Do you offer paid sick leave in your small business? If not, you may soon. Throughout the country, there’s a national movement to insure that employees receive at least a few paid sick days every year. This week, President Barack Obama devoted his weekly address to the subject of paid sick leave, pointing out that “since I took office, another 10 million private sector workers have gained paid sick leave…unfortunately, there’s still about 40 million private sector workers who don’t get a single day.”
That situation is likely to change.
As of January, all federal contractors must provide paid sick leave under rules just released. And five states and 29 cities already require employers to provide paid sick leave. Expect more to come soon, as most Americans feel that a worker should be entitled to at least a few paid sick days every year.
Want to avoid having to pay sick leave to your workers? Here’s a clever trick: help your employees stay well.
For a small business, having a healthy workforce is more than just a matter of avoiding paying for sick leave, of course. With fewer workers on your staff, with even one person out sick, it can be tough to handle the work load. And healthy workers are more productive.
With the flu season upon us, now’s a great time to implement a company “wellness program.”
Sure, big corporations and tech companies can provide all kinds of wellness programs with lots of bells and whistles—wearable tech products like FitBits http://www.fitbit.com to encourage more movement, on-site chiropractors, fitness centers, healthy free meals. But you can start a wellness program in your small business without breaking the bank.
Here are six easy – and inexpensive – steps to launching a small business wellness program:
** Figure out where to focus. What are the health-related problems your employees are most likely to face? Are they safety or environmentally related? High stress? Smoking? Substance abuse? Diet? Exercise? Target your efforts to the most-pressing issues. In my company a couple of years ago, my staff said they wanted help with nutrition, so we found a nutritionist to come in twice a month.
** Support healthy eating. Get rid of the donuts and cookies at meetings and substitute fresh fruits and vegetables. Replace the soda machine with a water fountain. If your employees eat lunch out regularly, scout out healthy options near you and provide them with a list of those options. Do you have a company newsletter? Include a healthy and quick recipe every month for your employees to try at home.
** Encourage exercise. People who exercise catch fewer colds and flu—making them more productive. You could encourage a lunchtime walking group, perhaps you have room in your offices to offer a lunchtime yoga class, or hold walking “meetings.”
** Reduce stress. Stressed employees take more time off, have lower productivity, and get sick more often. Inexpensive ways to reduce stress include allowing dogs in the office, insuring employees take breaks throughout the day, and requiring employees to leave the office at a decent hour rather than burning the midnight oil day after day.
** Promote prevention. Does your health insurance provider offer flu shots? If so, remind your employees of that perk now. You can also get vaccines at many drugstores. Encourage employees to get an annual physical. And remind everyone to wash their hands frequently. Do your employees suffer from carpal tunnel? Consider bringing in an occupational therapist to teach about repetitive motion injury prevention.
** Reward good behavior. Do any of your employees smoke? Set up an incentive program to help them quit. A report last year from The New England Journal of Medicine found that cash rewards worked best when encouraging employees to quit smoking. It doesn’t have to be a large amount of money to be an incentive.
Will you save cold hard cash when you implement a wellness program in your small business? The ROI may be difficult to measure. But healthier employees are more productive, and you won’t be paying for sick days. It pays to invest in one of your company’s most important assets: your employees.
Copyright, Rhonda Abrams, 2016
This article originally ran in USA Today on October 5, 2016