Organizational Wellness

A Guide to Wellness Programs for Small Businesses

Mar 17, 2023
Last Updated May 9, 2024

A healthy business and healthy employees go hand-in-hand, but maintaining this balance isn’t always easy. Small business owners often wear multiple hats — accounting, marketing, and sales, to start. With that much going on, long-term initiatives like employee wellbeing programs get buried in other priorities.

But prioritizing a thriving staff can be transformational for small businesses. Employee wellbeing programs have been shown to improve employee productivity, decrease operating costs and reduce healthcare expenses. Any one of those moves the needle for a small operation, not to mention all three. 

Here’s how your small business can take advantage of employee wellness programs, no matter how long your to-do list! 


What are Wellness Programs for Small Businesses?

Wellness programs for small businesses are designed to help employees stay healthy so they can thrive in and out of work. When executed properly, they improve not only employee wellbeing but increase productivity and reduce the cost of providing healthcare benefits to employees. Wellness-related activities can range from nutrition guidance to wellness challenges, from gym memberships to mediation app subscriptions.


The Cost of Health and Wellness Programs

Health and wellness initiatives can vary in cost, depending on the size of your organization and the activities you choose to offer. Some providers offer wellness programs at no additional cost, while other pricing ranges from $150 to $2,000 a year per employee.

Since small businesses typically have fewer employees to register than large organizations, they often spend less than average to offer a wellness program to their workers. One budget-friendly solution is to partner with a company that provides a network of wellness resources, like Wellhub, which provides access to a global network of 50,000+ gyms, classes, trainers, and wellbeing apps through affordable, flexible monthly subscriptions.


Advantages of Small Business Wellness Programs

Health and wellness programs are beneficial for small business owners and employees. 

Owners can benefit from wellness programs through the reduced cost of insurance premiums that come with improving the health of their workforce. Research also shows that improved employee wellbeing results in improved job performance and lower absenteeism.

Employees (on top of enjoying better health), often also feel more engaged at work — 89% of businesses that tracked the impact of their spending on staff wellbeing saw increases in employee engagement. They also enjoy better physical and mental health

The advantages of providing an employee wellness program go beyond monetary return on investment. Here are eight key benefits of wellness programs for small businesses:

  1. Improved employee morale
  2. Increased employee productivity
  3. Reduced employee tension and stress
  4. Reduced healthcare costs for both employers and employees
  5. Enhanced employee loyalty
  6. Reduced absenteeism and presenteeism
  7. Reduced workers’ compensation fees
  8. Reduced employee turnover


How to Create Wellness Programs That Work for Small Businesses

Creating a wellness program for your small business may be easier than you think. Although the details vary depending on your specific company culture, here are four general guidelines to consider when developing your initiative. 

  1. Find Out What Your Employees Want and Need

The best way to find out what wellness activities your team wants and needs is to ask them! It could be monthly wellness challenges (like step-count or water-intake competitions), yoga classes, or guided meditations.

It’s important to get your employees’ feedback about activities they want in your workplace wellness program instead of just making an executive decision. Surveying your employees shows them that you care about their input and their interests, and helps to instill a sense of solidarity.

If you’re considering offering additional incentives — like concert tickets or an app subscription — for wellness program participation, include a survey question gauging your staff members’ interest in specific events and activities.

  1. Define Success and How to Track It

After you decide what activities you want to offer your employees — whether that’s nutrition counseling, fitness classes, or smoking cessation programs — you’ll need to figure out how you’ll measure these initiatives’ success. Will it be program participation? Reduced absenteeism? Increased employee satisfaction? There’s no one right answer here! What you decide to track will often derive from your  overall wellness goals, which vary company-to-company.

After defining success, settle on metrics that will show you whether or not the program is effective. If you want to reduce absenteeism, for example, this could be measured in decreased sick days. Or, if employee morale is the goal, you can track employee survey responses to questions about job satisfaction overtime. Whatever your desired outcome, it’s usually best to track it in a quantifiable metric so you can clearly determine whether or not the program had its desired effect.

  1. Find a Wellness Partner

Every small business owner has a mile-long to-do list, so it’s understandable if adding “run a wellness program” onto your plate might sound overwhelming. Luckily, there are programs entrepreneurs can leverage to provide the programs to their staff without it taking up a ton of time or energy.

One potential partner is your insurance broker. Some have begun to offer wellness program consulting services to help businesses keep their health insurance costs manageable and on budget. Consider asking your broker if they can offer insight into programs and solutions that would further your wellness goals. Wellbeing platforms like Wellhub are another option, providing your employees with streamlined access to thousands of fitness activities and wellness apps through a monthly subscription.

  1. Foster Employee Engagement

A wellness program can only be impactful if employees take part! Make sure you advertise the new program. This can be done at employee meetings, in shared workspaces, and staff emails.

And remember, you don’t have to be the only one getting the word out. Once you get a few employees onboard, you can see if any are interested in being a wellness champion, or somebody who advocates for others to join a program. Employees in small business tend to have tighter bonds with their coworkers than those at large organizations, so teammates can be effective messengers.


The Bottom Line for Your Company

The vast majority of decision-makers at small businesses agree their employees’ health is important to the company’s bottom line. Offering wellness programs for small businesses is a great way to improve employee retention and morale, reduce workplace stress and tension, increase productivity, and ultimately lower healthcare costs.

Want to find out how you can create a wellness program for your small business? Speak to a Wellhub wellbeing specialist today!



Wellhub Editorial Team

The Wellhub Editorial Team empowers HR leaders to support worker wellbeing. Our original research, trend analyses, and helpful how-tos provide the tools they need to improve workforce wellness in today's fast-shifting professional landscape.


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