Let’s be honest: A wellness strategy is not going to run itself. An effective program requires both time and money to achieve maximum results, but small businesses usually don’t have the budgets for in-house gyms or nutritionists. That shouldn’t stop you, though, because there are a lot of low-cost and creative strategies that can be easily implemented, even on a shoestring budget.
Leaders are increasingly recognising the importance of investing in employee health and wellness. However, this doesn’t always translate into dollars spent, particularly in the initial stages.
So how do you make your wellness dollar stretch further? Whether you are just embarking on your wellness journey, or well along the way, these tips will help keep both your employees and your bottom line healthy.
Tip # 1. Look for low hanging fruit.
When embarking on your wellness plan, you want to quickly get some runs on the board. Are there any opportunities for quick wins? Or is there the potential to combine and package what is already available with some new initiatives added? Not only will this serve to elevate the profile of existing initiatives, but it will enable you to get the wellness ball rolling with relatively little effort.
Tip # 2. Engage your wellness partners.
Existing or prospective wellness partners can provide a wealth of expertise, resources, support and practical assistance. As the saying goes, ‘surround yourself with experts’. Your strategy will be better for it. If you haven’t already, pick up the phone and chat with your employee benefit provider/s, not-for-profit organisations, local gyms or recreational facilities, local retailers and government groups to see what help or partnerships they can offer.
Tip # 3. Share responsibility.
Both employers and employees must take responsibility for health in the workplace. Workplace wellness works best when core initiatives such as health risk assessments and flu vaccinations are funded by the organisation, and ancillary programs such as onsite yoga classes are either subsidised by the organisation or paid for by employees. Not only will this help stretch your wellness dollar further, but it increases ownership of and commitment to your strategy. It also stops an entitlement culture creeping in and the infuriating issue of ‘no-shows’.
Tip # 4. Seek research and practical support from universities.
Could you do with an extra set of hands or expertise for an upcoming project? If so, become friendly with your local university. Start by making some enquiries around hosting practicum students. The Human Movement Studies or Public Health department of a university is a great place to start, as they often have well-established practicum programs. Not only will this provide you with hands-on support, but it’s a valuable injection of new ideas, expertise and enthusiasm. Next, chat with universities regarding potential joint research projects or clinical support, which can be a great means of adding more rigour to your wellness strategy.
Tip # 5. Think outside the box.
I’ve delivered many wellness strategies over the years that have started – and sometimes continued – with a shoestring budget. This requires flexible, creative and innovative thinking. If you don’t have the budget to roll out the initiative you want, why not start with a smaller pilot program? Not only will this provide an opportunity to iron out any kinks, but if it’s a success you have leverage to roll out your wellness program to a wider audience.
Tip #6. Make healthy choices the easiest choices.
Supporting flexible working arrangements, implementing a smoke-free policy, providing healthy snack options in your vending machines, or hosting walking or standing meetings as a way of discouraging sedentary behaviour are just some examples of cultural, policy and environmental initiatives that are relatively easy to implement.
Tip #7. Stay focused.
Finally, and most importantly, remember the old adage: quality, not quantity. Don’t stretch your wellness efforts too thin – and potentially jeopardise your own wellbeing in the process! Concentrate on initiatives that will provide the best return on investment.