Business leaders around the country understand the importance of supporting the communities where they do business. Many companies — no matter how big or small they may be — get involved in local organizations and support special events in order to reach out to the community and form lasting partnerships for mutual benefit.
However, business leaders and managers may overlook the best-kept secrets in their own backyards, which are the community health efforts already in place. By becoming involved in local health events, businesses will reap the rewards of increased health awareness for their employees and their families.
“Promoting healthy behaviors by supporting public events makes good business sense from every angle,” says Ginny Hridel, the product manager of health insurance and wellness programs for the Council of Smaller Enterprises (COSE). “Employers who promote and facilitate healthy activities enhance awareness of health and wellness issues in their neighborhoods.”
Hridel also says that you should encourage your employees to get involved — that way, you’ll create a sense of camaraderie and support within the company, and your staff will become part of the greater community.
Smart Business spoke with Hridel about community health efforts and how you can get your company involved.
How can you get employees excited about community health events?
Every community has health and wellness events that take place throughout the year, so announce them and make them available to your employees. Encourage participation by covering the registration fee for those who participate. Check your city’s Web site for a list of monthly activities being held in the area, and create a calendar of health promotion events. Remember to pick up the quarterly schedule of health education and wellness programs from your regional hospital or community adult education center. Many regional hospitals host free public health education seminars, which feature medical experts and physicians, so look into that.
Also, look up the local parks and recreation schedule for hikes, bird walks and family trail walks. Provide employees with information for them to make better health a daily priority.
How should a company go about getting involved in its community?
Local communities always have events that anyone can participate in. Advertise the event and ask for employees to volunteer to sign up. Many events occur on weekends, so make it fun by providing water bottles for everyone or taking the team out for lunch afterward. Spring and summer are ideal for getting involved in the region’s fun runs, walks for a cure or pet-friendly charity walks. Many regions hold summer competitions among companies in the area, which promote company pride, health and wellness among fellow employees.
Also, contact your local fire department for classes on CPR, first aid and AED (automated external defibrillator). Providing these classes at the workplace during business hours prepares employees for emergencies at work or at home — and just might save a life.
Finally, get physical with your employees by ‘digging in’ to help plant a community garden near the workplace. As an incentive, provide employees with gardening gloves and tools.
Or, ‘nail it together’ by creating a team of employee volunteers to build a home. Reward the efforts with a team photo of everyone in company T-shirts. And, share the company’s accomplishments — put pictures in a newsletter, send information to the local paper and send a blast e-mail to the entire staff. Business owners and managers know how to lead by example, so be sure to sign up to pitch in and the rest will follow.
What can a company do to give back to the community?
Business leaders are focused on the well-being of their employees, but there’s an often-overlooked opportunity to promote health and improve the quality of life for other businesses and residents within the local area. Consider hosting a blood drive or community health screenings at your worksite. Invite other area companies to participate in a fund-raising challenge for a cause. Opening up your doors to the public may provide new business prospects and will garner good will and support within the community at large.
Also, local food initiatives are sprouting up everywhere. Employers who recognize the benefits of using a local, sustainable food system may provide the opportunity for a delivery program that brings farm-fresh, locally grown produce to area businesses and their employees. By choosing local food from area farms, your organization supports the regional economy and fosters the health of employees and the greater community.
Ginny Hridel is the product manager of health insurance and wellness programs for the Council of Smaller Enterprises (COSE), one of Ohio’s largest small business support organizations. Reach her at email@example.com or (216) 592-2263. Composed of more than 17,000 members, COSE strives to help small businesses grow and maintain their independence. COSE has a long history of fighting for the rights of all small business owners, whether it’s through group purchasing programs for health care powered by Medical Mutual of Ohio, wellness programs designed specifically for small business, workers’ compensation or energy, advocating for specific changes in legislation or regulation, or providing a forum and resource for small businesses to connect with and learn from one another.