businesswoman eating saladWhile the full effect of the Affordable Care Act remains to be seen, there’s one smart move every small business owner can take to build a healthier workforce: Start a workplace wellness program. You’ll get healthier employees, reduced absenteeism and greater productivity—and may even see lower insurance costs as a result.

A workplace wellness program can be an official effort with solutions provided by your health insurance company; an informal arrangement where you as the boss encourage, promote and support healthier habits; or a mixture of both. Here are some ideas to get started.

Find out what your insurance offers. If you offer employees health insurance, talk to your provider to see if the plan offers wellness programs such as smoking cessation, reimbursement for gym memberships, acupuncture treatment or weight loss programs. You may even be eligible for premium discounts based on employees’ participation in such programs.

Match the program to your employees’ needs. What health issues do your employees need help with? If you have a lot of overweight employees on staff, for example, programs to encourage weight loss or exercise would be a good fit. Survey your employees to see where their interests lie—the more involved they are in creating the wellness program, the more likely they are to participate.  

Walk the walk. There’s no point in starting a wellness program if you, the boss, live on coffee and cigarettes. Set an example by making an effort to eat better and make time for relaxation and exercise in your day.

Get active. It’s easy to make the workday more active without putting on sweatpants for an hour-long workout. Try holding meetings standing up or walking (either outdoors or in the hallways), investing in a couple of standing desks for employees to use, or getting on the PA every hour to lead everyone in a group stretch or quick walk around the office.

Get expert help. Contact your local hospital, yoga studio, gym, Weight Watchers office or other health-related organization to see what outreach programs they have. Perhaps you can get the local yoga studio owner to lead a quick class, then offer discounts to employees who join the studio. You can even barter for services like this (designing the studio’s website in return for a discount on classes).