be costly. Choosing ones that gel with small businesses’ values can go a long way in improving outcomes.

To discover ways to promote wellness, Gord MacDonald, principal at Gord MacDonald HR Solutions in Toronto, focuses on two things. They are strategies small businesses often excel at:

  • Developing a team or family environment.
  • Exposing employees to a variety of projects and skills.

He encourages his clients to leverage these two things to engage employees in inexpensive ways.

For example, lunch-and-learn sessions can feature experienced employees sharing their expertise — both professional and personal — with the rest of the team.

Or your employees may appreciate organized pilates or yoga classes or informal walks during lunch, says Lisa Kay, president of Peak Performance Human Resources in Toronto. Health-based competitions, like weight loss challenges, can be effective if they’re motivating and fun. Again, it’s about leveraging team spirit to engage everyone to respond together.

Kay uses education to motivate employees to take preventative measures. She says preventative measures are the number-one way to reduce benefit costs. For example, educating employees about the benefits of the flu shot and setting up a clinic on-site could be ideal for some businesses.

Other ideas:

  • Offering time off for annual medical check-ups;
  • Encouraging the use of benefits for preventative health services, such as regular dental check-ups; and
  • Performing professional ergonomic assessments of workstations to prevent chronic problems.

MacDonald suggests small businesses make use of social media and blogs to keep abreast of health information, services and programs. Suggest that your small business clients follow CAMH, the Canadian Cancer Society or employment standards on Twitter. And find out what health information or services are provided by your clients’ EAPs.

A new trend, says Kay, is offering employees an unlimited vacation policy. Such a policy sends a message of trust to employees and reduces stress. Although unlimited vacation might be hard for small businesses to implement, she says other options, like flexible hours, offer similar benefits.

She says that as younger generations enter the workforce, wellness policies will be a way to attract talent. “There are going to be creative new ways of attracting and retaining people and engaging them, and health will be one of those.”

Transcontinental Media G.P.