Steps to workplace wellness for small & medium businesses

Take advantage of workplace wellness programming resources developed by GVCC community partners

Chandra Chase

So why haven’t more medium to small businesses capitalized on wellness programming?

Workplace wellness programs are increasing in popularity and large employers have been the biggest benefactors, seeing results like improved employee morale, decreased absenteeism and even reductions in healthcare costs. However, small- to medium-sized businesses are lagging behind.

The Greater Vancouver Chamber of Commerce believes that workplace wellness programs are: 1) a recruiting tool; 2) a retention tool; 3) an expression of the business/company culture; and 4) a path to increased productivity. Challenges to establishing workplace wellness programs on a smaller scale often include fear, variables and investment (staff time and dollars.)

Let’s look at each of these potential hurdles.

Fear

Will it be cost-effective in my scenario? Will employees want to participate? Will certain employees view walking groups, non-smoking policies and healthy snacks as a judgment of their personal lifestyle choices? How do employers (who have no background in wellness programming) choose wellness program components that fit their organization?

Variables

The variability of workplace wellness components can be viewed as a challenge instead of a benefit. It’s true, there isn’t a one-size-fits-all answer to incorporating from scratch a workplace wellness program. The amount of choice can be intimidating. While some businesses may focus on physical activity such as walking groups, standing desks, lunch yoga or the benefits for biking to work, another company may focus on on-site health assessments or mental health support. It is really about choosing the components that fit your organization.

Investment

Employers with limited staff have concerns around time and monetary commitment to operate a wellness program. While the investment may be undefined initially, you can focus the investment around elements your employees will use. Either begin with a survey or take a moment to visit with staff. Their input may well provide the foundation that will make your program thrive. Research suggests workplace wellness programs return $1.50 for every $1.00 invested. That is a strong ROI for a business of any size.

The chamber, along with our members and community partners like Clark County Public Health, has worked to development workplace wellness programming as the first steps of this process.

The GVCC has launched, working with Legacy Salmon Creek Medical Center, PeaceHealth and Regence BlueCross BlueShield (and a number of member businesses specializing in the wellness industry), three new workplace wellness elements for local businesses.

First, the chamber has begun hosting monthly “Ready, Set, Go! Wellness Workshops” on the fourth Thursday of each month. Workshops include a healthy lunch by Chick-fil-A. Our first session was in February and featured the world-renowned trainer Sherri McMillan of Northwest Personal Training.

Our second element, sponsored by Regence BlueCross BlueShield, is the “Ready, Set, Go! Wellness Quizzes.” This is a kit of 11 wellness quizzes (with answers and additional information on the topic) designed for use in a company’s weekly or monthly team meetings and can be great for team building. The idea is to spark conversation as a way to move the needle on wellness options and best practices.

Finally, in partnership with PeaceHealth, the GVCC is releasing the “Ready, Set, Go! Wellness Blueprint for Business.” The blueprint is a document outlining a three-step wellness plan for small businesses covering: 1) Ready (leadership); 2) Set (education); and 3) Go (action plan). The blueprint provides tips, strategies and tools for a “starter” wellness program. Additionally, the chamber is able to help you along the way with programming support like our monthly wellness workshops and our pdf packet of wellness quizzes to use at your discretion.

For businesses just getting started, we offer these effective first steps to consider:

  1. Determine a wellness program leader in your company;
  2. Create an environment for healthier choices;
  3. Create a culture of wellness by setting the stage for dialogue and information;
  4. Utilize the chamber’s new wellness quizzes and encourage staff to attend GVCC monthly wellness workshops;
  5. Tailor your wellness program and look for input via a survey or interview process;
  6. Request a copy of the Greater Vancouver Chamber of Commerce’s new “Ready, Set, Go! Wellness Blueprint” for a number of suggestions just like the ones listed above.

Chandra Chase is communications director for the Greater Vancouver Chamber of Commerce.

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