SCORE

During the hectic holiday season, your health — and that of your employees — can quickly take a turn for the worst. When you’re getting less sleep, putting in extra hours, or dodging sneezes and coughs in your office, a cold or flu can sneak up and ruin your productivity. But having a healthy team during your busiest times of the year is crucial.

Bob Merberg, employee wellness manager at Paychex, explained on the latest episode of the SCORE Small Business Success Podcast that employee wellness is about more than reducing absenteeism.

It’s also about reducing presenteeism: “Time when you’re at work but your productivity is compromised for health related reasons,” Merberg explained. “Think of someone who is working with a migraine headache or lower back pain.”

Employee wellness programs have become popular among businesses of all sizes. But while elaborate programs involving on-site dining programs, yoga classes, and even on-site massages may seem limited to big corporations, you can still take action in your small business to boost wellness.

“Employers should invest in wellness,” Merberg said, “But there are so many things that employers have available to them that they can often access for free or that they’re already paying for if they’re working with a health plan.”

A few ideas Merberg suggests: Offering flu shots; hosting brown-bag sessions on nutrition or stress relief; offering tobacco cessation programs; paying for gym memberships; or even just adding wellness tips to employee newsletters.

You can even set up a walking club to encourage everyone to get up from their desks, or plan to share a healthy potluck meal. Don’t forget to look to your local recreation department or hospital for low-cost partnership and programming opportunities.

If Merberg’s advice has you adding wellness to your new-year to-do list, there are still some steps you can take now to help get your team through the holidays in good health.

Delegate — Share the many tasks of this busy season and check in with employees regularly to make sure they aren’t getting buried by their workload. Don’t forget to check on your own workload and delegate to your team! If necessary, consider hiring temporary additional help.

Encourage sick employees to stay home — A lost day can mean those to-dos pile up even more. But if a sick employee comes to work, your whole team could end up under the weather. Offer telecommuting days when team members begin to recover.

Encourage healthy habits — Instead of loading up on cookies and cakes this season, provide fresh fruits and vegetables for your team to snack on. Set a good example by taking frequent breaks to stretch and take a quick walk — and take your team along!

If you’re wondering how best to implement an employee wellness plan in your small business, reach out to your SCORE mentor. A mentor can help you evaluate options that could be most beneficial to your team and present the wisest investment for your company.