For better or for worse, we tend to take on the habits and mannerisms of those closest to us—which is why families are such an integral part of our lives. They shape who we are, what we do, how we feel, and even what we eat and drink.
So, when wellness program directors are evaluating possible initiatives to help employees stay on the path to better health and wellness, including the families of employees in those initiatives can be a smart approach.
Why? Because family members are frequently in a better position to influence your employees’ health than almost anyone else—including you and even your employees’ doctors.
The Effect of Family on Health and Wellness
For example, have you ever tried to quit smoking? You may resist temptation pretty well on your own, but if your spouse or partner still smokes, quitting and maintaining it will be much harder. On the other hand, quitting together will be much easier for both of you.
The same is true for other aspects of health and wellness. Think about what happens when you’re trying to eat healthier, but your spouse keeps buying cheese puffs and ice cream for the kids.
Research finds that when one partner changes to a healthier behavior, the other partner is more likely to also make a positive behavior change. For example, the study found that 67 percent of men were likely to become more active if their spouse also became active. But without their spouse’s influence, only 26 percent of men made that positive change.
If an employee’s home life is healthy, happy, supportive, and strong, that’s going to spill over to their work life, and vice versa. Plus, when employers extend wellness benefits to family members, it demonstrates to the employee that their workplace cares about their complete well-being, beyond the office.
How to Include Families in Wellness Programs
Finding ways to include families in corporate wellness programs is important, and not only because it makes the employee happier and more productive. It also gives families the opportunity to spend precious time together while encouraging healthy behaviors. Try including the following strategies for building family involvement in your company’s wellness program:
Add Family-Friendly Challenges
Add challenges that families can do together at home, like setting a goal to eat dinner together a certain number of times weekly. Studies suggest that children who regularly eat meals with their families are less likely to suffer from depression and/or eating disorders and are more likely to report their parents are proud of them.
The reason? The focused, quality “together time” may enable parents to notice changes in behavior early, which can give them an opportunity to intervene before a small problem becomes a larger one.
Other activities that build on family time include organizing family game nights, taking turns planning a group weekend activity, reducing the amount of junk food eaten, decreasing the amount of trash the family generates, and reducing or eliminating screen time after dinner.
Host a Company Picnic for Families
Let families visit your workplace to see where their significant others are spending their time. Invite families to an on-site picnic, with family activities like sack races and kickball games. As a bonus, offer healthy snacks and cooking demonstrations.
Create social networking pages on Instagram or Facebook to share wellness information and promotional material with employees, their family members, and even their wider social network. Regular postings can inform, motivate, and even generate excitement about upcoming challenges and accomplishments.
Keep Families in the Loop
Don’t just communicate with employees about your wellness program and health benefits. Add spouses to ongoing communications and program announcements to keep them excited about and involved in wellness. Considering that women make 80 percent of the healthcare decisions in the families, it’s important for companies (especially in male-dominated industries) to ensure they’re communicating with key decision-makers.
When entire families participate in wellness programs, everyone benefits. The family gets healthier overall, which can result in lower health costs to the family and the company. Expanding the reach of your wellness program can also increase employee participation, improve overall happiness, and even increase on-the-job satisfaction, making the workplace feel a little more like home.
If you’re ready to take your wellness program to the next level and get family buy-in for your health and wellness initiatives, watch our free webinar, “Shared Values and Shared Results: How Workplace Wellness Initiatives Are a Win-Win for Individuals and Organizations.”