Low-Cost Wellness Programs for Small Businesses

By Jason Brick

3 min read

Wellness programs are a growing trend among large companies, and for good reason. But they can be expensive to create and maintain, leaving the full-gamut programs such as those run by Kaiser Permanente and Microsoft out of reach for small businesses. That doesn’t mean you can’t use low-cost, high-impact ideas to help keep your team healthier and happier. Here are some of our favorites.

In-Kind Business Partnerships

You’re likely already familiar with this concept already, whether or not you’ve applied it specifically to wellness programs for your staff. You find local businesses and offer a discount to their employees in exchange for their granting a discount to your team. Reach out to the wellness companies in your town — the yoga studios, supplement shops, massage therapists, life coaches, health clubs, and karate dojos — and organize a discount exchange where your people get reduced rates or a free intro and their people get something worthwhile from you.

This approach shouldn’t cost you anything except some time approaching potential partner businesses and whatever discount you offer their employees. It may also take some effort to track the agreements you have with other businesses, so it’s likely best to keep it simple and ask partner businesses to agree to straightforward terms.

Curating Free Community Resources

Every community has a widespread array of well-intended programs to help people get healthier and/or stay active — though it’s not always easy to find information about them all in one place. Start with partners of your health insurance provider, if you have one, then reach out to your local parks and recreation department and community college. By compiling a list in your employee handbook or simply putting it on a bulletin board at the office, you can make it easier for your team to find the health resources they need.

This only takes you — or an employee — a few hours of internet searches or a few phone calls — but by compiling the information, you can make it easier for your employees to access to these community services and activities. If you find that your people aren’t using the resource database you compile, pick a local wellness event — like a fun run or relevant observance day — and organize a company team to take it by storm and build momentum. Include rewards like time off or healthy snacks to help overcome the inertia.

Extended Lunch for Fitness Time

Offer your team 30 extra minutes for a lunch break if they use at least 20 of them to hit the gym. Twenty minutes of exercise pays off in far more than 20 minutes’ worth of better productivity in the second half of the day. This works especially well if you combine it with an in-kind discount to join or use the closest gym to your business. Without spending money — except what it may “cost” to have some employees out of the building for an extra 30 minutes on certain days — you can boost your workers’ wellness and their productivity.

The trick is making sure they actually go to the gym when given the additional time. Depending on your team and management style, you may choose to trust that they won’t take advantage of your policy. Otherwise, you could come up with other ways to check in, such as a fitness “club” at work, investing in a shared fitness app connected to a smart watch or wristband which tracks performance, or even just encouraging employees to spend the 30 minutes walking or jogging as a group.

Adding opportunities like these to a program of other policies such as allowing pets at the office or paid volunteering can lead to real productivity gains and a reduction in sick days in your organization. Wellness programs can not only provide measurable benefits to your bottom line, but they can also help build loyalty by demonstrating how much you care about your team.

Information may be abridged and therefore incomplete. This document/information does not constitute, and should not be considered a substitute for, legal or financial advice. Each financial situation is different, the advice provided is intended to be general. Please contact your financial or legal advisors for information specific to your situation.

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