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Workplace Wellness – A Plan For SMEs

Posted on July 5th, by Lougie in HR Management. Comments Off on Workplace Wellness – A Plan For SMEs

Many managers may believe that Workplace Wellness Programs are only for large corporations with large budgets for employee perks, but more and more small to medium size businesses in Canada are getting started on promoting health and wellness in the workplace. You don’t need deep pockets or excess square footage. A joint effort and commitment from management and employees is all you need.

If you need a backgrounder on ‘What is Workplace Wellness’ and ‘Different Types of Workplace Wellness Programs’, refer to our previous eBrief article: “Workplace Wellness Programs: Part 1 (What Canadian Companies are Doing)


As you follow the steps below, keep in mind that this applies to one program at a time. There are many types of Workplace Wellness Programs, so don’t be over ambitious in your goals. Success will come easier if you keep it simple to start, and add to your initiative over time.

Step 1: Management Commitment

Management commitment will comprise of either 2 or 3 parties:

  • The first party is you: a manager in HR, operations, or finance…whatever the case is…you see the benefits and the need to facilitate healthier choices within the company.
  • Second is commitment from top management, being either the owner, president or CEO. You and top management will have to agree on an initial budget, time allocation from your job, and reporting methods. Again, keep it simple to start and it will be easier to get others on board.
  • A third party is an advocate from the rest of employees depending on the size of your organization. This person will act as an evangelist or spokesperson to liaise between you and the rest of employees. For a smaller company, the third-party might also be you.

Step 2: Identify Possible Health Issues and Initiatives

One might think that the next step would be to get ’employee commitment’, but in reality, you will need to present something more tangible in order for employees to decide whether or not they are on board with the idea. Start with a small brainstorming session. Invite key stakeholders such as any union reps, operations managers, HR managers, etc. In this session, a discussion should take place about health related issues concerning employees and the different types of program initiatives that may be beneficial to the organization. These can range from weight management, personal counselling support, smoking cessation, work-life balance, to name a few.

Once you have identified some main health issues in your company, do some research on how to address these health concerns: talk to colleagues, look into other companies, ask health groups, or research the Internet.

Step 3: Get Employees’ Input

Get input from employees on what their needs and health concerns are. You can gather this information either through a survey, interviews, suggestion boxes, employee luncheons, etc.

A good example of an employee survey can be found here: www.ccohs.ca/oshanswers/psychosocial/sample_wellness.html

The survey is where you would list the possible health issues and initiatives gathered in Step 2 and get employees thinking about them. Leave it open for additional feedback. This is a critical step in the process. Finding out what your employees’ needs, interests, and attitudes are towards certain health issues are key in implementing a successful program. Survey results will also serve as a way to prioritize initiatives as you try to find a balance between employee needs and management budget.

Step 4: Create a Plan

From reviewing input from Steps 2 and 3, identify priorities. You may be overwhelmed with all of the goals, but as with any type of planning, you should prioritize goals into short-term and long-term. Plan and implement one goal at a time.

For example:

  • Organizational type: manufacturing / production
  • Health issues: physical stress / mental stress due to deadlines
  • Program name: Stress Management
  • Program goal: manage and reduce work related stress
  • Success factors: employee feedback on stress, reduced absenteeism
  • Baseline data: current reports of absenteeism, sick-days, personal-days

Breakdown short-term goals further into program elements: tasks/activities, timeframe, and persons involved. Organize activities into:

  • Education / Awareness – providing knowledge.
  • Posters, emails, flyers, brochures, information booths, lunch n’ learns
  • Skill Building – getting individuals actively involved in changing their behavior.
  • Program activities, courses, health fairs, company sports teams, fitness participation, health assessments, counselling
  • Work Environment – changes in the workplace to support the initiative.
  • Changes in cafeteria, fitness center, health info booths, management encouragement, internal counselor, flex time, health screenings, etc.

In your plan, be prepared with:

  • who will coordinate and administer the tasks
  • your own time allocation for managing the program
  • management approval of budget requirements
  • how you will measure the success of the program
  • how you will maintain interest and continued commitment from employees
  • incentives provided for employee participation

Also consider what is currently in place and create extensions of that to support your initiative. One example is Employee Assistance Programs that tie into workplace wellness which can be a part of an Employee Benefits package.

Step 5: Launch The Plan

A big part of implementation is the announcement that a Workplace Wellness Program is being launched. The announcement should state that there is management support for the program but it is not mandatory. The announcement should remind employees of the survey/feedback/interview that they completed in Step 2 and that the program initiative addresses a priority voiced from employees.

Step 6: Feedback and Refinement

Once you implement your program initiative, you may discover that you have missed something or would like to add something based on employee feedback. The process of feedback and refinement deserves special attention, as a Workplace Wellness Program should be tailored to employee requirements if you want continued employee participation.

Step 7: Monitor Success Factors

Review your program at each milestone for short-term and long-term progress. For example:

  • What was the attendance at each employee information session (short-term)
  • What is the current rate of absenteeism (long-term)

Management likes reports with Return on Investment or Key Performance Indicators. If a certain task had an associated budget to it, then report back on the success factors, no matter how small it is. For example, if a budget was provided for employee lunch n’ learns, then report back on the attendance from session to session. This will help in getting management support for future programs.

Data that can be used to track a program’s results are:

  • Rate of absenteeism
  • Cost of absenteeism
  • Rate of turnover
  • Cost of group insurance (prescription drugs, dental, etc.)
  • Accident/incident rates
  • Number of events or activities held last year
  • Participation/attendance in program events
  • Changing behaviors or attitudes towards more healthy habits
  • Number of employee promotions/year
  • Return to work rate from injuries or illnesses
  • Cost for Employee Assistance Programs (EAPs)/year
  • Percentage of employee suggestions that are implemented

Now that you have gotten started, be sure to continue program communications throughout the company with the same initial fervor. Last but not least….set an example for others by practicing what you preach!

Article Adapted from:
– “Workplace Health and Wellness Program – Getting Started”, Canadian Centre for Occupational Health & Safety
– “Small businesses need to be healthy too!”, article from http://www.york.ca/Services/Public+Health+and+Safety
– “Workplace wellness: getting your program started”, report from Brown & Brown Benefit Advisors

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