Health Care and Fitness 2013

- February 07, 2013
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The biggest craze in employee health care over the past two years especially has been the concept of wellness. Most employers, including small companies and organizations, are typically very concerned about the general overall health of their employees. The cost to maintain a healthy human capital increases year by year, and one major way to help reduce the expense of a sick population at work is to manage them through wellness initiatives. Keeping workers from getting sick is a challenge for any business owner, human resource director, or department manager. You rely on your staff to be there when you need them, which is pretty much most of every day.

One way to help with keeping your employees well is to start a fitness program at your company. According to Stephanie Christensen writing for Intuit Small Business Blog, regardless of whether or not you offer health insurance to your employees, you can support wellness in the workplace by offering fitness-oriented programs and activities that can also benefit your small business through enhanced employee engagement and team building. Here are five ways to start an employee fitness program at your office.

1. Create a challenge board. Bob Choat, author of Mind Your Own Fitness suggests starting a challenge board that prompts all employees to complete daily physical activities selected by each member of the team to mesh with their own passions. The challenges can be fairly simple (“Do 50 squats desk-side every hour for one day”) or relatively complex (“Run five laps around the park before our 5 p.m. meeting”). The board, which tracks everyone’s progress, keeps team members accountable and provides a venue for deepening interpersonal relationships. By asking employees to design their own challenges, which can can collaborative or individual, you’ll learn more about their interests and hobbies outside of work.

2. Offer charitable incentives. Not all employees will be motivated to improve their health for personal gain, but you can develop a sense of shared purpose by choosing a local fitness-oriented charity event to become a part of. For example, you and your staff could raise funds and train for a 5K run, walk, or bike race together. Ask your employees what charities are near and dear to their hearts, and let them vote on which cause they’re most interested in supporting.

3. Be active volunteers. Amanda Little, founder of HealthyHerLiving, suggests partnering with a local Boys & Girls Club to keep your team healthy, both physically and mentally. It’s also an opportunity for your small business to give back to the community. Youth and after-school programs also often seek adults who are willing to coach soccer, basketball, baseball, and other games to help kids develop their teamwork and sportsmanship skills. In turn, your employees can benefit from being role models. Establish recurring volunteer opportunities, and let employees have flexible hours on those days, so they view the opportunity as a benefit rather than another time commitment.

4. Leverage employee support. Research shows that people are more likely to reach their fitness goals when they share them with others for support. Symmetry Software CEO Tom Reahard bought the Fitbit Zip, a wireless health tracking device that costs about $60, for each of his 15 employees. The device tracks steps taken, meals eaten, calories burned, and hours slept — and transmits the data to an online portal that allows users to compare their activity with that of other users whom they’ve “friended” (similar to Facebook). The portal also provides a messaging feature that lets users cheer on one another.

5. Hold one event per month. A key challenge with implementing any employee wellness activity is keeping interest alive once the newness has worn off. Jonathan Ages, CEO of Blood, Sweat & Cheers, has made it a priority to host a unique team-building event each month at his company. Past events include obstacle course-style fun runs, hard-core Tough Mudder challenges, and “sports bar Olympics.” In lieu of the boilerplate holiday party, BSC held a “Major League Dreidel” event that offered cornhole, shuffleboard, and dreidel games — and donated the registration fee proceeds to charity. Read more at this site: .

You can, as an employer, be proactive with your employees to help them on the road to fitness. A small percentage of your work force may already be engaged in some type of regimen, but the majority of your staff needs to be motivated. Offering incentives helps to motivate people, and the cost of implementing a plan pays off with a good ROI after you consider that over time your employees can get healthier and stay healthier by observing a few fitness routines on a regular basis. Just be careful that you don’t violate any PPACA rules. That is a whole different discussion, but you’ll need to follow up on those guidelines so you are compliant. According to Towers Watson, voluntary incentive-based wellness programs are unrestricted as long as they are not discriminatory.

According to, evidence shows that workplace health programs have the potential to promote healthy behaviors; improve employees’ health knowledge and skills; help employees get necessary health screenings, immunizations, and follow-up care; and reduce workplace exposure to substances and hazards that can cause diseases and injury. Although fitness programs can be a good way to motivate your employees to be healthy, they are only part of an overall wellness program that organizations should develop for their workers.

Found at this website, , information about the regulations proposed by the PPACA for wellness programs are further detailed. In order to protect consumers from unfair practices, the proposed regulations would require health-contingent wellness programs to follow certain rules, including:

• Programs must be reasonably designed to promote health or prevent disease. To be considered reasonably designed to promote health or prevent disease, a program would have to offer a different, reasonable means of qualifying for the reward to any individual who does not meet the standard based on the measurement, test or screening. Programs must have a reasonable chance of improving health or preventing disease and not be overly burdensome for individuals.

• Programs must be reasonably designed to be available to all similarly situated individuals. Reasonable alternative means of qualifying for the reward would have to be offered to individuals whose medical conditions make it unreasonably difficult, or for whom it is medically inadvisable, to meet the specified health-related standard.

• Individuals must be given notice of the opportunity to qualify for the same reward through other means. These proposed rules provide new sample language intended to be simpler for individuals to understand and to increase the likelihood that those who qualify for a different means of obtaining a reward will contact the plan or issuer to request it.

Fitness programs can be a great option for companies who want to help their employees with wellness and staying healthy. For more information, talk with your employees about what they would like in a program, and work with various health care and fitness program providers to build and maintain a good plan of action at your office. The money you spend today on this initiative pays big dividends over time, not only for your business, but also for your employees.

Until next time.

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