Small Businesses and Workplace Wellness – Beyond ROI to Employee Engagement

Do evidence-based workplace wellness programs promote employee health? Do these programs reduce healthcare costs? Are workplace wellness programs feasible for smaller employers? We set out to understand smaller employers’ views of workplace wellness in light of Wisconsin’s adoption of the Healthy Jobs Act, which funds up to 30% of the cost of a workplace wellness program for small businesses with 50 or fewer employees.

Smaller employers report facing particular challenges to adopting comprehensive wellness programs. In addition, the evidence on employers’ return on investment from workplace wellness programs, and the impact of those programs on employee health, is mixed, suggesting a need for more rigorous standards and support for effective implementation of evidence-based programs. As wellness programs continue to gain popularity, it is important to understand the factors that contribute to successful design and implementation, particularly in smaller businesses.

Here are profiles of workplace wellness programs in four Wisconsin companies ranging from 60 to 300 employees. These employers report that they adopted workplace wellness programs because the company’s leadership felt it was the right thing to do for their employees. All have experienced benefits that extend beyond improvements in employee health to enhanced employee engagement in the workplace. Each profile offers advice for other smaller companies considering starting a workplace wellness program.