Small businesses embrace wellness to help retain staffers
New York — Every month, the 30 staffers at Chris Boehlke’s public relations firm each get $100 to pay for anything that contributes to their wellness. And not just for typical expenditures like gym memberships or yoga classes.
“You can get nails done, anything you feel is helping your overall well-being,” says Boehlke, co-owner of San Francisco-based Bospar. The company also has flex time and a generous time off policy including 17 paid holidays each year.
As a result, Boehlke says, the 5-year-old company has lost only two staffers.
Many small business owners are starting wellness programs to help employees be healthier, happier and more likely to stay. Wellness efforts encompass a range of benefits and services, including gym subsidies, stipends for classes and activities and apps that help motivate staffers to exercise and take care of themselves. Owners are aware that many big companies have wellness programs.
Rob Wilson sees more interest in wellness programs among his small business clients, and his company, human resources provider Employco, is focusing on these programs.
“A lot of it so far has been online classes and health coaching, also a lot of online tools right now that employees can access anywhere to help them keep track of what they’re doing,” says Wilson, whose company is based in Westmont, Illinois.
At MonetizeMore, an advertising tech company, CEO Kean Graham has sensed that the sedentary lifestyle of his more than 100 staffers has taken a toll.
“We came up with a steps program that measures everybody’s number of steps per month via their smart watches or apps on their phones,” says Graham, whose firm is based in Victoria, British Columbia. After several months, he saw an improvement in absenteeism and spirits.
The 100 employees at Birch Coffee get stipends toward a variety of wellness activities, and the company pays for monthly massages at its 14 New York stores. Birch is trying to offset the physical and mental stress staffers encounter, co-founder Jeremy Lyman says.
“Each barista engages with hundreds of people every day,” Lyman says. “Mentally, it can take its toll, and you’re standing on your feet for seven hours.”
Some owners sign up with companies that run structured wellness programs. These can include encouraging staffers to take care of their health with weight-loss and smoking cessation aids, health screening and coaching and apps to track steps, calories and other metrics. Some businesses have point systems and competitions to reward staffers.
Owners may need to be creative about funding their wellness efforts, especially when they include health insurance, a benefit many small businesses can’t afford. Brent Frederick, founder of Jester Concepts, a Minneapolis restaurant operator, includes a voluntary 3% surcharge on guest checks to pay for health and mental health insurance.
“We’ve been able to retain employees and be a better business in the community,” he says.
The majority of Jester Concepts’ customers are willing to pay the 3% surcharge, which amounts to $3 on a $100 check.