Healthcare costs are a major issue for small business owners. And now concern over the impending implementation of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) has surpassed economic uncertainty as the number one concern of small business, according to a study released by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. Information from the Chamber notes that approximately 88 percent of small businesses will see their insurance costs go up as a result of the ACA.

One way to hold healthcare costs down, regardless what happens on the national stage, is to focus on wellness for yourself and your team. Entrepreneurs are notoriously bad about taking care of their own health. They put the needs of their business before their health and well-being. That leads to stress and burn-out which can lead to serious illnesses. Here are six ways you can start to create a healthier workforce.

1. Encourage vacations.

Americans take less vacation time than any other industrialized nation. A national research study found as many as 66 percent of us keep working when we could be relaxing somewhere, leaving unused a total of 459 million vacation days. When it comes to business owners, most of us ask, “What’s a vacation?”

We’ve become a society of workaholics and it’s affecting our health. Information published by the Journal of Travel Research notes taking an annual vacation may cut a person’s heart attack risk by 50 percent. By encouraging your employees to take time off, you can potentially save a significant amount of money on healthcare costs. As an added benefit, experts have found productivity increases up to 80 percent after a worker returns from a vacation.

That’s particularly true for you as the business owner. You need to take a take a break from the day-to-day operations of your company. However, if you’re like me you worry about being out of touch. Thanks to products such as AT&T’s VPN Remote Access Service, you can stay connected to your company’s critical data even while relaxing on the beach. No need to stress about something falling through the cracks, you’ll have everything you need right at your fingertips.

2. Engage your employees in your business.

A recent Gallup poll found American workers who are engaged in their work report healthier lifestyles than their counterparts.   Engaged employees eat healthier, exercise more frequently, and consume more fruits and vegetables. So make sure your team is aligned with your vision. Communicate with them openly and generously show appreciation for their work. Perhaps most importantly, empower them to be innovative and try new things.

3. Host walking meetings.

Aristotle was said to conduct his teachings as he walked the halls of the Lyceum in Athens. You can walk and talk at the same time (at least I hope you can), so why not get outside and go for a walk. You’ll benefit from the exercise and the fresh air, plus the new environment may spur greater creative thinking.

I hate sitting for long periods of time. And by the way, too much time spent sitting increases your risk of developing cancer — even if you exercise regularly. That’s according to research from the American Institute for Cancer. So unless it’s raining like cats and dogs, bitterly cold or sweltering hot, invite your team members to go for a walk with you.

4. Go ergo.

Evaluate your office area.  Is it designed ergonomically?  The way we sit, the way we strain to see our computers, all of these things affect our physical well-being. For example, if your chair is too low and you must reach up to use your keyboard you risk straining the muscles in your arms and/or wrists. Make sure you aren’t putting undue strain on your body. Personally, I sit on a body ball in my office. It strengthens my core muscles and reduces the strain on my back. Don’t knock it until you’ve tried it.

5. Encourage exercise breaks.

Exercise is a great stress reliever. There are simple exercises you and your team members can do at your desk to help enhance your wellness. For example, if you get cramps in your wrist and forearm from repetitive motion press your hands together in front of your chest, elbows bent and parallel to the floor. Gently bend your wrists to the right and left for 10 reps. I keep light weights near my desk so when I’m on a conference call I can do a few bicep curls. I also have a hoola-hoop, which is a fun way to break up the day and burn a few calories. Check out online resources such as WedMd for other easy exercises you can do at work.

 6. Drink water.

Hydration is critically important for your health. Keep your office refrigerator stocked with bottled water or invest in a water cooler or water filtration system for your sink. Remind yourself and your team how important it is to refresh yourself during the day. One of my business associates kept a post-it-note stuck to his computer screen that read “drink water.”  Water helps maintain your body balanced during the day.

Taking preventive measures to take care of your health can lower your healthcare costs. It will also help your bottom line in other ways such as reducing the amount of absenteeism due to illness, enhanced creativity and increased productivity. The biggest benefit will be for you — the business owner. You’ll find the healthier you are, the greater success you’ll create for your business.

What are you doing to foster health in the workplace? If you have additional ideas, please share them in comments.

 

Susan Wilson Solovic is an award-winning entrepreneur and journalist, author of three best-selling books, multi-media personality and contributor to ABC News and other outlets, public speaker and attorney. AT&T has sponsored this blog post.