Health and Wellness

Small businesses identify stress as top concern for employee health and wellness


(BPT) - Today's tough economic environment would give anyone a headache. America's workforce faces increasing pressures to meet the bottom line and achieve financial results with less, particularly small businesses. So, it's no wonder that small-business owners' most pressing wellness concerns include stress and employees' sick days, as identified through a recent study of more than 1,000 small-business owners and decision-makers. High employee stress ranks No. 1.-

Workplace StressThe national study - by Humana Inc., one of the nation's leading health care companies, and the National Small Business Association (NSBA), America's leading small business advocate - offers some insights into today's current small business wellness environment. The study found that while an overwhelming 93 percent of small business owners consider employees' physical and mental health as contributors to business results, only one-third are confident in their ability to help employees manage their health and wellness.

If you work for a small business, there is a good chance that your employer doesn't have a health and wellness program in place. Only 22 percent of small businesses offer their employees access to such options. But among those that do, 85 percent think these types of offerings are worth the investment. Three in four say such programs enhance their profits.

"As the economy continues to improve, wellness solutions likely will continue to be of interest and an increasingly important part of the employee value proposition," predicts Jerry Ganoni, president of Humana's small group employer segment. Ganoni believes it's crucial for the health insurance industry to focus on providing small-business owners with the information they need to make wellness decisions that will help to recruit and retain employees while enhancing their bottom lines.

So why aren't more small business owners embracing wellness initiatives as bottom-line boosters? (Wellness initiatives are considered those that encourage employees to make healthier choices such as getting preventive care, eating right and exercising.)

More than half say enough information isn't available about starting and using health and wellness programs. Another key challenge they list: employee interest in such programs. Forty-eight percent of respondents who used to have or never had wellness options believe lack of interest among employees ranks as the top barrier to introducing one.-

However, despite these obstacles, interest among small business owners in considering and providing health and wellness initiatives actually is on the rise. Younger businesses were reportedly more likely to have health and wellness programs in place than businesses older than 10 years, the Humana-NSBA study reveals.

In fact, 31 percent of startups - those companies less than a decade old - offer them. Startup business owners view these benefits as a tool for employee recruitment and retention; one in four report being most motivated by employee demand versus 3 percent for more established companies.

"Workplace wellness programs can play a big role in keeping health care accessible and affordable for employers and employees," says NSBA President Todd McCracken.

There seems to be little question that health and wellness programs pay off for employees. For every $1 spent on worksite health-promotion programs, a company sees an average of $3.50 in savings related to fewer sick days, more productive work time, and reduced health care costs, according to research from the Partnership for Prevention.


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