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New health and wellness services can offer small businesses a competitive advantage

By Ann Marie O’Brien, R.N., National Director of Health Strategies, UnitedHealthcare

Small-business owners often tell me that some of the biggest barriers to success are costs, time, and the inability to attract and retain talented employees.  

A recent Small Business Optimism Index showed that 21 percent of small-business owners cited “the difficulty of finding qualified workers” as their single most important business challenge.

One way small businesses may improve their workplace and make it more appealing to employees is to support employee health and wellness. Doing so may not only lead to a healthier, productive and more engaged workforce, but also may help attract and retain talented employees.

Small-business owners can now obtain comprehensive wellness programs that not long ago were available only to large employers.

For example, some offerings include wellness coaching, biometric screenings, smoking-cessation programs, and even complimentary fitness trackers. Also, programs may include incentives that enable employees and spouses to earn reductions to their premium contributions, or receive merchant gift cards or gym reimbursements. And these programs are often administered by the health plan, so there is no additional time taken away from a small-business owner’s busy day.

Other health and wellness services may also be available. For example, Real Appeal, is an online weight-loss program offered by UnitedHealthcare.

Real Appeal uses personal coaches and online tracking tools to help motivate people to adopt healthier behaviors, which may help reduce obesity-related conditions such as Type 2 diabetes and heart disease.

Participants are matched with a transformation coach who helps them create a step-by-step personalized program that is designed to work with their lifestyle and includes:

  • online group classes designed to help build camaraderie and accountability;
  • weekly health tips from celebrities, athletes and health experts;
  • a personalized dashboard to keep track of calories, fitness and goals; and
  • resources such as workout DVDs, quick and simple recipes, and a nutrition guide.

Real Appeal enables small businesses, even those strapped for time and resources, to offer employees weight loss services at no additional cost to the employees who participate. Typically, four out of five participants have lost weight with Real Appeal, with 10 pounds lost on average per participant.

Attracting and retaining the top talent in the market is ever more challenging for small businesses in today’s diversified and demanding workforce. These types of programs and services may help them do that and help their employees live healthier lives.

For more information about small business plans in your state, visit UHC.com.

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