Small business owners offer health perks

Small business owners continue to struggle to provide traditional health care benefits to their workers, but some are providing other unusual perks, as an alternative, to help attract and retain employees.

A new report released Wednesday by Bank of America found that only 33 percent of the small business owners it surveyed provide traditional health benefits. But 31 percent offer additional amenities in the workplace, such as healthy snacks or massages. About 45 percent offer flexible work or work-from-home options for employees.

Robb Hilson, small business executive at Bank of America, said many small business owners are finding innovative ways to keep employees happy and healthy and that these perks can help small businesses make up for, in part, the lack of traditional benefits.

“I talk to a lot of small business owners, and even though the job market has been tough, hiring and retaining talented employees has been difficult mostly because those employees may be attracted to larger companies that offer those (traditional) benefits,” Hilson said.

Health care has always been a key benefit for employees and represents a major cost for employers. Much of the impact of the Obama administration’s Affordable Health Care Act is still pending, but many business owners are keeping a close eye on the issue and are concerned that it may increase their costs.

Bank of America launched the semi-annual survey last year to assess the attitudes of small business owners, but this is the first time it has taken a look at the physical health of respondents. The survey is of more than 1,000 small business owners around the country.

Fifty-three percent of small business owners said that their personal health has improved as a result of running their businesses. And 85 percent said they’ve taken some steps to contribute to the health and happiness of their employees.

Small business owners still face stress. About 13 percent say their health has become worse as a result of running a small business. The majority of respondents, 72 percent, work more than the typical 40-hour work week. And about half say they take less vacation and sleep less as a result of their choice to run their own company.

However, some say they exercise more, eat more healthfully and spend more time with their spouse, family and friends.

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