Wellness and Your Bottom Line: How Maintaining a Healthy Workforce Can Improve Your Business

Sustainability. That word can mean so many different things. It is often used to describe the environment and our ecological balance, but have you ever thought of it in terms of your health and how that relates to you and your business?

Every day there is something in the media about health insurance and the deteriorating health of the average person. It is agreed by many that these are both heading in the wrong direction, and there is so much information thrown at us each day that it is easy to take a head-in-the-sand approach.

Now, with the Affordable Care Act (ACA) in question, there is even more speculation each day. How do you navigate it all? What can be done? What should be done? I won’t try to answer all of those questions in this one short article, but plan to touch the surface and get you thinking about these topics and how some effort can help you, the people who work for you, and in turn, improve the overall financial health of your business.

What we know now
Health insurance is expensive. It is typically a large percentage of any organization’s expenses. Many small organizations feel they can’t afford such an expense. This may be true, but you should keep an open mind and be sure to consider all factors before making that decision. If all else fails, there are other less-expensive things you can do to help the health of your employees. Isn’t that the end goal regardless? Plus, if you are part of a large organization, improving health could result in direct savings to your health insurance over time.

Things certainly are changing fast, but there are some factors you can count on now to get you in the right mindset regarding providing wellness programs and health insurance to your employees.

  • The majority of your health plan’s costs come from a minority of the participants.
    • It pays to impact even just a few.
  • Insurance is often cheaper when purchased through an employer than as an individual.
    • The perceived benefit to the individual might be more than the actual cost.
  • According to the book, “Younger Next Year,” by Chris Crowley and Henry S. Lodge M.D., the majority of aging and illness is preventable.
    • We have given in to many things as normal aging that really are a result of lifestyle choices.
  • Helping employees get healthier helps them and you.
    • Jason Riddick of Custom Wood Floors shared, “I feel like one thing missing is some physical activity OUTSIDE of wood flooring.” He went on to discuss how even minimal weightlifting has cured him of back pain.

What’s in it for me?
Absenteeism and presenteeism (the productivity loss from illness or distraction while at the job) are causing some level of impact on your business. Humans only have so much self-control, and being tired, sick, or in pain will eventually cause our willpower to break down. This could lead to productivity loss, but could also cause an issue with customer service. People are much easier to deal with when they are happy and healthy. Our industry is based on relationships and could benefit from happier, healthier employees.

There also are some health insurance plans that are still health rated. These are plans where the premiums are directly affected by the health of those on the plan. For those, wellness programs or fewer claims through improved health can have a direct impact on the cost of the plan.

So how exactly can you make a difference?
You may be thinking that you agree with all of this, and it is all fine in theory, but you still don’t feel like you have concrete ways to make a difference, and you can’t spend a lot of money. Here are some potential ideas to get you started.

  • Work with a benefits consultant.
    • It is nearly impossible for small or medium-sized organizations to have as much expertise and solid insurance vendor relationships as benefits consultants.
    • They typically work on commissions from the insurance companies and will not be a direct cost to you.
  • Keep an open mind for potential options.
    • Self-funded plans are gaining popularity, but come with some risks that need to be weighed, and you also may want to consider pairing a plan like this with stop-loss insurance.
  • High-deductible health insurance plans paired with Health Savings Accounts (HSAs) are still an option for some.
    • You could pair a high-deductible plan with a Health Reimbursement Arrangement (HRA) where you pay back a portion of the deductible for the employees that max out their deductible.
      • This type of HRA lowers the premium costs, but ups the risk factor depending on how many people on your plan reach their deductible.
    • With the ACA, some organizations no longer benefit from these types of plans, so ask your benefits consultant about them.
  • Consider wellness programs.
    • There are too many types of programs to mention here. Some plans require ongoing participation, and some simply require you to show up once, like a health screening. Still others reward you for making changes like losing weight.
      • Worst case scenario is more loyalty and engagement from your staff. Best case is that and reduced costs of your health or disability insurance.
    • Want a way to reach the younger generations? Survey them on how you can help them with their wellness. You certainly can’t implement all of their suggestions, but you will find some simple ones and it shows you care. Giving input often is something younger generations have shown to value.
    • Beyond searching on the internet for programs, I bring you back to the benefits consultant. They can help suggest wellness programs that fit your organization, your budget, and may save you money.
  • Look into the safety you provide your employees.
    • Do you provide all the proper safety equipment for chemical inhalation, noise control, and body protection?
    • NWFA University, which includes an online learning platform, offers classes on safety.
    • Ask your benefits consultant if any of these strategies may help your insurance underwriting and save you money.

Final Thoughts
The aspects of health and insurance are complicated. We aren’t solving the world’s problems here, but the bottom line is that if you focus on your people, you will create lasting relationships that lead to better employee engagement.

The wood flooring industry is really about relationships, isn’t it?

I see it personally every year at the NWFA Wood Flooring Expo. Thousands of our members come together, and you can see the energy of everyone engaged in conversation. These relationships are strong and span years. Let’s use some of those skills and apply it to our own employees. Talk to them, understand them, be genuinely engaged in their lives in general or through wellness programs and ultimately their wellness will improve, and it might just save you a few dollars along the way.

Bree Urech-Boyle is Chief Financial Officer at the National Wood Flooring Association in St. Louis. She can be reached at bree.urech-boyle@nwfa.org.

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