Small Employer Worksite Wellness

Posted on April 13, 2017 By

Small employers need worksite wellness programs too. As a small employer, you care about and want healthy employees don’t you?

Wellness programs have traditionally been the province of the large employer, basically leaving the smaller employer out of today’s explosion in employee health management.

This is unfortunate as the small employer needs wellness programming just as much as the large employer. Small employers make up the majority of US employers and employ a large percentage of today’s workforce. I am defining small employer as being an employer with less than 100 employees.

Traditionally within worksite wellness, each employer creates, for the most part, their own internal, stand-alone program utilizing internal employer based resources, or the resources provided by a contracted vendor, such as the health insurance company or a wellness program vendor. This independent, self-sufficient model is not, in my opinion, either viable nor the best strategy for the small employer to employ.

There is certainly no reason why a small employer cannot, on their own, create their own internal, stand-alone program utilizing internal employer based resources, or the resources provided by a contracted vendor, such as the health insurance company or wellness program vendor.

Another strategy a smaller employer might be to still go it alone by putting together programming based on free or low-cost Internet-based interventions. This strategy, while maybe being a low-cost strategy in terms of dollars actually spent, is a high cost strategy in terms of the time and energy required to put all the various interventions together into a cogent implementation plan and then executing the plan. The smaller employer would probably find this time and energy to be better used though elsewhere in the business.

Five alternative worksite wellness program models a small employer might utilize involve cooperation, collaboration, anchor model, cluster program model and an employer – community partnership model.

Cooperative Model

In the cooperative model, small employers would band together to deliver a wellness program to their collective employees through some type of cooperative agreement. Each employer makes a contribution in the cooperative model, with the nature and size of the contribution potentially varying with each employer. While potentially better than going it alone, the cooperative model presents challenges such as:

• The collective contributions may still fall short of what is needed for the cooperative to institute a successful program on its own

• A cooperative approach would not address any unique needs an individual employer may have based on the uniqueness of their workforce or work environments

• An employer would not necessarily bring its strengths to the cooperative process. What is lost when an individual employer’s strengths are not utilized in the process?

Collaborative Model

In the collaborative model, small employers also band together to deliver a wellness program to their collective employees through some type of collaborative agreement. Through a collaborative arrangement, each employer contributes their strengths to the process. While potentially better than going it alone and a cooperative agreement, the collaborative model also presents such challenges as:

• The collective contributions may still fall short of what is needed for the collaborative members to institute a successful program on their own

• A collaborative approach would also not address any unique needs an individual employer may have

Anchor Model

The anchor model is based on the anchor store concept found in shopping malls. In this model, a larger employer serves as the anchor for a wellness program that includes both the anchor company and the anchor employer’s nearby smaller employers. I see this model as being best suited for a shopping center, or an industrial or commercial park.

Cluster Model

The cluster model could involve either a cooperative or collaborative arrangement between neighboring businesses. I see this model as being best suited for a main street or designated section of a downtown.

Employer – Community Partnership Model

I believe this is a much better model for the small employer to undertake. In this model, the level of employer linkage to community based resources and programs decreases as the employer grows in employee size.

If you are a small employer, which worksite wellness program model appeals best to you?

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