small business workplace wellness

Study: Smaller Employers Have Opportunity for Great Impact Through Workplace Wellness

While the benefits that a well-run workplace wellness program can provide employers and employees — helping improve employee health and reducing overall health costs for employers — a new study shows that an employer segment that may have more opportunity for growth in this area are small businesses.

The study, published in the American Journal of Health Promotion, is titled “Worksite Food and Physical Activity Environments and Wellness Supports Reported by Employed Adults in the United States, 2013.”

The study’s purpose was to¬†“examine the workplace food and physical activity (PA) environments and wellness culture reported by employed United States adults, overall and by employer size.” To do this, the authors conducted a “cross-sectional study using web-based survey on wellness policies and environmental supports for healthy eating and PA.”

They gathered data from 2,101 U.S. employees through a variety of means: “Survey items were based on the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Worksite Health ScoreCard and Checklist of Health Promotion Environments and included the availability and promotion of healthy food items, nutrition education, promotion of breast-feeding, availability of PA amenities and programs, facility discounts, time for PA, stairwell signage, health promotion programs, and health risk assessments.”

The results showed significant room for improvement among employers who seek to improve workplace wellness:

  • “Among employed respondents with workplace food or drink vending machines, approximately 35% indicated the availability of healthy items.”
  • “Regarding [physical activity], 30.9% of respondents reported that their employer provided opportunities to be physically active and 17.6% reported worksite exercise facilities.”
  • “Wellness programs were reported by 53.2% working for large employers, compared to 18.1% for smaller employers.”

The study concludes: “Employee reports suggested that workplace supports for healthy eating, [physical activity], and wellness were limited and were less common among smaller employers.”